Radical UK-based Gordon Murray Design has branched out from “petrol-miser” vehicles like the T.25 to develop what it calls "the world’s most efficient electric car”. Joining forces with British engineering firm Zytek Automotive, the company has announced an all-electric three-seater city car known as the T.27 (27th design). Helped by a £4.5 million (US$7.5 million approx.) investment from the UK government-backed Technology Strategy Board, the new R&D project has a total of £9 million (US$15 million approx.) with which to develop four prototypes by February 2011.
The manufacturers claim the T.27 will be the world’s most efficient electric car due to its low weight and “clean sheet of paper design”. Prof Gordon Murray, Chief Executive and Technical Director of Gordon Murray Design, (the brains of the McLaren F1 road car) believes his ambitious target cannot be achieved by applying a conventional stamped steel construction design, nor with a drivetrain using existing gearboxes, motors or batteries.
Instead, he is proposing an entirely fresh approach; accepting no compromise in safety, performance, range, space, weight, rolling resistance and ride quality.
The T.27 will be built using the company’s iStream methodology, an assembly process that has undergone a complete redesign of the traditional manufacturing methods and is only 20 percent the size of a conventional car-making facility, dramatically reducing the capital investment costs associated with new vehicle manufacturing.
Using the iStream design process, Prof Murray says the T.27 will be fully integrated with a custom-designed lightweight, highly efficient drivetrain from Zytek, new lightweight construction materials and new manufacturing techniques, resulting in every aspect of the vehicle being optimized. This approach results in a car slightly smaller than a Smart, but with more interior space.
The three-seater petrol-drive car, the T.25, undertook a similar process and is receiving significant market interest. Prof Murray says the T.25 program provides confidence that the aims of the T.27 program are 100 percent achievable.
The consortium predicts the T.27 will also set new standards in environmental sustainability. It says high level lifecycle analysis derived from T.25 data predicts life-cycle emissions 63 percent less than the average car and for the T.27 lifecycle emissions 27 percent less than the nearest EV rival.
Prof Murray says rival compact city car EVs do not simultaneously address all of the factors noted above and so this combination of attributes presents a significant market opportunity.
“As we head towards the new industrial revolution brought about by rising energy costs and concern over the effects of greenhouse gases, we at Gordon Murray Design feel proud to be working with the Technology Strategy Board in helping the UK play a leading role in tackling the issues we all face. More often than not the UK has been responsible for innovative concepts and technologies only to have the end benefits seen abroad. In this case, we’re all working together to keep the technology and the production in this country,” Prof Murray said.
Zytek has a history of designing and integrating electric drive systems for a wide range of European and US vehicle manufacturers and is currently building high performance electric drivetrains up to 70kW and 300Nm for cars, buses and light commercial vehicles.
The T.27 project will be calling on all of Zytek’s expertise to produce a drivetrain that will maximize efficiency and minimize weight. The motor, power electronics and gearbox will form a single, highly integrated unit designed specifically for the performance requirements of the T.27, but offering scalability to heavier vehicles as required.
“This is an exciting project on several levels,” says Zytek Automotive Sales and Marketing Director Steve Tremble. “As well as supporting the development of a new family of E-Drives, it will show what can be achieved when the vehicle design is optimized for zero emissions propulsion. It’s a terrific initiative and we are delighted that the Technology Strategy Board has agreed to back it.”
The 16-month project is aiming to further explore the possibility of scaling up and building a manufacturing facility in the UK, with the ultimate goal of producing the T.27 in that country; keeping the new technology and IPR within the UK and making an affordable, fun and environmentally-friendly car widely available on the open market.