"Smart phone on wheels"

Once in a while something comes along that literally redefines

Auto van de toekomst ~ "Meer met minder" ('klik' om doorgelinkt te worden)
Waarom is de SEV revolutionair? ('klik' om doorgelinkt te worden)

There is more to people being mobile than making cars. Except for new technology, cars (basically boxes on four wheels) have not changed that much. Not really. There are just a whole lot more of them. But some things did change over the years. Energy comes at an increasingly steep price. Our living environment suffers. We tend to wage war and befriend regimes for the sake of oil. So, a very interesting challenge is to have our favorite mode of transportation, i.e. the car, 'eat away' less valuable resources. Preferably of course without compromising safety, comfort, the pleasure of driving, and without making cars too costly to buy and operate. Why not start with a radical new type of vehicle****** that will make the most of any new propulsion, simply because it is light and ultra-streamlined to begin with, one that would fit the ‘eco-bill’ in other ways as well? There is a 'commodity' that is just as precious as energy and our living environment, that is worth wile saving: space! I will explain why the type of vehicle, proposed here, is able to address all relevant issues simultaneously. Also read: "There comes a time that people will realize".

Click on SEV pictures below to enlarge

    1.    Customer perception: looks and costs

    BBC TopGear presenter Jeremy Clarkson once said that there are two things people consider crucial in a car - how does it look and how much will it cost me? We are heading for disturbing times, economically. Automakers may need to reassess their present strategy. If they really want 'eco-cars' to take off (and make good on the huge investments), they should address the issue whether such an eco-car is in fact affordable to own and run, and if it is nice to look at of course. The major drawbacks of electric vehicles (EV’s) are that they are expensive to purchase (if governments weren’t fiscally favoring them), have a limited range and 'geekish appeal'.

    Sustainability: the lighter the vehicle, the less materials required, which should make manufacturing possible according to Cradle to Cradle principles. The SEV’s lightweight construction (the more rigid, the less material you need) allows for 'lean manufacturing' and savings that may actually raise a manufacturer’s profit margins, and will improve a manufacturer's overall emission and CAFE (corp. average fuel econ.) profile. Also: the lower the fuel bill, the more likely the prospective buyer will spend it on the vehicle itself. The SEV would also be an excellent export product, particularly to countries that cope with severe air pollution and outdated, inflexible infrastructures. 

    2.    'Economize' can be made fun

    Hatchbacks have the drawback of low pressure trailing the back end, which ruins energy efficiency. Despite surging small car sales primarily motivated by the desire to reduce expenses, most people think of small hatchbacks as cheap-looking and not particularly safe and comfortable. So, don't come up with a 'small car'. Change the perspective! There's cars and there's motorcycles, and nothing decent in between: one big void, or missing link. Why not have both? Why not slim down our favorite mode of transport? An elongated egg-like body over a lightweight construction, like the SEV has, is considered best. Period. The Space-Efficient Vehicle (SEV) is a lean, clean, sexy ‘transport machine’ that's cheaper to run and a hoot to drive. Because of its sleekness, that enables it to sneak through traffic, and its three-seat capacity the SEV will suit the urban lifestyle of youngsters, singles and couples all over the globe. There’s more to look forward to. Over the past decade iconic small cars like the Mini, the Fiat 500 and the VW Beetle were succeeded by fashionable newer versions. But still no new Isetta or new Messerschmitt. Now there's a market just waiting to be explored! 

    The old Romans already knew that arches make for a stress-resistant construction. The SEV has a Da Vinci-inspired cigar-like frame underneath the outer panels and a dual-purpose rear cowling, covering the twin wheels and integrating a flush-mounted rear bumper.***** Note: a  vehicle that hinges on its (clustered) rear wheels displays virtually no flex, contrary to a box resting on its four wheels. The SEV’s front looks are kept 'neutral' so manufacturers may envisage their own trademark frontal designs. Front and rear sections, containing the front and tail lights, can be swapped for easy repair, a partial makeover or to create a different brand look. The SEV has a chocolate Easter egg-like body: a 'skirted' lower half containing all hardware, which is easily accessible because of the curved upper half with its small roof section. Not a car, nor a motorcycle, the SEV only needs 1 out of 500 to be called a success.****
    Ergonomics 1: there is no passenger next to the driver to block his/her side view, which makes the crossing of intersections far safer. The driver is able to maintain eye contact with the passengers via the interior mirror.  
    3.    iPod, iPhone... iSetta

    There is more to people being mobile than making cars, like there is more to communicating than having a mobile phone. Could have been said by former Apple CEO Steve Jobs. Think of the SEV as a new mobility mode, transportation format or designer must-have - it may well cause the same stir Apple created with its products. New levels of functionality and product design made its products popular and turned it into the most valuable company in the world! With the front looks of a regular car and the rear cowling reminiscent of a big motorcycle cruiser’s tail, this ‘Smart ForThree’ falls into a new category. Single occupant use of the carpool lane in a three-wheel vehicle is allowed in most U.S. states. Dependent on legislation and vehicle regulations the SEV will have a (semi) three-wheel platform. This provides better steering input due to the ability to sort of ‘pivot’ around its single rear suspension hinging point.*** The wheel layout enables a long wheelbase relative to overall length, and a tapered, streamlined shape, which in turn gives the driver superior all around visibility. An electric motor seems like an obvious choice for a lightweight vehicle like the SEV (the less weight, the more flexibility as far as having a choice of battery capacity and range) but there are some promising new developments as far as the internal combustion engine that sound interesting too. The thing is: if the SEV succeeds in slicing a car's average fuel consumption by two-third, then we will have accomplished a great deal without having to resort to expensive, weight-increasing hardware. It would make the SEV cheaper as well. Also read "Face new rivals".

    Ergonomics 2: no shoulder-to-shoulder seating saves space... saves lives! Notice the SEV's exceptional long wheelbase that not only provides ride comfort but is a clever safety feature too (see below). Features such as the driver position, the commanding view, the innovative seating layout, the bulging front fenders with the large diameter wheels, the protruding waistline and arch-shaped struts (notice the one exposed through the sunroof) all help to enhance the feeling of being protected, of being in control - which is important if the SEV is to appeal to customers. 

    4.    Safety sells

    The SEV is light and sleek. But what about safety? Lately, a overlooked but disturbing aspect of most hatchbacks received more attention: the vulnerability of rear passengers in case of rear-end collisions. These are more common than the head-on type. The SEV eliminates that vulnerability by providing plenty of leeway between rear bumper and rear seat. The rear bumper, connected to the center boom (not the sway bar), will disperse the impact through the frame and by penetrating the front crumple zone of the oncoming car. What about impact safety at the front? Well, the forward-positioned large diameter rims assist in spreading the impact; the driver is seated to the right (or left in the U.K.) for additional safety in the type of frontal collisions that is standard according to NCAP tests (see picture above). Bear in mind: the narrower the cars, the less likely they will hit each other on rural roads with no center divider. The SEV’s side-impact safety is effective too. The SEV’s unusual seating layout allows for plenty leeway to the left and right and prevents passenger heads from slamming onto each other during side-collisions, despite its limited width**. The fact is that the SEV would score a not yet existing NCAP 6 star-rating, because it succeeds where other small cars would fail. NCAP still has no decent rear impact test!

    Semi split-lane use is a piece of cake with Lane Assist that's already standard on many cars. Just look at it: like a helicopter on wheels, up to the task,  purposeful. Ergonomics 3: on-board systems should not distract the driver. An instrument panel with only the essential dials and knobs is strongly recommended.

    5.    'Competing media'

    Car ownership will increase. That means more cars on the road. 90-95 percent of all cars carry just one person, particularly during rush hours when traffic is at its worst. The SEV is narrow enough to let governments utilize the infrastructure more efficiently. The possibilities include opening up smaller -designated- lanes, allowing split-lane use**, reconfigured parking lots and space-efficient interfaces with public transportation. Many governments plan to introduce road pricing and parking fees which are related to the type of vehicle; the eco-friendlier and smaller the footprint, the lower the tariff. The SEV needs less ‘building material’ to make, less energy to propel and less space to do 99% of what the old car was doing - whether the SEV is used as a first mode of transportation, second car, for long distance touring or merely for commuting or running errands. It's all about having a choice. You can use the SEV for practically anything, and use the big car’ (if you have one) on those occasions when you need the extra load capacity or just feel the urge.  

    What -will- change the automotive landscape is the unmistakable fact that new generations don't seem to care that much for the automobile as we know it. Social media and smart phones turn out to be a lot cheaper, more effective and versatile for them to stay in touch. Still, there is no substitute for people actually meeting each other in the flesh. The response does not need to come (solely) from automakers. If they are slow to respond, then other industries should jump in. "Good business is where you find it" - start by losing the excess weight and needless expenses.

    Three SEVs parked in two parking spaces. Safe boarding and exiting of the vehicle, as well as a safe departure from standstill position. Plug-in access on the SEV's rear quarter section, if applicable. Because of its small footprint also a perfect candidate for car sharing programs.
    Below: VW shows us what space-efficient interfaces with public transportation may look like. Obviously, one can cram more SEVs on one floor, very much like daisy leafs. 

    Lightweight + Low drag: the best basis for any propulsion
    It's new ~ It's different ~ It's about having a choice
    In a 1st or 2nd mode of transportation capacity
    A new market ~ Return of an icon ~ Fashion item?
    Safer and more comfortable than most hatchbacks
    Lean (C2C) manufacturing potential
    More efficient use of the present infrastructure
    Export potential ~ Innovation spin-off *

    * Think of the use of new materials, lean manufacturing technology, traffic management, on-board systems and 'connectivity', public transportation interfacing, vehicle dynamics, propulsion techniques, battery and reusable energy, road pricing, etc.  To request a so-called 'Fields of attention and expertise' chart to get a quick overview of what is required for implementing the SEV, contact sevehicle@gmail.com  Feel free to mail me your feedback any time.

    ** Over time throughput of a typical freeway, particularly during heavy and slow traffic, can be enlarged by allowing semi split-lane use. Not by having NTV's share one lane, driving fully parallel side by side, but in an offset configuration. The one upfront driving close to the lane's left marker, the one who's trailing, close to the lane's right marker - keeping a safe distance of one vehicle length between the two NTV's, and so forth. Lane Assist (already standard in many cars) helps the driver to maintain lane position. Lane width of European freeways and American interstates varies between 3,70-4.50 meters. Here is a picture of what the view of the NTV driving upfront seen from the 2nd NTV  would be like: good visibility to what happens in front, to the left and right, as well as to the rear. 
    Vehicle dimensions in principle (but subject to change):
    Length: 149.6 in (380 cm) / Width: 57.0-59.0 in (145-150 cm) / Height: 55.1 in (140 cm)
    Weight (empty) dependent on construction and use of materials: 1320-1540 lb (600-700 kg)
    Front track: 53.5 in (136 cm) / Rear track twin-wheels: 15.75 in (40 cm) / Wheelbase: 106.3 in (270 cm)
    Wheels: 140/70 – 19 low rolling resistant tires

    *** If there is one thing that needs further research, then it is the issue of a stable ride and predictable rounding of the bends by a three-wheeling Narrow Track Vehicle. What is the ‘recipe’ so far for the FWD SEV with the motor in the front, regardless if it is an IC or electric motor? A combination of (1) a low center of gravity, especially with batteries, (2) control arms at the front changing the wheel stance and the amount of Ackerman, forcing the SEV to lean - angle dependent on steering input (and speed) and (3) G-force dependent active damping. (4) Co-steering rear wheels operated at 40+ kph speeds may (also) be opted for. That should keep body roll in check and prevent the rear from side sweeping. As far as positioning the (modular) battery packs, there should be space for them in the front, between the wheel wells, and on either side of the rear passenger.

    **** The global car market measures between 80 and 90 million cars sold annually. 1 out of 600 comes down to approx. 150,000.

    ***** The SEV may (will) have wheel covers to minimize drag. A more smooth transition from the body’s rear end to its trademark rear wheel cowling (without fully integrating the last) will need further study. The streamlined (<0.20 Cw) hull is meant to combine low drag, high-speed stability, cross wind resistance and rear down-force for optimum control.

    ****** The SEV is OHIM registered and was recognized by a distinguished jury of automotive experts as a valuable contribution at the 2008 Detroit Auto Show, receiving the Michelin Design Challenge Award. This (August 21, 2011 version) presentation is put together for assessment purposes. Unauthorized use of any part or aspect of this presentation is forbidden!

    The author's ultimate goal: mass-producing an affordable SEV. A number of 150,000 produced/sold annually, at least, based on 1 production facility. Target price: Smart ForTwo +30%. This implies having a major car and/or motorcycle brand in the role of producer. Some companies, like BMW, Honda, Suzuki, KTM and Peugeot, do both. Piaggio and Yamaha are motorcycle and scooter manufacturers which may well consider branching out. 

    Left: the Piaggio Gilera three-wheeler  

    To begin with, the SEV needs to be 'networked' to companies, government- and research organizations to build a firm consortium-type base, to concentrate the joint effort and to 'create ambassadors' to feed the buzz which will make people eagerly await the day the SEV goes on sale. The very concept (holistic) of the SEV challenges to do things differently - to increase efficiency, reduce costs, lower vehicle weight, improve the quality,  etc. Supply chain and assembly may be streamlined, with suppliers even more in a co-maker role. The simpler the concept, the more modular the assembly and the packaging (from basic to luxurious), the less complicated the tooling, servicing and repair, the lower the development costs, and the easier it can be blue-printed for production all over the globe. 

    PS: this presentation was put together using U.S. (English) spelling.  ACTA clause: except for the author's own pictures, the 'generic' pictures used in this blog have been or are still being used in all sorts of media; no particular copyright seems violated. However, if you feel that IP infringement is applicable, please contact author at sevehicle@gmail.com