End of cookie cutter cars is now near(er)

2014-08-28 00:00

A GERMAN last week announced a weird car that added a fourth blib to my radar screen monitoring future car designs — and what a relief that was.

For as 2013 drew to a close, I predicted which trends and technologies will change how we make cars in the next 85 years.

Considering the size of the corporations, nay, dynasties involved, I put my head on a block by stating — in print and on air — that today’s babies won’t buy our cookie cutter cars when they are old enough, but instead glue, bolt or even velcro “highly individualised transport units” to roll cages, which will ride on modular drivetrains.

Who wants a car anyway?

I said our tax-incentivised and heavily subsidised assembly-line approach is already outdated. Instead of the cars that giant car factories churn out by the thousands, the waning numbers of petrolheads who will want to own cars by 2098 will order customised rides from tiny companies.

But most people will just order a driverless Google-van on Uber and those who do need their own wheels will ride on scooters, such as Mahindra’s GenZ, which it is currently selling with built-in Wi-Fi in Michigan, U.S.

As for the cars, I predicted their looks will be limited only by the driver’s imagination and budget; and the companies that supply these bespoke cars will specialise in niche eras.

All businesses need economies of scale to be profitable, and for the niche car makers, these economies will be made possible by the Internet, which already links the globe’s little niches.

Future assembly lines

Most of these companies will do the fun bits, rendering panels for unique cars either in Fibreglass or by 3D-printing before affixing the panels onto locally-welded roll cages.

Fewer will assemble the energy source, be it battery packs like Elon Musk and Panasonic are doing, or milling small turbines to turn on compressed natural gas as Capstone is doing with Wrightspeed in the U.S.

A very select few will manufacture the complex bits, like hub-motor wheels, first designed by that automotive genius Ferdinand Porsche in 1884 and more recently all-but perfected by Protean.

This Chinese-based, American-funded company said their hub wheel contains all the required suspension and delivers 1 000 Nm and 75 kW (100 hp) — from each wheel.

Three Recent blibs

My end-of-our-cars prediction has, however, not seen much other movement towards becoming true other than these three blibs:

• The British group Liberty Electric Cars (LEC), who last month showed its Deliver in Holland. This is an indy van designed using a very big budget, as LEC had Euro Green Car Initiative funding.

• Volvo also announced two weeks ago it will build all future models on single platform, (like VW has long been doing with its MQB chassis under the VW Golf and Audi’s TT coupe).

• Last week, Renovo showed its electric supercar at Pebble Beach. This coupe is the most rock-and-roll evee yet and easily kicks ass any which way you look at it, with twin mid-mounted motors making over 370 kW (500 hp) and 1 356 Nm.

The fourth blib

But my head is still on that block, for these three blibs aside, car factories are still churning out a cookie cutter car every few seconds, despite this year having had to resort to channel stuffing and heavy discounts to flog all that new metal.

Hence my relief when eccentric German entrepreneur Charly Bosch last week added a fourth blib with his Loryc Electric Speedster.

Loryc was a Spanish race car builder and his Speedster was in the 1920s what the Dutch Spyker is today — sought-after, but only by those in the know.

Bosch lives on the island of Mallorca where the Lorycs were built and has reverse-engineered two modern models from the small racer.

One looks like the 1922 Loryc racer, the other has a load bin on the back, turning it into a nostalgic golf cart.

Bosch will launched at the “XI Oris Rally Clásico Mallorca” from March 12 to 14, 2015. Pricing and availability will likely be discussed then.

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