Shell has joined forces with a former Formula One design genius and leading engineering consultancy to develop the car of the future.
Project M, a compact three-seater with a footprint small enough to fit comfortably onto a table tennis table and weighing in at only 550kg, was revealed to the world in April 2016. It was conceived in response to increased urbanisation combined with unprecedented environmental pressures. This collaboration between Shell, Gordon Murray Design and Geo Technology is a very real look at the car of the future.
Increased urbanisation poses a big problem as experts including the International Energy Agency reckon that the number of cars on the world’s roads will double to two billion by 2050, and by then 75% of the population will be living in cities so we need a solution to the challenge of affordable low-emission personal mobility.
While electric and hydrogen technologies could play a part in the longer term, traditional petrol and diesel will still be crucial, reckons the IEA. Which is why Project M is powered by a traditional three-cylinder gasoline engine. Shell Lubricants Technologies Manager for Innovation Bob Mainwaring explains “We chose that to challenge just how good can you be if you really try with technology that exists today”.
Linking up with former Formula One championship winning designer Gordon Murray for the design, and Swiss expert Geo Technical for the engineering, Shell’s role was to design lubricants to have as low a friction level as possible. The company has specialist research centres in China, the US, Germany and Japan, and the end result is that tests at 45mph have resulted in Project M achieving a very impressive 107mpg.
“We learned a huge amount by doing this, when we’re engaging with the auto manufacturers, things that we have learned here we can apply directly to them for their benefit,” says Mainwaring. “In the automotive world, much of their technology is being driven by tightening emissions legislation, particularly in CO2, and of course this tackles this really well.”
While not destined for production, Project M shows the possibilities for a simple, practical, global solution. It draws together the most innovative aspects of engineering, streamlining, and efficiency, while still being safe and fun to drive.
“Hopefully this will inspire automotive [manufacturers] to try a bit harder on all areas of vehicle design,” says designer Gordon Murray.
Find out more about Shell’s vision of the car of the future – Project M.