Posts Tagged ‘gordon murray’

Gordon Murray and Toray – Teewave AR1 Was Just The Start

Posted by Stephen On Saturday, January 28th, 2012

We broke the story of Gordon Murray’s involvement in the Toray Teewave AR1 electric sports concept that starred in December’s Tokyo Motor Show.

Now Autocar is reporting that this wasn’t just a one off commission: Toray and Gordon Murray will be joining forces in a technical partnership investigating a whole raft of new materials technology, from lightweight hybrid chassis structures to advanced crash structures and safety.

Toray TeeWave AR1 designed and built by Gordon Murray

The alliance with Murray is a bold move for a company that was formerly known for textile producting, and has crossed over into the automotive materials business via carbon fiber production. With Murray’s credibility and design skills, this partnership is sure to take Toray to the next level.

Source: Autocar

Top Ten Japan Car Blog Posts of 2011

Posted by Stephen On Thursday, December 29th, 2011

The sun hasn’t quite set on 2011 just yet, but this is a good time to take a look back over the last year at the most popular posts on this blog.

So, without further ado, let’s begin with number 10….

10: The New Honda: Cars, Bikes and …. Home Power Generation

Honda Co-Generation System With Solar Panels and Gas Engine

We broke the story about Honda taking a new direction. In the past, Honda has been about cars and bikes. But in the future, Honda execs see home power generation as becoming a third pillar of their business.

Honda is not alone in this. Toyota — who also have a home construction subsidiary — and others are also looking into the idea of homes having their own power supply off the grid. The earthquake in March really pushed this to the fore, and I can imagine the Japanese carving out a leadership role in this nascent industry over the next decade.

9. Toray Teams up with Gordon Murray for TEEWAVE AR1 Concept EV Sports Car

Toray T-Wave AR1 designed and built by Gordon Murray

Once again, we were breaking this story in the English media long before it appeared in such motoring publications as Autocar. Toray may not be a name you are familiar with, but if you don’t know about Gordon Murray, I have to wonder where you have been for the past … at least 20 years.

The legendary former Formula 1 designer and creator of the McLaren F1 has in recent years turned his attention to the small, affordable and easy to construct. The thing is, he’s still in love with lightweight construction, so who better to team up with for the TEEWAVE concept EV sports car than Toray, purveyors of carbon fiber?

8. Japanese Car Auction Finds: Smashed Countach

Wrecked 1989 Lamborghini Countach Anniversary in the Japanese car auctions

There is something sad about a broken vehicle, but that’s even more true when the car in question was once a creation of sleek beauty. Now, the Countach has always been a divisive design. You love it. You hate it. The early 70s versions were certainly far ahead of their time. But then you come to the 80s and the Countach goes strakes, wing spoilers and Crocket and Tubbs bling. Anyway, this one was a great example of some of the more unusual vehicles you can find in Japan’s car auctions.

7. Suzuki Every Van EV Trials Start

Suzuki EV Every electric kei van next to Suzuki Swift Range Extender

While 2011 may not have been the Year of the EV, there was certainly no shortage of EV stories making the news from Japan. These kinds of kei truck EV conversions may seem rather prosaic, but the thing about delivery trucks in Japan is that they don’t require a huge range. So even with today’s battery tech, a Japanese local delivery company can get a day’s work out of the truck — and do so without polluting the urban environment.

6. Toyota Coms Single-Person Electric Car

Toyota Coms single-person electric vehicle EV

Not really a news story this one, but nonetheless the Toyota Coms post generated a lot of visitors obviously very interested to find out about this lesser-known Toyota electric car. Well, to call it a car would be a stretch. it’s more like a three-wheeler with a roof. Not that it is cheap, though. Which perhaps explains why it’s not in production anymore.

5. Japanese Developer’s 5 Minute EV Recharging System Wins Patent

If “range anxiety” is the zeitgeist of  automotive journalism in 2011, perhaps this invention could be the answer? A power source that could get your electric car back up to full charge in just 5 minutes. That’s what this enterprising Japanese inventor is aiming for with this patented recharging system.

4. Toyota’s New Space Launches “Pixis” Kei Car Brand

Daihatsu Move Conte - base model for the Toyota Pixis Space kei car

Not content to simply own Daihatsu, the leading kei mini car brand in Japan, Toyota has decided to launch their own Toyota sub-brand of kei cars. You will have to be a real expert to distinguish these from their Daihatsu siblings, though. The only real difference seems to be the badges.

3. New Toyota Aqua Gets 40 km/l – Debuts At Tokyo Motor Show in December

Toyota Prius c concept car perhaps shows Toyota Aqua hyrbid car styling

The Toyota Aqua will be sold overseas under the Prius name. We were not first to break the story this time, but by going directly to the Japanese media we were able to correct a lot of erroneous information about the newest addition to the Prius family in the English-language coverage.

2. VW Microbus Concept “Bulli” and VW Van-Style Suzuki Every Vans

VW Microbus-style Suzuki Every Van

This story was ostensibly about a VW show car called the “Bulli” (OK-looking car, terrible name), but most interest was in the way the Japanese customize Suzuki Every vans to make them look like modern-day versions of the VW microbus of the 60s.

Why VW has never followed up the New Beetle with a retro-style New Microbus minivan, I have no idea. After all, these Every van customizations show the interest that’s out there.

1.  KU:RIN Grabs Compressed Air Car Record of 129.2 KM/H

KU:RIN compressed air car snags record with 129.2 KM/H run on Ibaraki test track

By far the biggest story of 2011 with almost 2,500 views is this one about the compressed air powered car built by a club team at Toyota Industries Corporation, a Toyota group subsidiary specializing in air compressor development. Hardly a practical power source for the future of automotive travel, but you can’t deny the effort and ingenuity that went into this car that achieved a world record top speed of 80.3 MPH in September.

I hope you’ve enjoyed keeping up with car news from Japan with me in 2011. I wonder what 2012 will bring? What new tech, new models and new offbeat stories? Stay tuned and find out here as it happens.

Toray Teams up with Gordon Murray for TEEWAVE AR1 Concept EV Sports Car

Posted by Stephen On Saturday, September 10th, 2011

Japanese chemical industry giant Toray has teamed up with light-weight car designed extraordinaire Gordon Murray to create the T-Wave AR1, a concept EV two-seater to demonstrate the extreme weight savings possible with Toray’s carbon fiber composites. The concept T-Wave AR1 announce September 9th in Japan can get up to 147 KM/H and has a range of 185KM. Although it is a concept car, the existing design could be homologated for road use.

Toray T-Wave AR1 designed and built by Gordon Murray

The use of carbon fiber for the frame as well as more typical parts, such as exterior body panels and seats, keeps the weight down to a feather-weight 846KG. Apparently the design can be adapted to become a four-seater, which would only add 129KG. To put this in perspective, the Tesla Roadster, another 2-seat EV, tips the scales at 2690 pounds, which is 1,220KG – a massive 44% more than the T-Wave AR1. The car body is said to be 2/3 of the weight of its steel counterpart, which shows that the majority of the weight savings are in replacing the heavy steel frame, as you would expect.

Not only that, but the use of carbon fiber in the frame makes it 10 times stronger than the steel equivalent. It also absorbs 2.5 more energy in a collision, so if you think this car’s diminutive size will make it dangerous in a collision, think again.

Toray T-Wave AR1 designed and built by Gordon Murray

Of course, the major reason that carbon fiber is not seen in wide-spread commercial application currently is the sheer cost of production: VW’s experience with their XL-1 diesel-electric hybrid suggests that extensive use of this light-weight material would increase production costs by 20 times over the steel equivalent. The T-Wave is no exception, with the cost of developing this one prototype put at 300 million Yen (3.88 million dollars).

Despite this Toray Vice-President Chiaki Tanaka was upbeat about expanding the use of carbon fiber in automotive applications: ” We want to see supply [of carbon fiber advanced materials] not just to high-end luxury cars, but to everyday vehicles as well.” Toray’s aim is to see this happening in earnest from around 2015. The cost obstacle would seem to be a difficult one to surmount, but with the innovative Mr. Murray as your partner, it perhaps does not seem as difficult.

The T-Wave is the star of the show at the Toray Advanced Materials Symposium at the Tokyo International Forum from 14 to 15 September, 2011.


At the time I wrote this blog post, the only sources I had were Japanese, and I transliterated the car name as “T-Wave”. However, since then I have seen news sources in Japan that have referred to this as the “TEEWAVE”, so I believe the latter is actually the correct spelling in English.

Sources: Nikkei, Asahi Shinbun, LiveDoor (Japanese)

Fun Find – Lightning Cars

Posted by Stephen On Thursday, February 10th, 2011

Employing the latest in light-weight construction and with a level of re-usability that would make Gordon Murray proud, Lightning Cars are offering plans for their micro city cars for the paltry sum of just 15 Pounds (about $24 USD) from their website.

Armed with only the most basic DIY skills, parts of a kitchen trash can, a drill motor and other low-priced items, you too can assemble on of these cars by following the step-by-step instructions and patterns described as being similar to “dress-making patterns”.

While Lightning Cars is not going be overtaking the Nano anytime soon, it is certainly going to be cheaper and more likely to be built in numbers than its other British Lightning namesake, and who can argue with a car that gets more 5-year-olds driving anyway?

The Electric Vehicle that Would Take Off Like the iPhone

Posted by Stephen On Tuesday, January 25th, 2011

Henrik Fisher said the other day that plug in electric vehicles would take off like iPhones or flatscreen TVs. Now, while there is certainly the potential for electric vehicle sales which is starting to become apparent particularly with the Nissan Leaf, and to a lesser extent the Tesla Roadster and Fisker’s own Karma, it seems to me that the real problem for EVs right now is that they don’t do what the iPhone did at its launch: Taking a familiar product to a whole different dimension of performance. In the case of the iPhone, this was usability.

So what does an electric car need to do to take the ICE’s crown?

  • The car has to be the same price as its petrol-drinking counterpart.
  • It has to have at least comparable range and quick refueling.
  • It needs to comfortably out-perform the combustion engine car in terms of speed, but particularly acceleration.
  • It must retain value well.
  • The car should be simpler to maintain.

So what are we talking here? Well, at least a 300-mile range although 500 miles would be a great headline figure. We know that most journeys are much shorter, but the fact is that the average person does feel that they need to be able to jump in the car and go for a drive of a few hundred miles.

Refueling is another thing. 5 minutes at the pump and you are done. Even a 1/2 hour charge time seems excessive in comparison. What if you could have a battery pack switched in without you even needing to leave the car? You could stay warm and dry, and be gone before the other guy has replaced his fuel cap?

When it comes to performance, electric cars have am edge. No gears and a flat delivery of torque from the get-go doesn’t only mean a fun performance car that is easy to drive, but also weight and complexity saved in ditching a multi-ratio drive train. Where the electric car does have weight, it is in the battery pack, and that has the advantage of being able to be put wherever it is needed – in this case down low in the center of the car to give it a low center of gravity for good handling.

So what might an ideal electric car look like? One that would have the instant appeal of an iPhone and ignite the EV market?

  • Batteries by EEStore continuously charged by a minaturized Blacklight Power onboard reactor for infinite range and zero refueling costs.
  • In-wheel motors generating 200PS each.
  • Styling and handling by Lotus – but not the “electric Elise” look again, please.
  • Ergonomics by err…. Apple. (Well, we want it to take off like an iPhone, right?)
  • Manufactured using Gordon Murray’s iStream process and sold in Apple Stores.

What do you think? What blend do you think would create the irresistible EV?

Small Cars Are Safe Too

Posted by Stephen On Thursday, January 20th, 2011

There is a persistent myth that a car that is small is a car that is dangerous. Gordon Murray, the former F1 designer who is the brains behind the new T.27 city car and iStream manufacturing process knows that this is not true. Not only does his design greatly simplify the manufacturing process, reducing cost and environmental damage along the way, but it is also incredibly strong.

Despite diminutive dimensions, the T.27 passed the 35 mph full frontal crash test at MIRA with flying colors and zero cabin intrusion. When your car is so small and the space for crumple zones so limited, a result like this really does show the incredible strength of the vehicle.

It should not come as too much of a surprise when you remember that this technology is trickling down from F1. An F1 car is not big either, but has amazing strength to withstand impact and protect the driver. The 180 mph  crash below involving Gerhard Berger in 1989 was one I remember clearly. The viewers and commentators alike were convinced that he would not make it, but he did so without any long-term effects (mainly burns, rather than impact damage).

This is 1989 F1 technology in action, so it is not surprising that we can have a similar level of protection in 2011 in our affordable city cars. And, unlike this F1 car, the T.27 is designed to be an electric car, so there is no danger of nasty fuel conflagrations either.

But if you are still not convinced of the strength of modern small cars, take a look at Fifth Gear crashing this Smart head on into concrete at 70 mph. Not a survivable crash scenario in even larger cars, but notice how even on this older Smart, the passenger cell is intact.

Can we put the small-cars-are-dangerous argument to rest now?