Concept car redefines future of mobility
The world’s rapidly growing population and energy demand calls for innovative ways to limit carbon dioxide emissions. Even more so, the number of vehicles worldwide is also increasing and is expected to reach 2.5 billion by 2050, as forecasted by the International Transport Forum of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).
As such, concept cars – vehicles that showcase technology and provide a glimpse of future car models – are in tall order, not only for their cutting-edge characteristics but also for their capacities that promote energy efficiency.
This served as the springboard for Shell, a global leader in power and energy, to produce its very own concept car named Project M that was recently unveiled in Britain. Designed for city roads, the car can achieve 34 percent less energy consumption compared to a typical car.
Project M is one of the innovative ventures that enforce the energy company’s smarter mobility campaign, whose goal is to help meet the growing demand for transport while limiting carbon dioxide emissions.
The ultra energy efficient car is actually reminiscent of the vehicles that compete at Shell Eco-marathon, which is the company’s renowned smarter mobility competition. But instead of student teams designing, building and driving their own energy efficient vehicles to see which can go the farthest using a single unit of fuel, Project M is a co-engineering collaboration between vehicle, engine and lubricant design experts.
The three elements of the car are tailored to work together in the most efficient way possible. Hence, the concept car can reach a distance of 100 kilometers at 70 kilometers per hour using an average of 2.67 liters of fuel. By comparison, it consumes two-thirds less fuel than a regular sport utility vehicle.
“This is a significant automobile engineering milestone,” said Mark Gainsborough, executive vice president of Shell’s global lubricants businesses that supported the project.
“Insights gained from this project could be transformational in terms of how we address energy use in the road transport sector. Energy use and climate change are major issues for society. This project shows that if we use the best of today’s technology, we could potentially have a major impact on energy use and reduce CO2 emissions.”
Designing the lubricant
Project M is a reinvention of the Gordon Murray Design T.25 city car concept produced in 2010, for which Shell produced a prototype oil to improve the vehicle’s energy efficiency.
The present car combines cutting-edge lightweight technology that gives it a weight of just 550 kilograms. It is largely made of recycled and carefully chosen materials that have a low energy and CO2 footprint.
“The improvement in economy derived from the collaborative design of engine and lubricant is impressive and highlights the enormous benefits achieved from close relationships between design partners. It also shows the powerful role that lubricants can potentially play in helping achieve CO2 reduction targets,” explained Gainsborough.
Shell provided all the fluids for the car, specially “designing” the motor oil to complement and enhance the overall efficiency of the vehicle, principally by minimizing friction. Shell’s Lubricants technology team created a special engine oil, based on its premium product Shell Helix Ultra with PurePlus Technology.
A number of the prototype car’s components were created using 3D printing to accelerate its construction. The car also uses recycled carbon fiber for its body that can be assembled for a quarter of the price of a conventional steel car, and almost all the vehicle parts can be recycled.
The Shell concept car can seat three people, with the driver sitting in the middle up front and the two passengers behind. To decrease drag, the designers removed the mirrors and replaced them with cameras. These show the view on each side of the car on the screens on the dash. Moreover, the slender exterior gives the car a small turning circle making it ideal for the city setting.
“The car may be small, but it’s packed with potential,” said Dr. Andrew Hepher, vice president of Shell’s lubricant research team. “We want to accelerate the conversation about how we make road vehicles more energy efficient and less carbon-intensive. In the coming weeks and months, we look forward to sharing our research insights from this project with engine designers, car manufacturers, academics and other experts across the automotive sector.”
Project M is one of the ways Shell seeks to address the energy challenges while mitigating environmental impact. It strives to continuously provide energy in an increasingly populated and progressive world by delivering smarter products and cleaner energy, smarter infrastructure, promoting sustainable mobility, and by diversifying the energy mix such as by developing cleaner-burning natural gas resources.