Shell partners with Gordon Murray and engine expert Geo Technology for new city car concept, which aims to inspire fresh ideas on simple, global cars
Matt Burt
11 November 2015

Oil giant Shell has revealed further details of the city car concept it has built in conjunction with Gordon Murray and former Honda F1 engine designer Osamu Goto. The three-seat vehicle is expected to weigh less than 600kg and offer fuel economy of more than 100mpg when measured on the official European cycle.

Project M, as the concept is known, is a 1+2 car design that aims to inspire fresh ideas on simple global cars for congested urban areas. The car has its roots in Murray’s new-era T25 urban car, first revealed in 2010, which underwent a “complete rethink from the ground up” for this new project with Shell and Goto’s Geo Technology engine laboratory.

The concept represents a fightback for fossil fuel vehicles in an era that has tended to favour hybrids and electric cars. The partners describe it as “an ultra-compact, efficient car for city use, based around the internal combustion engine”.

The engine is a three-cylinder, 660cc Mitsubishi-derived unit used in the original T25, albeit thoroughly overhauled by Goto’s Geo Technology company. The development of Project M’s engine, lubricants and vehicle were completely integrated from the outset.

The project marks the first time Geo Technology has worked on a passenger car, and the company brought to bear its experience in reducing friction in motor racing engines.

Due to the light weight and comparatively low drag of the Murray chassis, Geo Technology deemed the engine’s standard performance to be more than sufficient for the car’s requirements, so it reduced the engine speed of the base unit, which in turn helped to minimise internal friction.

The engine now produces about 47bhp at 5500rpm and the car is capable of a top speed of just over 70mph.

Detail changes to the engine include a friction-busting diamond-like coating (DLC) which was applied to the camshaft, tappets and piston skirts.

“The lubrication between camshaft and tappets is one of the most critical parts of the engine,” said Geo Technology’s director of engineering, Hidehito Ikebe. “To reduce friction, it is usually only necessary to coat one, but we applied it to both.”

To take into account the reduction in engine speed, the design of the retainer and valve springs were changed and titanium valves were installed. A new piston was designed, retaining only the original piston crown, which is important for the combustion process.

The piston skirt was shortened by 30% compared with the base engine and the contact surface with the cylinder was reduced by 40%. The recesses on the piston skirt which normally retain the lubricant were removed in favour of a polished contact surface of the skirt and the DLC coating.

The number of piston rings was reduced from three to two and the connecting rods were extended in length by 9%.

In combination, the myriad engine changes helped to “improve the weight distribution between top and bottom and reduce the friction when the piston is in motion,” explained Ikebe.

The car has now been handed over to Shell to undergo a testing programme, with the final vehicle due to be revealed in mid-2016. It will not be put into production; instead, it acknowledges trends that indicate three-quarters of the world’s nine billion inhabitants will live in cities by 2050.

“There is no intention to bring T.25S to market. It is a ‘capability analysis’ vehicle,” said Shell Lubricants innovation technology manager Robert Mainwaring.

The last project on which Murray, Goto and Shell co-operated was the all-conquering McLaren-Honda MP4/4 Formula 1 car, which won 15 of 16 races in 1988 with Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost driving.

The main mission of Project M is to draw together the most innovative aspects of lightweight engineering, streamlining and drivetrain efficiency.

It retains the T25’s ultra-compact rear-engined layout, utilising the principles of Murray’s unique iStream manufacturing process, which employs a simply fabricated tubular steel frame with strategically bonded-in composite panels to deliver low weight and immense strength without the complexity and inflexibility of the stamped steel components that are the basis of most cars.

Shell is at pains to emphasise the efficiency-building potential of modern, low-viscosity lubricants when integrated into the wider design of an economy car and its engine.

The original T25 used experimental low-friction Shell oils and returned 97mpg to win a London-Brighton economy competition, showing the potential of new lubricants to cut urban cycle fuel consumption by up to 6.5%.

Q&A with Gordon Murray (originally published April 2015)

What’s the main reason for your three-way deal?

"It’s a tripartite agreement to show the potential of true engineering cooperation. You can’t build a truly efficient car without pushing boundaries of light weighting, combustion, aerodynamics and low friction, which is what the three of us are doing."

Do you feel car manufacturers don’t pay enough attention to these things?

"The best try to, but many just pay lip service. We want to inspire all kinds of people, not just engineers and designers but end users as well."

How close is Project M to your T25 design?

"We’ve taken the T25 architecture, with its three-seater layout, and started from scratch in re-assessing its principles and materials. We have a new young design team at GMD that meets weekly with our other partners to compare progress."

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Murray T25

Revolutionary three-seater T25 from acclaimed F1 designer Gordon Murray is both futuristic and simple

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Comments
19

9 April 2015
but I don't really understand the business model. He seems to be constantly on the verge of a breakthrough - it was Yamaha, I think, last year that was poised to produce a version of his concept? What happened? How does he get funding? To me the T25, with its totally impractical "doors" which appear to preclude it being used in the rain, has always looked hideous to a degree that no-one would buy it without a total ground-up re-design, which is what Yamaha were proposing. Of course, GM is one of the few designers one could say was a genius with vision in my lifetime - but sometimes even a genius can go up a blind alley. I hope this is not the case.

9 April 2015
johnfaganwilliams wrote:

but I don't really understand the business model. He seems to be constantly on the verge of a breakthrough - it was Yamaha, I think, last year that was poised to produce a version of his concept? What happened? How does he get funding? To me the T25, with its totally impractical "doors" which appear to preclude it being used in the rain, has always looked hideous to a degree that no-one would buy it without a total ground-up re-design, which is what Yamaha were proposing. Of course, GM is one of the few designers one could say was a genius with vision in my lifetime - but sometimes even a genius can go up a blind alley. I hope this is not the case.

Yamaha said they would consider production no earlier than 2019. Which may sound like an excuse to stall development. Since Daimler hemorrhaged literally billions on its Smart division, anyone can understand the apprehension regarding what's basically another Smart ForTwo. Nonetheless, the Shell involvement sounds contradictory to Murray's own conviction to bring a hybrid.

12 November 2015
there must be some reason wny none of the majors are interested.

9 April 2015
Those prototype T25s looked so wonderful. I would have put up with getting rain inside the cabin. When Yamaha showed their version it was a massive disappointment and looked like a blob.

9 April 2015
This T25 project has been around for so long and had so many false dawns it's time to call it a day and bury it along with the Hydrogen car.

 

Hydrogen cars just went POP

9 April 2015
xxxx wrote:

This T25 project has been around for so long and had so many false dawns it's time to call it a day and bury it along with the Hydrogen car.

EVO says: "Unfortunately Project M will never make production, it is instead intended as a technical exercise to show what's possible when co-engineering a car for efficiency".

9 April 2015
voyager12 wrote:
xxxx wrote:

This T25 project has been around for so long and had so many false dawns it's time to call it a day and bury it along with the Hydrogen car.

EVO says: "Unfortunately Project M will never make production, it is instead intended as a technical exercise to show what's possible when co-engineering a car for efficiency".

In other words no one wanted to take it up so they re-labelled it as an exercise. So project M RIP

 

Hydrogen cars just went POP

9 April 2015
Good to see some renewed momentum for this project, as the Yamaha production version has gone quiet. This isn't for production either, seemingly a PR stunt for fossil fuels.

I like the T25 - it seems an intelligent solution for big cities - but it now seems unlikely it will become 'the next big thing'. Perhaps the small chance of getting rained on outweighs the efficiency benefits. How disappointing.

9 April 2015
By now the whole industry (including Yamaha, which seemed interested) must have looked at the T25. But no company has yet pursued this concept. As I see it, the industry is deeply conservative preferring to rely on tried and trusted technologies - and car buyers are similarly inclined. And right now, with fuel prices still comparatively low, so there isn't much incentive to develop something as radical as this.

9 April 2015
Seem to remember Steve that you were wowed by this Car,then, it kind of disappeared,now this has come to light,here's hoping it does better this time.

Peter Cavellini.

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