Japanese manufacturer Yamaha is known for its vast range of motorcycles, industrial equipment, audio equipment and strangely, musical instruments. But the Motiv-e concept vehicle, unveiled today at the 2013 Tokyo Motor Show in Japan, hints that Yamaha is about to move into four-wheeled EV market with the help of an unusual ally: South African car designer Gordon Murray.
From his time designing Grand Prix winning cars at Lotus in the heyday of Formula One to his time at McLaren — which famously lead to the development of the road-going McLaren F1 supercar and Mercedes-Benz SLR McLaren — Murray hasn’t been one to stick to the status quo. Yet until recently, Murray wasn’t someone you’d necessarily associate with fuel efficient cars.
Yet for the past six years, Murray has run his own design consultancy, working on redesigning and redefining the city car with two futuristic, lightweight three-seat city microcars: the petrol-powered T.25 and the all-electric T.27. Designed primarily to highlight Murray’s iStream production technology — which relies on an F1-inspired safety structure to which all the mechanical components are fitted before being surrounded by flexible, lightweight body panels — the T.25 and T.27 are ultra-fuel efficient, microcars designed to use as little energy as possible during their production, life on the road, and be eminently recyclable at the end of their useful lives.
But with a single, upward hinging door and central drivers seat flanked by two passenger seats offset to the rear, the T.25 and T.27 were anything but conventional. Yamaha, with the help of Gordon Murray Design, has embodied the essence of the iStream manufacturing and made it more appealing to mainstream buyers.
The results are the Motiv and Motiv-e concept cars.
Based on the same chassis as the original T.25 and T.27, the Yamaha Motiv has been designed specifically for European buyers, and features two — not three – seats, all-round independent suspension and a choice of electric or petrol drivetrains, both rear-wheel drive.
Following Murray’s patented iStream production technology, the chassis is built first from tubular steel, with the major mechanical components being fitted directly to it in order to have the required rigidity and support. The car’s floor — made of a composite sandwich material — is then bonded in and super-strong yet lightweight composite pre-painted body panels make up the car’s exterior.
Inside, two lightweight composite seats provide seating for driver and passenger, while the cockpit is furnished with a single display in front of the driver, and an elegant, uncluttered dashboard.
Although driving position has been moved from the centre of the car to a more conventional right or left-handed position, the Motiv and Motiv-e should handle reasonably similarly to the original T.25 and T.27 concept cars Murray produced to demonstrate the iStream manufacturing process, since Yamaha has used a near identical chassis layout. Specifications have yet to be confirmed, but the gasoline Motiv is expected to produce between 70 and 80 horsepower from a small 1.0-litre, three-cylinder rear-mounted engine, while the all-electric version is expected to use a similar Zytec drivetrain to the all-electric T.27.
That equates to a total power output somewhere around 25 kilowatts, and a 65 mph top speed which, while it may not sound much, should give the Motiv-e an impressive round-town range if it ever reaches production since the entire vehicle is expected to weigh around 730 kilograms, much lighter than the Smart ForTwo Electric Drive.
Talking of its closest potential rival, the Motiv is 50 mm narrower and 60 mm lower than the current Smart ForTwo, but almost exactly the same length. Given the next generation Smart ForTwo is predicted to be even larger than the current generation, Yamaha could be in a great position to nab the small car market… if the Motiv and Motiv-e ever reach production.
And that’s the big challenge now. While the Motiv and Motiv-e look decidedly production ready for a concept car, Yamaha’s board hasn’t yet been convinced that making a city car is a smart move. However, if the board at Yamaha agree by the end of the year, it’s possible, say inside sources, that Yamaha could be making the Motiv and Motiv-e for European buyers by 2016.
Would you buy a small, ultra-lightweight city car? Or would you worry its power output and range would just be too impractical?
Let us know your thoughts in the Comments below.
You can also support us directly as a monthly supporting member by visiting Patreon.com.