British design entrepreneur Gordon Murray has won a £4.5 million grant from the government-backed Technology Strategy board to build a three-seater electric city car, based on his recently revealed T25 petrol prototype.

The deal was announced today by transport minister Lord Drayson, who also took a drive in an early T25 prototype. The car, dubbed T27, will be the product of a partnership between Murray’s company and British-based technology company Zytek, who will build the powertrain. The project is the upshot of a meeting between Murray and and business secretary, Lord Mandelson, last March.

The deal is worth £9 million in all, with the remaining £4.5 million of non-government funding provided equally by Murray and Zytek, who will provide. The partners will build four prototypes over the next 16 months, one running car and three “laboratory” cars to test properties like crash structure and electrical architecture.

The first running prototype should be ready about halfway through the project, but the styling won’t be firmed up for at least six months. “We prefer to get the important bits right first,” says Murray. Murray believes the T27’s amazingly low weight of 750kg (150kg more than T25, including a bank of new-tech lithium-ion batteries big enough to deliver a 60-70 mile range) will be a big factor in making it “the most efficient EV in the world”. He calculates that its whole-life emissions will be 27 per cent lower than its nearest rival. Other advantages will be the T27’s compact dimensions, the fact that it is an all-new design and its use of Murray’s own super efficient iStream manufacturing process that eliminates the need for inflexible and expensive stamping processes.

The T27’s overall proportions and three-seat, mid-engined layout will draw many carry-over parts from T25, Murray says, but the car will need a new motor, gearbox, battery mounting system and inverter. Its controls and instrumentation will also have to change. “We have a good start,” says Murray, “but it’s really a matter of doing the T25 all over again.” Zytek’s Bill Gibson and Gordon Murray have previously met briefly through motorsport, but have never co-operated before on a project. However, Murray says he’s deeply impressed by Zytek’s achievements, and believes the T27 project is going to be “a great partnership”.

He also believes it will provide a realistic opportunity to keep the first application of the iStream process in Britain, one of Murray’s long-held objectives. “This project is jaw-droppingly imaginative,” says David Bott, director of innovation platforms at the TSB. “If we get this right it can change the world.”

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