Yamaha screams for iStream, but will you and I?
The Japanese company has teamed up with a legendary race car designer to develop an electric car that’s even tinier than the Smart Fortwo, along with an efficient low-cost manufacturing process to go with it.
At just 8.8 feet long and 4.8 feet wide, the Motiv.e concept is narrower than it is tall, but it offers seating for two and all of the safety equipment necessary to make it street legal.
Key to this is a design that features a steel cell with crush zones and anti-intrusion bars surrounding the passenger compartment. The powertrain is also installed within structure, while recycled plastic composite body panels are attached to the outside to help create a stiff chassis while reducing overall complexity and weight.
This minimalist approach allows the Motiv.e to be powered by a compact, 8.8 kilowatt-hour battery pack, which is exactly half the size of the one used in the electric version of the Smart Fortwo yet delivers up to 100 miles per charge compared to 76 miles for the Smart. A gasoline-powered version is also in the works.
The vehicle was designed to be manufactured through a proprietary process called iStream that was invented by Gordon Murray, the mastermind behind several world championship-winning Formula One cars, along with the 1994 McLaren F1, once the fastest production car in the world with a top speed of over 240 mph.
According to Murray, by eliminating the large metal presses and other equipment used in traditional automobile manufacturing, an iStream factory could be 80 percent smaller than today’s facilities with an equivalently small startup investment. Its streamlined system also cuts down on the energy required to build the cars and facilitates giving them more frequent updates.
Murray has been shopping the iStream idea around for several years, but Yamaha is the first automaker to come on board. While it’s best-known for its motorcycles, ATVs and powersports vehicles, the company has developed automobile engines for Toyota, Volvo and Ford in the past and even built its own for Formula One cars in the 1990s.
Murray and Yamaha never crossed paths in racing, but have their sights on making his futuristic small car a reality. No word on when exactly that will happen, or the price, but the two have reportedly been working together since 2008 and a production version could be silently stealing parking spaces in a city near you as early as 2016.
Gary Gastelu is FoxNews.com's Automotive Editor.