New British electric city car gets £9m funding

Posted on 5 Nov 2009 by The Manufacturer

A project to develop a new all-electric urban car, manufactured using an innovative and sustainable production process, was announced by Gordon Murray Design today.

Private enterprise’s answer to zero pollution personal transport took one step closer today with the launch of a new, British-designed electric car.

Development of the T.27, the brain child of Gordon Murray Design and Zytek Automotive Technology, has been made possible through a £4.5m investment from the government-backed Technology Strategy Board. With a total cost of £9m, the new research and development project will allow the consortium to develop four prototypes of the vehicle by February 2011.

The T.27 will be a sustainably manufactured vehicle, having been designed in a way that minimises the use of materials and keeps the embedded carbon of the vehicle as low as possible. It will be built using the iStream production process, a proprietary system developed by Gordon Murray Design that uses no major steel pressings, no spot welding and no stamping to reduce production costs and energy use substantially.

As well as being a more sustainable manufacturing method, the designers say the iStream process is also both highly efficient and flexible, minimising the cost of production. “iStream is totally disruptive on materials – once you get away from being a slave to steel, you can develop a manufacturing process that is fit for purpose using a combination of steel, composites and plastics without the need for expensive major pressings,” says Professor Gordon Murray, CEO and technical director of the lead consortium partner.

The aim of the 16-month project is to develop four prototypes that will position the consortium to explore the viability of large scale production and building manufacturing facilities. “The bottom-up and top-down business models we presented to our investors for both versions are to produce 100,000 units. Ours is strictly a high volume model,” Murray says.

The ultimate goal is to make an affordable, fun, and environmentally friendly car widely available on the open market.

Science and Innovation Minister Lord Drayson, who test drove the T.25 today, the existing petrol version of the car, today, said: “The T27 is a great example of smart engineering and sustainable design. It’s timely too, as the UK must demonstrate its readiness to exploit the emerging low-carbon vehicles market. We need to expand our car industry through green innovation.”

Integral to the potential of the car’s business model is the tie-up with Zytek and the Technology Strategy Board (TSB). “Because the whole project has been designed from the ground up, with two partners’ separate expertise, it will deliver four full prototypes by February 2010,” says David Bott, director of Innovation Programmes at the TSB. “It’s important to emphasise the speed of delivery.” A multinational car manufacturer often takes three to four years to bring a new model to market from concept approval.

Murray was the chief design engineer for Formula One team McLaren and has 44 years of car design experience. He left McLaren to set up his design company in 2004 to focus exclusively on low carbon vechicle development. He and his team are the creative minds behind pedigree high performance cars such as the Brabham BT46B, McLaren P6 and the McLaren F1 GTR.

Engine management system and electric motor specialists Zytek is a lead collaborator, and the consortium also includes partners tyremakers Michelin and Continental Corporation, and Mira Limited, Vocis Driveline Controls, type approval agency VCA UK and ENAX.

If the project hits target the car is expected to be available commercially by late 2012, at a retail price of about £6,000.