Gordon Murray is in the process of developing a small all-electric SUV
Gordon Murray is developing a small SUV project that will showcase his company’s newly confirmed electric-vehicle architecture – and fire a shot across the bows of conventional manufacturers on weight, size and packaging.
The South African-born former F1 designer’s group has announced a fresh investment of £300m that will enable it to form a new division, Gordon Murray Electronics. This off-shoot will work with key partners to develop an electric vehicle architecture that will be available to potential licensees, in conjunction with Murray’s iStream manufacturing process.
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By developing what he calls a “city SUV”, along with an accompanying delivery van that will share most of its hardware, Murray hopes to attract companies wanting to build small fleets or fast-track their way to setting up a new electric vehicle business.
Auto Express understands that the project will only begin in earnest in the coming weeks, and it is not likely to bear fruit until the end of 2023. But Murray says he has “done a lot of concept work in the past three or four months” and many of the basic targets are already established.
The Murray small SUV will be just under four metres long – so more compact than the likes of a Renault Captur or Nissan Juke, as well as narrower. It will be available with a couple of battery sizes, the smaller of which should deliver well over 100 miles of range.
The entire vehicle will be built on iStream’s composite structure, which can also act as a battery mounting and crash protection. This offers considerable weight savings over conventional pressed-steal construction, and when these are fed into the overall vehicle the car could end up weighing around 25 per cent less than a conventional small EV. Murray says the goal is one tonne – whereas even a small-battery edition of the Hyundai Kona weighs 1,535kg.
“We want to sell this to a partner on the way, so it can’t be ugly,” Murray said. “It’s going to look good but it’ll be driven by usual packaging and aerodynamics as well. We actually looked at a city SUV for a customer some years ago. I did the concept for that so I’ve got a very good package in mind, which I’d like to apply. It’s a different package from anything else out there at the moment.
“It’ll be easy to park and very manoeuvrable, and of course, it’s light so there are no big tyres. And from a styling point of view, yes, there’s a bit of urban influence too, because putting my marketing hat on, it has to be attractive to different age groups.
“The production car also has to be adaptable for the van, so you’ve got to be very careful where you put the B-pillar [usually at the back edge of the front doors] to maximise the space [in the van]. We don’t want to change any underpinnings between the passenger car and the delivery van, and that’s the challenge I love: how far forward can we get the B-pillar, without compromising the passenger car.”
Of the ambitious weight target, Murray said, “Too many people end up going down a bad spiral on weight, then adding battery to compensate on range, which adds further weight. With iStream’s construction we have an opportunity to show what is possible when you start, from scratch, by going down a good spiral on weight.”
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Murray also says the new model will bear no resemblance to the T.27, the tiny three-seat city car that the company developed almost a decade ago. “I think Smart have proved over the years that the market for something like T.27 was limited,” Murray told us. “With the SUV we want to go more mainstream; it’s the sort of car I could see myself buying for my wife.”
The new Electronics division will have three core functions – to develop a platform that Gordon Murray Design can then franchise, support Gordon Murray Automotive with future powertrains and, by 2025, become a consultancy offering expertise to other businesses.
“More and more people looking for a platform,” Murray said. “A lot of these companies are offering ‘skateboard EV platforms’, but when you dig down, there’s no substance there. A lot of them are pie in the sky. We’ve got 15. years of experience with iStream – factory design, logistics, costings. It’s a great time to invest in a British company and do some hard-nosed thinking about batteries, powertrains, charging systems, and mainly the integration of all those things into the vehicle.”
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