With all the talk of Google and Apple planning to introduce cars into their product portfolios, it seems only natural that other companies get in on the action. Enter Shell, which has unveiled a concept car it won’t commit to production … yet.
The idea behind Shell’s concept city car is to explore energy reduction through cutting edge technology and co-engineering the vehicle body, engine design and lubricants together, rather than separately and then having to make one adapt to the others. The result is a reported 34% reduction in energy use (derived in independent testing) over the lifecycle of the car.
Shell claims the car would use about half the energy required to build and run a typical small family car and 69% less than the typical utility vehicle consumers find so attractive. The challenges to both of those assertions is that, you know, it’s a tiny little car that only seats three.
The Shell Concept Car is a rethink of the T.25 city car created by McLaren F1 creator Gordon Murray. It uses the centre driving position of the McLaren created a decade earlier in a car that is smaller than the Smart ForTwo. Following the basic idea of relieving city congestion, three T.25s would fit in a typical parking space and two could travel side by side in a typical driving lane.
Shell developed a prototype lubricant for the T.25, but this time around vehicle, engine and lubricant designers worked together to have the components work optimally with each other.
“This is a significant automobile engineering milestone. I’m very proud of what Shell’s scientists and their partners at Geo Technology and Gordon Murray Design have achieved,” said Mark Gainsborough, Executive Vice-President of Shell’s global lubricants businesses. “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, including cutting edge lubricants science, we could potentially have a major impact on energy use and reduce CO2 emissions.”
Efficiency was measured in a city driving cycle and at steady cruising of 70 km/h, returning a rating of 2.64 L/100 km in the latter. And through the use of bespoke lubricants, the car managed to achieve a 4.67g CO2/km on the New European Driving Cycle, a claimed improvement of 5% over using today’s standard lubricants. It also showed a marked improvement in efficiency over a conventionally powered city car (28%) and a hybrid (32%).
“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,” said Gainsborough. “It also shows the powerful role that lubricants can potentially play in helping achieve CO2 reduction targets.”
The 3-cylinder engine maker optimized the many of the internal components to reduce friction and take advantage of Shell’s creation of a new oil (based on Helix Ultra with PurePlus Technology) to also minimize friction.
The car itself is built on the lightweight principle (weighing in at just 550 kg), using materials that have a low energy and CO2 footprint. It uses recycled carbonfibre for the body and reportedly can be assembled for a quarter of the price of assembling a similar steel car.
The final piece of the puzzle is incorporating Shell’s Drive App into the vehicle display, to coach the driver about economic driving (since much of what any vehicle is able to achieve in terms of fuel efficiency is based on what the driver does at the wheel).
“We want to accelerate the conversation about how we make road vehicles more energy efficient and less carbon-intensive,” concluded Dr. Andrew Hepher, Vice President, of Shell’s lubricant research team. “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.”