Car guru’s future

Mur­ray pre­dicts smaller cars, tiny en­gines and less own­er­ship

The Witness - Wheels - - TRENDS - AL­WYN VILJOEN

From the UK, Au­to­Car Pro­fes­sional re­ports that Dur­ban old boy Pro­fes­sor Gor­don Mur­ray’s de­sign stu­dio has fought off com­pe­ti­tion from across the UK to be nom­i­nated for a pres­ti­gious national in­no­va­tion award.

Gor­don Mur­ray De­sign was one of just five com­pa­nies nom­i­nated for the In­no­va­tion Lead­ing to Pro­duc­tiv­ity Im­prove­ments in In­no­vate UK’s Small Busi­ness In­no­va­tion awards.

It also has a chance of win­ning the best of the best In­spi­ra­tional In­no­va­tion award, re­ports Au­to­Car. “The awards cel­e­brate projects and com­pa­nies that demon­strate the impact of in­no­va­tion on busi­ness growth and driv­ing the econ­omy, and that in­spire oth­ers,” re­port the mag­a­zine.

In an exclusive col­umn pub­lished in Au­to­car Pro­fes­sional’s 11th an­niver­sary is­sue (De­cem­ber 15, 2015), Mur­ray pre­dicts the future of car de­sign. He says that car sell­ers and car fac­to­ries can ex­pect “a new and var­ied prod­uct and man­u­fac­tur­ing model that will rep­re­sent the great­est change since we be­gan mass pro­duc­ing mo­tor cars”.

Mur­ray says the big­gest driver of change is the push to­wards cleaner air, with cities around the world hav­ing an­nounced bans on diesel cars that will roll out in the next four years.

He says that while the rel­a­tive real-world ben­e­fits of future fu­els and future powertrain tech­nolo­gies are still very much a mat­ter of de­bate, and al­though we have wit­nessed high lev­els of in­vest­ment in bat­tery elec­tric ve­hi­cles (Bev) and hy­brid tech­nolo­gies and plat­forms, there re­main im­por­tant is­sues with the speed of de­vel­op­ment of the sup­port in­fra­struc­ture and the full un­der­stand­ing of the true well to wheel emis­sions pic­ture.

He is dis­mis­sive of the de­vel­op­ment of hy­dro­gen fuel cells, say­ing is­sues with the in­fra­struc­ture and life-cy­cle anal­y­sis mean future emis­sions leg­is­la­tion will al­most cer­tainly fo­cus on the down­stream, man­u­fac­tur­ing en­ergy to make the gas.

Other crit­ics of hy­dro­gen­pow­ered cars say that the sys­tem re­quires a lot of elec­tric­ity to make hy­dro­gen to be stored to even­tu­ally make elec­tric­ity again, and long-term stor­age of hy­dro­gen, which is dubbed “na­ture’s escape artist” as it is the el­e­ment with the small­est mol­e­cule, is very dif­fi­cult at best.

Mur­ray does see an end to the in­ter­nal com­bus­tion en­gine (Ice), how­ever. “Im­prove­ments are now very much in the ‘law of diminishing re­turns’ area and of course, the re­cent VW scan­dal has cast doubt over the diesel emis­sions per­for­mance,” he said in his pre­dic­tion.

“The out­fall from the VW sit­u­a­tion may have a huge impact on both man­u­fac­tur­ers’ de­clared emis­sion and global emis­sion cal­cu­la­tions as the av­er­age dis­crep­ancy be­tween ‘of­fi­cial’ fuel con­sump­tion and real-world emis­sion fig­ures is around 25%.”

Just add light­ness

He pre­dicts an­other area of change will have to be a re­ver­sal of the cur­rent au­to­mo­tive trend for ever-in­creas­ing foot­print and weight, which Mur­ray said is cur­rently driven by ac­coun­tants and mar­ket­ing de­part­ments.

“We have wit­nessed a trend in en­gine down­siz­ing in the cur­rent decade, but with no cor­re­spond­ing foot­print re­duc­tion, this has pro­duced a re­newed in­ter­est in lightweight­ing, which has brought both higher prod­uct costs and higher life-cy­cle emis­sions through ma­te­rial se­lec­tions such as alu­minium for body in white struc­tures. The an­swer is struc­tural com­pos­ites typ­i­fied by our iStream bonded com­pos­ites man­u­fac­tur­ing tech­nol­ogy.

“A po­ten­tially large in­flu­ence on prod­uct de­sign man­u­fac­tur­ing and in­deed the com­plete ve­hi­cle own­er­ship model, will come from new en­trants into the au­to­mo­tive sec­tor.

“Well-funded and un­en­cum­bered en­ti­ties such as Ap­ple and Google have no ex­ist­ing model or ‘bag­gage’ as they are en­ter­ing the sec­tor at a time when the very core of the ve­hi­cle pur­chase and us­age mod­els are chang­ing.”

He said their strat­egy can be de­vel­oped from a freer think­ing plat­form and their busi­ness model will have “dif­fer­ent in­puts and more pro­duc­tive out­puts than our stan­dard au­to­mo­tive busi­ness model and ROI [re­turn on in­vest­ment] cal­cu­la­tion”.

Why own parked cars?

He said the fi­nal area that will have an in­flu­ence on the prod­uct and man­u­fac­tur­ing is the grow­ing trend to­wards ur­ban­i­sa­tion and the re­sul­tant shift in the car own­er­ship model.

“Fac­tors such as car own­er­ship, self-driv­ing cars, con­ges­tion, ris­ing own­er­ship costs and ve­hi­cle con­nec­tiv­ity, with the sub­se­quent in­te­gra­tion of ve­hi­cle, home and of­fice, will steer the de­vel­op­ment teams and the man­u­fac­tur­ing in­dus­try to­wards a new model that will see more mul­ti­niche ve­hi­cle pro­grammes. With all these new in­flu­ences and in­puts, the result will be some rapid changes in our au­to­mo­tive man­u­fac­tur­ing world.

“As we move to­wards the next decade, we will find that the win­ners will be the OEMs [orig­i­nal equip­ment man­u­fac­turer] that can adapt and change and the losers will be those that can­not.”

PHOTO: FILE

Dur­ban old boy Pro­fes­sor Gor­don Mur­ray.

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