Car guru’s future
Murray predicts smaller cars, tiny engines and less ownership
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.”
Durban old boy Professor Gordon Murray.