Gordon Murray plans a manufacturing revolution

  • 31-Oct-2008 02:00 EDT
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Prof. Gordon Murray is aiming to demonstrate new solutions to the city car challenge—and its production.

Designing a city car that meets a spread of criteria from frugality to safety, and low emissions to practicality, has spawned many theoretical and some practical solutions over the past two decades in Europe. Now, as waves of financial concerns break across the world, another design is set to emerge, this time from an apparently unlikely source: race and supercar designer, Prof. Gordon Murray, who is adding potentially revolutionary series manufacturing capability to his credentials.

At the opposite end of the technology spectrum from the ultra-high performance F1 and sports cars for which Murray is internationally renowned, his 34-strong Gordon Murray Design company, based south of London, is developing the T.25 city car about which some general details have been cautiously released. The T.25 design, with a separate body/chassis, light weight, and the promise of fine driveability, is also focused on environmental responsibility, value for money, and radically fresh automotive engineering.

Gordon Murray Design has intellectual property rights to the car. However, it would be manufactured and sold either by an OEM or possibly a suitable industrial manufacturing company outside the auto industry.

One of the most significant elements of the T.25 concerns the vehicle’s manufacturing process, including its low costs and “green-ness.” Said Murray, CEO and Technical Director of Gordon Murray Design: “The T.25 is designed to protect our mobility, personal freedom, and driving ‘fun’ while greatly reducing the environmental damage from vehicle manufacturing and running.”

“Real-world” costs for the new manufacturing process are understood to show that the company will meet or better its “ambitious targets” for a massive cut in manufacturing, running, and lifecycle CO2 damage. Murray said: “The T.25 architecture, packaging, and manufacturing process promises to be the biggest revolution in the mass production of cars in the last 100 years.”

These very big claims for a very small car—length around 2.5 m (8.2 ft) or even less—with low to zero emissions are slated to start to become a reality next year with the first prototype build.

The car is being designed to eventually support a variety of powertrains—probably from three-cylinder internal combustion to electric—and different fuels. Particular accent will be placed on power-to-weight ratio.

The T.25 will be available in various body styles and have replaceable body panels. Component parts will be minimized via multifunctional component design and “careful consideration” of tooling requirements.

Safety standards would be high with at least EuroNCAP 4-star rating. The little car would be sold initially in Europe and Asia, but the success of the Mini and the extension of the smart to the U.S. may pave the way for the T.25.

It is claimed that the T.25 with an i.c. power unit will have best-in-class CO2 emissions and fuel consumption of less than half the UK average, which should see it return around 3.5 l/100 km or better.

Extensive use of recycled materials will be made. The car’s separate chassis will flat-pack for transportation. And the car’s compact dimensions will allow 12 times as many BIW units to fit a standard shipping container compared to those of an average size car.

More unusual elements of the design include the claim that its compact dimensions would let two T.25s travel in one UK motorway lane and three would fit into a single standard UK parallel parking space.

Gordon Murray has two strategic investment partners: the U.S.-based MDV-Mohr Davidow Ventures (a Silicon Valley-based venture capital firm investing in clean tech, Internet technologies, and life sciences) and UK-based Caparo Group. Associated companies and technical partners also include Prodrive, Hewlett-Packard, Autodesk, Intrinsys, MIRA, and the FIA and RAC Foundations.

Murray, born in South Africa, constructed and raced his first home-built car in the city at the end of the 1960s. His long and very successful involvement with F1 included the design of Brabhams and McLarens. For some 13 years until 2004, he headed up McLaren Cars to design and launch the road-going McLaren F1 and Mercedes-Benz SLR McLaren. Murray was awarded a Professorship by Durban University of Technology.

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