Gordon Murray knows a thing or two about designing fast cars. He is, after all, the engineer responsible for one of the most successful Formula 1 race cars ever, and he also brought us the incomparable McLaren F1 super car.
Murray has since turned his attention to developing an entirely new way of building cars, using composite materials to produce smaller, lighter — and therefore far more energy efficient — automobiles that require less time, energy and capital to manufacture.
His firm, Gordon Murray Design, used that expertise to design and build the TEEWAVE AR1, a carbon fiber-bodied electric roadster that’s as lightweight as it is sexy. The car weighs a mere 850 kilograms, including the 250 kilogram lithium-ion battery. That puts the car firmly in Lotus Elise territory. It also undercuts the Tesla Roadster by 400 kilos and the Nissan Leaf by 700 or so.
The car was commissioned by the Japanese chemical firm Toray to showcase the potential of carbon fiber and carbon fiber-reinforced plastic in mainstream automotive applications. The company hopes to see automakers using such materials widely by 2015.
Cutting weight will become increasingly important as automakers strive to reach tightening fuel economy and emissions standards, because smaller, lighter vehicles require less energy to move. The benefits are even greater for electric vehicles; Murray says every kilogram cut from an electric vehicle saves $23 to $31 in battery costs because you need less energy to achieve the same range.
TEEWAVE features a carbon fiber monocoque and aluminum subframes with carbon fiber crash zones. The car is comprised of three sections (much like the McLaren MP4-12C road car), and Gordon Murray Design says the carbon fiber components can be manufactured in less than 10 minutes. The entire car, from concept to completion, was built in just nine months.
TEEWAVE is tiny, just 13 feet long and 5.7 feet wide, making it almost exactly the same size as the Roadster. But the Roadster is vastly more powerful.
Gordon Murray Design used drivetrain components from “one of the commercial electric vehicles currently available.” We’re betting it’s the Mitsubishi i-MiEV, because the TEEWAVE has identical specs: a puny 47 kilowatt (63 horsepower) electric motor and a 16 kilowatt-hour lithium batttery. The TEEWAVE provides a claimed range of 114 miles and a recharge time of six hours.
You don’t get a whole lot of oomph with a motor that small, even if it is putting down 132 pound-feet of torque the moment you hit the accelerator, so acceleration is, shall we say, relaxed. Zero to 62 comes in 11.4 seconds. That said, Murray says the car handles beautifully. It’s got the typical sports car stuff under the body: double wishbones with coil springs, anti-roll bars, disc brakes and so forth.
“A great deal of attention has been given to the low weight, low center of gravity and suspension geometry which has resulted in an excellent ride and handling balance,” the company said.
That may be, but we’d like to know how that car would perform with the Roadster’s 215 kilowatt motor.
Photos: Gordon Murray Design