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16 September 2010

Designer calls for new urban eco car legislation

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Influential car designer Gordon Murray says politicians need to consider regulations for a new class of vehicle suited to urban environments
The UK should develop regulations for a new class of urban car, according to influential car designer Gordon Murray.

Interviewed at the Low Carbon Vehicles conference in Bedfordshire today, Murray said there was a need for legislation to fit vehicles between cars, which must be crash-tested to withstand high-speed impacts, and quadricycles, which are not required to pass any kind of crash test at all.

Murray said that the Euro NCAP scheme, which publicises the results of crash tests, has led to a current generation of cars that are poorly suited to the safety demands of urban settings.

“EuroNCAP has been a tremendous success and has saved a lot of lives, but we’ve ended up with cars where the front end is so stiff, to protect the occupants in a high-speed crash, that they’ve become very unfriendly in an urban environment. They’re not designed to cope well with a low-speed crash. For urban cars, we need a crumple zone that starts working at 15 to 20mph, not at 40mph.”

Murray added that the new regulations he proposes could encourage the take-up of lighter, smaller and more environmentally friendly vehicles.

“To date, the only government that’s taken urban cars seriously is Japan,” he said. “It has had the Kei car format for decades, which makes up 60 per cent of the market in Japan.”

Kei car regulations impose limits on the physical size of a car and its maximum power output, in return for concessions in tax and parking regulations.

Murray’s company, Gordon Murray Design, has developed a new method for building cars called iStream, which aims to dramatically reduce the energy and resources required for manufacture. His first concept built to demonstrate the technique, called the T25, is an ultra-compact three-seat urban car designed to park nose-to-the-kerb, with three T25s fitting in a single conventional parking space.


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