The race drew teams from Volkswagen, BMW, Mercedes and Peugeot, but Gordon Murray Designs walked away the winner.
The T.27, an all-electric car with a lightweight composite chassis, won the Future Car Challenge sponsored by the Royal Automobile Club (RAC) by completing a 57.13 mile course between Brighton and London on less energy than its fellow competitors. Carrying two occupants, the T.27 consumed only 7 kilowatt hours of electricity, which is about equal to 350 miles per gallon, according to the company. The total energy bill came to 64 pence, or about $1.03.
Second place went to an electrified Jaguar E-Type from Germany which consumed 8.5 kilowatt hours. Tesla Roadsters, Nissan Leafs, an electrified Citroen, a Honda Insight and a few diesels also competed.
Murray, a noted race car designer whose cars won world championships at Brabham and McLaren, is on a quest to get cars to lose weight. By swapping out steel components for parts made from structurally strong plastic or composites, car manufacturers can dramatically increase mileage without impacting performance. Less weight, after all, leads directly to better fuel efficiency and/or acceleration.
A T.27, for instance, can go 100 miles on a charge, the same as a Nissan Leaf or Mitsubishi i. The T.27, however, only sports a 12.5 kilowatt hour battery pack, which is about half the size of the battery in the other two cars. A smaller battery means quicker charging times and, potentially, a lower sticker price. Last year, Murray’s T.25, a T.27 with a gas engine, beat half of the electric cars in the race with an 80 miles per gallon rating.
Bright Automotive in the U.S. is mining similar concepts with a lightweight delivery truck.
Composite cars can also be cheaper to produce. Instead of steel stamping mills and painting stalls needed for applying rust-proofing, manufacturers only need to invest in software and injection molding machinery.
Murray’s company does not plan on producing cars. Instead, it will license its intellectual property. A deal with an established manufacturer may come next year...
Tiny Car Gets 350 MPG, Beats Corporate Competitors In Energy Derby