Shell has unveiled a new ultra-compact, energy efficient concept car as part of ‘Project M’, a collaboration with Gordon Murray Design and Geo Technology. The new vehicle, based on Gordon Murray’s T.25 city car, contains a number of 3D printed components.
Promises of “energy efficiency” should always be taken with a pinch of salt—when they are delivered by global oil corporations, that is. Contrary to its appearance, the Shell Concept Car is not an electric car. It isn’t even a hybrid. It does, however, deliver a 34% reduction in primary energy use over its lifecycle when compared to a typical city car, and a 50% reduction when compared to a small family car, demonstrating that—with the right design—cars with three cylinder 660-cc petrol engines could save the planet. Sort of.
The Shell Concept Car has been described as a “total rethink” of the T.25 city car, which was created in 2010 by Gordon Murray Design, but never taken to production. Unfortunately, the Shell Concept Car brings Murray’s design no closer to the masses, being built as a demonstration of design optimization for reducing energy consumption. ‘'This is a car for today, intended to inspire thinking about maximizing personal ability while minimizing energy use,” said Professor Gordon Murray, CEO of Gordon Murray Design.
3D printed areas of the Shell Concept Car
Modern technologies, 3D printing included, were used to create the ultra-compact, ultra-lightweight city car, which boasts a fuel consumption of 89.1 mpg (2.64 l/100 km) at a steady 70 km/h (45 mph). Most of the car body is made from recyclable carbon fiber, while several components were created with CAD software and 3D printers. Despite the variety of manufacturing techniques, each element of the Shell Concept Car purportedly works in harmony, creating an efficient vehicle which measures just 1.5 m (4.9 ft) tall x 2.5 m (8.2 ft) long x 1.3 m (4.3 ft) wide. ‘'It’s a holistic approach: the materials, the manufacturing process, the lubricants, the design and engine,” said Bob Mainwaring, Shell Lubricants Technology Manager for Innovation.
The tiny size of the vehicle is proving to be one of its biggest talking points. The 3-seater vehicle, which weighs just 550 kg (1,213 lb), could potentially fit into a standard parking space three times, while two of them could—theoretically—drive side by side down a single motorway lane. The compact nature of the 3D printed car could prove incredibly useful—particularly as parking spots in urban areas become scarcer and scarcer. ‘'It’s a small vehicle full of big ideas,” Murray commented.
Shell’s collaborators on the Concept Car certainly know what they are doing when designing vehicles. Gordon Murray, a British car designer, has previously designed a number of Formula One race cars and the world-famous McLaren F1 supercar. The T.25 city car, on which the Shell Concept Car was based, itself showcased features of the McLaren F1, such as a centralized seating position and controls.
Whether the 3D printed vehicle inspires a new generation of ultra-compact, energy-efficient city cars remains to be seen, but the collaborators have declared their satisfaction with the project. ‘'We’ve shown that we have built a very energy-efficient car,” said Ikebe Hidehito, Director of Engineering at Geo Technology.
The Shell Concept Car has recorded a top speed of 156 km/h (97 mph), limited to 145 km/h (90 mph), and is capable of going from 0-100 km/h (0-62 mph) in 15.8 secs.