Thursday 4 April 2013

Karen evolves low-cost city car

Scoop - World exclusive

Tom Karen, creator of the 1970s Bond bug, has devised a new three-seat mini car that can be produced cheaply in developing countries.

“My proposition is that that there is room for a small vehicle which is more original, simple, more eco-friendly and with a ‘wow’ factor,” Karen told autoindustrynewsletter. “A car for tomorrow.”

The vehicle, Karen calls it Buzz, has two wheels at the front and closely paired wheels at the back.

“It could be classed as a three-wheeler with benefits in terms of taxation and legislation,” he adds.

The rear wheels form part of a ‘power pod’, a package that comprises the engine and transmission. The power pod design would be such that it could be detached easily for servicing, replacement or updating. An alternative to an internal combustion engine could take the form of an electric motor and batteries.

The seating arrangement is such that the driver is placed in the centre. Access is made easy, even for a person with mobility problems, by means of a seat which swivels through 90 degrees and ‘kneels’ to allow the driver to be transported to the edge of the vehicle to make exit and entry easy.

The rear of the vehicle has provision for two adults or three children.

The doors on each side can be removed when the vehicle is used in hot climates. The boot, with ample storage, is at the front of the vehicle.

Body construction is sparing in its use of steel. The platform could be steel sheet but the remainder of the structure could use steel tubes – cheap to produce and simple to tool for manufacture.

Cladding forms a key feature to make the vehicle visually distinctive, giving it special appeal. Using sandwich construction with printed or woven fabrics on the outside, the cladding would have a light-weight inner core to give it shape.

The design shown here is Aborigini art, but could be an example of any couture in the world – with an up-market range by couture houses.

“A wide range of colourful designs could be used, reflecting art from around the world to provide employment for people in India, Bangladesh, Africa and elsewhere,” noted Karen. For, example it could be produced by Tata Motors.

Karen claims the vehicle could replace large, low-mileage cars. In many instances it could be the only owned transport; purpose-designed vehicles for other uses, such as longer journeys, could be hired.

Karen’s organisation, Ogle Design, schemed small vehicles in the early 1960s and developed the Bond Bug, launched in 1970.

“City cars that have come onto the market tend to be designed like large cars compressed into small ones, with all the consequent cost and complications,” he said. “They seat only two adults and have little or no storage space. This leaves room for something simple with originality and flair.”