Shell is perhaps best known for producing what goes into cars, rather than cars themselves. Now,the firm has taken the wraps off the Project M car. A vehicle that's claimed will use a third less energy in its lifetime than a typical city car and around half the energy to build and run than a typical small family car.
Plans for Project M were announced by Shell last year and the car is described as a "total rethink" of Gordon Murray's 2010 T.25 city car. Indeed, it was designed in partnership with auto designer Murray, whose other work includes Formula One cars and the McLaren F1.
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In order to achieve its notable efficiencies, Shell says the Project M concept was created using a process of "co-engineering." This means that the vehicle's body, engine and lubricants were all designed together so as to work optimally with each other.
Elsewhere, materials were chosen selectively, the size of the vehicle was reduced where possible and it was streamlined. The motor oil used in the Project M was specially designed by Shell, with the primary aim of minimizing friction to help improve the car's efficiency. The use of bespoke lubricants is said to give the Project M car a 5 percent improvement in fuel efficiency compared to standard lubricants.
All of this is reported to result in an optimal fuel consumption of 89.1 mpg US (2.64 l/100 km) at a steady 70 km/h (45 mph).
The concept car is powered by three cylinder 660-cc petrol engine, whose components were also selected to help reduce friction. The engine produces 43 bhp and 64 Nm of torque, as well as a top speed of 156 km/h (97 mph) – limited to 145 km/h (90 mph) – and acceleration from 0-100 km/h (0-62 mph) in 15.8 secs.
The Project M car was designed using Gordon Murray Design's iStream approach, which combines cradle-to-grave thinking, lightweight Formula One technology, low-carbon propulsion, adherence to strict safety standards and flexible manufacturing processes. Many of the car's components were also 3D-printed, helping to accelerate build-time. Shell says it can be assembled for a quarter of the price of a conventional steel car and almost entirely recycled at the end of its life.
The final design has a tall and narrow look measuring 2.5-m (8.2-ft) long, 1.35-m (4.4-ft) wide and 1.6-m (5.2-ft) high. It weighs in at just 550 kg (1,213 lb), by virtue of a recycled carbon body. Wing mirrors have been done away with in favor of cameras that relay the view around the vehicle to screens on the dashboard and its wheel-arch covers have been designed to further reduce drag.
There are three seats in the Project M, with a central driving position and two passengers seated behind. A 6-m (20-ft) turning circle is smaller than that of a London taxi and on-screen graphics provide the driver fuel consumption data and guidance on how to drive more efficiently.
Shell tells Gizmag that future plans for the car will be announced "in due course." The video below provides a look at the Project M concept.