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Gordon Murray Design T.25 City Car

Gordon Murray and his T25 eco car

There’s lots of talk about the low carbon economy as a generic concept, but Gordon Murray is actually a real-life example of someone leading the low carbon revolution in the UK with his T.25 city car and iStream manufacturing process.

Gordon Murray’s big idea is to be able to produce a car from a factory that can be as much as 80% smaller than today’s typical car plant. That means that the environmental impact of the factory is also significantly less. We’ll come back to this shortly, but firstly let’s talk about one of the potential outcomes of the iStream process, the T.25 car – also a low carbon product.

The T.25 city car is designed to be an answer to urban congestion, together with the need for cars to be more efficient and lightweight. It’s smaller than a smart fortwo, but it can fit three people inside, and it also has more luggage space. The list of other notable attributes goes on, but there is one highly significant thing about this car – it has been designed by Gordon Murray.

It may be an incredibly over-used introduction, but, no apologies, this is very important: Gordon Murray’s previous CV includes being Chief Designer at the Brabham Formula One team, Technical Director at the McLaren Formula One team, and designer of the McLaren F1 road car (and Mercedes-Benz SLR McLaren).

So if anyone is going to be able to design a city car that’s also a driver’s car, then it’s Gordon Murray. But what a challenge. A benchmark for the T.25 city car was the smart fortwo – in our view, almost the perfect antithesis to a driver’s car. The smart roadster also provided inspiration, and in fact the car park at Gordon Murray Design is still littered with smart cars today, including one which is Gordon’s everyday transport.

A key difference over the smart, and in fact virtually all cars on the road today, is that the T.25 has a central driving position. This is combined with a cockpit layout that definitely shares genes with an F1 car. Sitting in the driver’s seat, in the centre of the car, just makes you want to fire the thing up and take it for a drive. How many city cars make you feel like that?

Another thing you’re aware of when in the driving seat is the fantastic visibility – forwards, sideways, rearwards and downwards. Even the mirrors are placed so that the driver can see the kerb easily through the window below. The T.25 also has a turning circle of just six metres, making it easy to negotiate the challenges of city driving.

Offset to the sides and to the rear of the driver’s seat are two passenger seats. These can both fold forwards to create a luggage space that makes the inside of the T.25 feel like Doctor Who’s Tardis when compared to its exterior dimensions (the car is so narrow that two T.25s can travel side-by-side in a normal traffic lane).

Then there’s the door. There’s just one door, and the door is also the entire front of the car, which swings upwards to allow entry and exit. It means you can step upright straight into the car, and there will be no dents created on the door of the car next to you in the supermarket car park. It also means that you need a certain minimum ceiling height to open the door if in a garage or multi-storey car park, but the T.25 team believes that instances where there will be insufficient height to open the door will be few and far between.

Front view of the T25 city car

Under the rear of the car sits a 660cc Mitsubishi petrol engine. This is the same unit that is in the petrol-powered Mitsubishi i-Car. In the T.25 it’s expected to return 74 mpg with emissions of 88 g/km CO2, along with a top speed of 100 mph. But further optimisation of the powertrain is virtually guaranteed, so it’s very possible that these figures will improve.

However, the idea is that the base car can take other powertrains, and an electric T.27 is in development – which can be manufactured on the same production line as the T.25. Interestingly, Gordon predicts an 80:20 split between the petrol and the electric version, so throwing some reality on any expectations that all city cars will soon be electric. Perhaps even an electric version with a range-extender petrol engine may be possible. Or a hydrogen fuel cell in due course. There are also body style variants planned for six different market segments.

Rear view of the T25 city car

You’ll also be relieved to hear that the ride of the T.25 is vastly improved over that of the smart fortwo. The T.25 has a considerably longer wheelbase in relation to its body length than the Smart, and this has helped to eliminate the pitching ride of the fortwo. The suspension geometry of the T.25, combined with its high profile tyres, further assists in this. It’s also lighter than the fortwo, at just 575 kg.

Just when you were thinking that things can’t get any better, there’s the expected sale price: £6,000. For a car with such innovative engineering and great design, this seems like a bargain.

So is Gordon Murray Design going to manufacture the car? Absolutely not. Gordon describes his business as an “Intellectual Property company”; the plan is to licence the iStream process for other people to build the car – or possibly something similar to the T.25.

You may think that the T.25 is revolutionary, and you’d probably be right. However it’s the iStream manufacturing process that Gordon sees as the real revolution.

The patented iStream process is an innovative, disruptive manufacturing process that adopts a separate body/chassis approach, which is a radical step-change in the automotive industry. It promises to deliver fast, highly flexible, low energy manufacturing capability at just a fraction of the cost of conventional automotive manufacturing processes. It reduces the level of risk for the manufacturer, and coupled with the simplicity of the process, it also opens the doors for new entrants into the automotive market.

The rather funky interior of the T25 with view of driver's seat and steering wheel

The idea is that the iStream factories, potentially at around 20% of the size of a conventional car factory, can be located in urban areas, and the workforce can walk, cycle, or travel by public transport to the factory. The only key component of the car that can’t be produced in the assembly factory is the car’s frame, which would have to be flat-packed and transported in, but this is much less of an impact than transporting entire vehicles around the globe. The finished car is then ready at the point of sale, ie. in an urban area.

As well as being low-intensity from an energy point of view, the entire manufacturing process also requires much less capital to set up – less than 20% of the investment that is required for a conventional car plant.

Gordon Murray Design has so far had over 40 enquiries about licences from 17 different countries. However Gordon’s ideal outcome would be to see the first licence taken out in the UK, and he thinks that this is a distinct possibility. This would be a great UK low carbon innovation story, especially bearing in mind the investment into the project by the Technology Strategy Board (the company also has investment from Silicon Valley). Gordon believes that UK government support for low carbon vehicle projects has generally been beneficial, and should continue as long as the government takes advice from organisations such as the Automotive Council.

It’s great to see Gordon’s passion for the car, and for the iStream process. The passion must be infectious, because we think this is a highly refreshing and exciting car, and we’d buy one tomorrow if it was on sale. Of course, it isn’t, but Gordon believes that the T.25 is only around two years from production. By that time, urban areas around the world may be considering more incentives for small city cars, or disincentives for large cars.

Gordon’s objective is to sell as many licences as possible around the world for the iStream process. If you want to be part of an exciting revolution in city vehicle design and car manufacturing let’s make it easy for you – here’s the Gordon Murray Design website: www.gordonmurraydesign.com

Paul Clarke

Interview with
Gordon Murray talking about the T25 urban city car
at the end of the RAC Future Car Challenge in London

The view from the Energy Saving Trust

It’s wonderful to see a British company helping to redefine personal mobility and manufacturing processes. It is likely that small, personal city cars are likely to increase in popularity with a significant proportion being electric over the next few years. These kind of cars won’t take over from normal cars overnight but will be part of the solution in urban areas.

Tim Anderson
Consumer Transport Manager
Energy Saving Trust

See other related posts about Gordon Murray Design:

28/06/2010
Gordon Murray Design T.25

28/05/2010
Gordon Murray Design T.27

09/11/2009
Gordon Murray Design T.27

26/02/2009
Gordon Murray Design T.25

23/07/2008
Gordon Murray Design T.25

22/11/2007
Gordon Murray Design T.25

Keywords: Gordon Murray Design, T.25, iStream