If you read our last article about Gordon Murray’s new plans for an electric car, you know some aspects of the story did not fit together. First, GMA (Gordon Murray Automotive) will be dedicated to exclusive cars. Second, the designer never made an SUV. We decided to clarify these doubts, and Murray was kind enough to tell our sister site InsideEVs his strategy is not about manufacturing the EVs himself: it is about licensing the project.
“We are developing a B-segment SUV, with a high driving position, as people seem to like these days instead of a saloon. It is not so much about the vehicle. We’re developing the architecture and will even design the factory to produce these cars. We see new startups emerging and even companies such as Amazon or Uber plan to have their own electric platforms.”
This strategy is very different from that adopted with the T.27. Murray thinks it was an “extreme design” that almost reached mass production “a couple of years ago.” The designer did the project and helped develop the final car, but he did not conceive the factory that would produce it: that was on the company that would sell it.
“We got so close with three OEMs to producing it. Eventually, we made all prototypes of the T.26 (that would be its production name), but a management change made that company decide it would not make four-wheeled vehicles.”
Murray gave us quite a hint here about which badge it would have if it were produced. If the T.27 (or T.26) was not so extreme and if Murray had designed the factory, perhaps we would be able to buy it nowadays.
The designer proposed to do that for the new project thanks to the manufacturing system he developed. Called iStream, it uses a third of the space a regular factory would need. The iStream structure also allows the vehicles to be much lighter than a conventional one due to its structure, composed of the combination of a metallic frame (iFrame) and composite material panels (iPanels).
While the iFrame gives the vehicle its basic skeleton for mechanical components, the iPanels work as “stiff shear panels” that stabilise the iFrame when they are bonded to it. This hybrid structure is what makes iStream cars so much lighter. The future TVR Griffith will use the technology, as the video below shows.
With iStream, Murray expects his B-segment electric SUV to be at least one-third lighter than a similar car. Going through the whole process, from design to production, he believes the innovative electric SUV can be made by anyone willing to fund its production.
That’s a fantastic opportunity for companies from other market segments to diversify their businesses. It is also a way for legacy automakers to make an easier transition to electric mobility. Nobody contacted Murray yet about the EV, which is understandable given how recent the news is.
“We have just announced it. It is a two-and-a-half-year program that will probably drive more attention when we have the hardware to present.”
Although Gordon Murray has quite a reputation in the automotive landscape, he thinks the prototypes will help people understand the proposition he has for this electric car platform. It will also clearly set it apart from the companies that present designs and start taking reservations without showing anything concrete.
The designer does not consider commissioning the EV production to a company such as Magna, Hon Hai, or Geely, all willing to sell manufacturing outsourcing services. There is also no chance that it will wear the GMA badge, reserved for high-end, exclusive cars such as the T.50. So if we ever see it in showrooms, it will be through companies that see potential in selling it.
Murray is a vociferous advocate of lightweight cars, which turns developing an electric car into quite a challenge with the huge battery packs we currently see. However, the iStream system is not the only weapon the designer has to get there.
“Current battery technology has a poor energy density. It is improving, but it creates a bad spiral for the car development. To help with that, we have also announced the creation of a new company on the group called Gordon Murray Electronics (GME). It will invest in new technologies, initially with an eye on outside customers. GME is what we miss today for more vertical integration. When you need something, you normally have to go to big suppliers.”
With battery technology promises such as solid-state batteries, we asked Murray if it is something in which he places hope to reduce weight in EVs.
“There are companies promising to make them work but no one got there yet, right? It is very similar to hydrogen. The idea is good, but the challenge is to make it work.”
That’s the same concern Murray has when it comes to OX, an affordable truck he helped develop for emerging countries. Originally equipped with a diesel engine, it now plans to offer mobility as a service, as we told our readers on 15 March.
“We’re not working on that program anymore. My fear is that they will struggle with electricity in poor countries. It will not be easy.”