Every 10 years or so vital automotive innovations pave the way for the next 50 years. Right now a new, dynamic approach to car manufacturing is about to re-write the rules. It's called 'iStream' and it comes from the man who, with Ron Dennis came up with what some call the greatest supercar of all time; The McLaren F1. In fact iStream along with its all-important ingredient, the T25 city car, couldn't be further away from the McLaren F1 and its creator, Gordon Murray.
Gordon Murray Design (GMD) was established in 2007 for the sole purpose of designing and manufacturing cars in a completely new way. iStream gets rid of the requirement for enormous steel presses, spot welding, robots and paint shops cutting up to 80% of the environmental impact and the space and investment required for a new car factory.
Murray doesn't intend to sell the T25 city car or use the iStream process himself but will instead license it to an existing car manufacturer or non-car brand. In fact, GMD can go as far as creating another iStream design and up to an eight-seat MPV. Simplicity is the key.
On the T25 city car for instance, a frame is formed from straightforward steel tubes on to which the engine and suspension are mounted, with all the rigidity coming from the recycled plastic composite panels fixed to it. Exterior sections are used to keep the bad weather out and can be produced from almost anything - recycled bottles in the case of the T25 - and can be moulded in to any shape and dyed the colour of your choosing. Gordon Murray has already announced that he will licence the process and city car to just about anyone who will make it a reality and is confident it could create up to six thousand jobs per application.
In actual fact, Murray admits that he would have been able to announce his first major deal by now and to have the T25 in production by 2012, but for the fact that the global recession got in the way and has put the project about a year behind.
He's already hinted that one major European manufacturer has already taken the iStream plans further and is also confident that the T25 will also make it into production. It's such an advanced process that GMD go as far to say that you can have a small factory and showroom next to each other selling various versions of the T25.
So what about the T25? Well, it's close to 30cm shorter as well as 20cm less wide than the two-seater Smart, yet has room for 3 seats set out in an arrowhead configuration with the driver sat in the middle. Size doesn't seem to be an issue either. With all the seats in place it has as much luggage space as a Smart and with the rear seats folded, holds around six trolley's worth of shopping. It's so small that two T25's can fit alongside each other in a lane and at least three can park nose-out in a road side parking bay.
With small proportions comes low weight (around 600kg's to be precise) and with a choice of engines that can easily be slotted in, the initial 660cc Mitsubishi petrol engine will take it up to 100mph with emissions at around 88g per km.
Other features like the forward tilting cab for easy access (I wonder if he took the idea from the Bond Bug?) the T25 totally eradicates the need for conventional opening doors making it a real landmark in simplistic vehicle design.
And it just doesn't stop here. Murray and his partners, Zytec, have been given £4.5 million by the Government's Technology Strategy Board to develop the T27, an electric version of the '25.
But with no major deal on the table just yet, is GMD's iStream process and T25 just a pipe dream? Don't write off Gordon Murray just yet. His 'work in progress' is an impressive list:
The T26 is a concept for a potential Japanese client, the T28 is a bigger iStream car; a full four seat design study being conducted for a major car maker, the T29 again for another major car maker, a T30 to meet US Federal crash regulations commissioned by a US client and finally the T31 which is another iStream electric-powered project currently under evaluation.
Whatever the outcome, Gordon Murray has completely redesigned the whole car making process, something that hasn't been done since Henry Ford brought us the Model 'T' (T also being the prefix to all GMD designs) and saw the potential for affordable, mass car production.
Call him what you will, but Murray has proved himself an automotive genius with this ground breaking process.
The T25 city car and iStream process is too important not to move on to the next stage.
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