A revolutionary three-seater, zero emissions car could put the UK at the forefront of electric vehicle (EV) development and manufacturing.
Code-named T27, the all-new electric car will be designed by the company headed by Gordon Murray the man behind Formula One title-winning Brabhams and McLarens driven by Nelson Piquet, Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost.
The EV will use an all-electric powertrain from Zytek Engineering. Zytek started out making engine and chassis management systems for motorsport teams and high-performance road cars and has since moved into the development of hybrid and electric vehicles.
Prototypes by 2011
The partners have pledged to deliver four prototypes by early 2011 less than 16 months away. The technology could then be licensed to any manufacturer or organisation that wants to take it through to the production stage.
The Government's Technology Strategy Board is providing half of the 9 million cost of the initial development work. Science and Innovation Minister Lord Drayson said there is 'a huge groundswell' to try to ensure production of the T27 remains in the UK.
He said: 'The future of personal transportation is going to have to be low carbon. The scientific data coming in now is even worse than we expected. But this is a business opportunity rather than a threat. There is a huge amount of intellectual property that needs to be generated to solve the carbon problem.'
Based on Murray's 'secret' T25
T27 will be loosely based on the T25, an innovative and still-secret low-cost (6000) petrol-engined urban car created by the Gordon Murray Design company. The T25 is an 80mpg, 88g/km car powered by a 660cc, three-cylinder 51bhp engine.
Because it has a lightweight chassis wrapped in body panels made from recycled plastic bottles, it weighs just 550 kilos. Even the electric version is likely to weigh just 700 kilos.
The T25 is just 2.4 metres long and has a similar three-seater layout to the McLaren F1 supercar, another of Murray's creations. The driver sits in the centre with passengers on either side, a little way behind. Twenty-three companies, including nine well-known manufacturers, are considering the possibility of making it or adopting the unique assembly system Murray has devised for it.
This system is called iStream, and is central to the production of either the T25 or T27. It needs a fifth of the space and set-up costs of a normal production line, and takes into account sustainability throughout the manufacture, use and scrappage of the car rather than just tailpipe emissions.