Gordon Murray’s itty-bitty EV cleaned house at the Future Car Challenge, achieving the equivalent of 350 mpg and trouncing cars like the Nissan Leaf, BMW Active-E and various European diesels to take top honors.
The Lilliputian T.27 electric car consumed 7 kilowatt-hours of energy during a 57.13-mile jaunt from Brighton to London last weekend, bringing the former Formula 1 designer his second consecutive victory at the Royal Automobile Club’s Future Car Challenge. The point of the race was not to reach the finish line first, but to do so using the least amount of energy while completing the trip within the allotted time.
“This year’s success in combination with last year’s win with our petrol-powered T.25 proves absolutely that light weight is our most powerful tool for solving our energy problems,” Murray said in a statement. “We look forward to working with a manufacturing partner to make the T.27 with its low running costs available to the motoring public.”
Murray pioneered the use of composites in Formula 1 with Brabham and McLaren, then went on to design the McLaren F1 and Mercedes-McLaren SLR supercars. Since leaving Formula 1 in 2006, Murray has focused like a laser on making cars smaller, lighter and more efficient. He is evangelical in his belief that cutting weight is the fastest, cheapest way to reduce fuel consumption.
His Chapmanesque obsession with weight has great implications for electric vehicles, because weight is the enemy of range. If you halve the weight of the car, Murray told us last summer, you can halve the size of the battery needed to power it.
At just a bit more than 4 feet wide and just a bit shy of 8 feet long, Murray’s city cars are smaller than a Smart ForTwo or Scion iQ yet they can seat three people or carry 750 liters [26 cubic feet] of cargo.
We hear you back there muttering about small cars being death traps. Not so. The T.25 and T.27 feature a composite monocoque bonded to a tubular steel frame and plastic bodywork. The T.25 has a four-star Euro NCAP safety rating. Let those who doubt the strength of a well-designed composite safety cell Google the words “Robert Kubica crash Canada 2007” or “Mark Webber crash Valencia 2010.” Go ahead. We’ll wait.
The T.27 electric vehicle draws juice from a 12.5 kilowatt-hour lithium ion battery. It’s propelled by a 25-kilowatt motor. The claimed range is 110 miles, though Murray says that drops to 85 when you’ve got the heater and other stuff running.
Murray has no interest in building the T.25 and T.27 himself; he’s talking to a third party about that. He built the prototypes to showcase an innovative manufacturing method that replaces stamped steel with composites. He calls it iStream, for Stabilized Tube-Reinforced Exoframe Advanced Manufacturing, and says it requires 80 percent less capital investment and 60 percent less energy that conventional auto manufacturing. Cars built using iStream — which Murray says can be used for everything from microcars to 13-passenger vans — are 20 to 25 percent lighter than conventional autos.
The T.27 led a field of 50 vehicles to take the overall victory at the race. Second place went to a homebuilt electric Jaguar E-Type (insert Lucas joke here) that used 8.5 kilowatt-hours of juice to make the trip. Full results are available here. (.pdf)