Home » Our Daydreaming Designer Gives The Cybertruck Treatment To Tesla’s Upcoming Low-Cost Cars

Our Daydreaming Designer Gives The Cybertruck Treatment To Tesla’s Upcoming Low-Cost Cars

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I’ve decided to change my ways. No, I’m not going to give up my who-knows-how-many-a-day Diet Coke habit or start exercising. I’m going to try to be more positive about domestic EV startups. Sure, the Tesla Cybertruck appears to be stuck in the mud (literally, if we are to believe recent stories), other startups are still losing money, but these are home-grown industries where I actually know some of the people that are involved with getting them going. I genuinely want them to succeed.

When I heard Tesla saying that they have two new lower cost models in the offing, I tried to keep on a bold face. This was extremely difficult when they claimed there would be an upcoming Model 2 that costs half the price of a Model 3, so in the $25,000 range. I flat out struggled to contain myself when I heard their planned Model 1 was aimed at a price point half of that figure. Seriously people, we’re now talking about a $10,000 to $15,000 car which they claim might be sold in Asian and Indian markets. If you know anything about those markets and the emerging EV capabilities of these nations, you’ll be aware that when (if) these supposedly low-cost Teslas under the covers below are available in three to five years it might be like bringing a cheese sandwich to a banquet. Then again, I’m just speculating here; maybe they’ll be nice.

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Tesla (screenshot)

The Plan

Again, let’s think positive thoughts…I mean, what if we hopped in the trenches with these guys and figured out how to make this work? How can we make a $24,000 Tesla that can really succeed? Can they really get the cost down to that level? I don’t see how you can strip out anything else from a Model 3 or Y and get to a price point where the Big Three and Asia won’t blow you back to the stone age on value.

Here’s the approach I think that they need: shock and awe, plus pure fun and uniqueness that is real and not superficial pandering to the Gen Z market with embarrassing hip-to-the-kids garbage on the same damn car. That’s what the industry did fifty years ago with the wretched sleds on the market, but I do have to admit that the colorful, cheerful array of these silly things below makes me smile more than any current entry-level EV:

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S L1600
Ford via ebay

 

What does Tesla have the balls to do that you can’t get anywhere else? Also, how can we add dignity and excitement to what is typically a bottom-feeder type of market? It can be done. The original Mini is a great example of this. In the sixties, this British compact could be seen driven by rock stars and famous actors around town without shame. They might own Bentleys or Astons as well, but there was nothing like the Mini available at the time–it was the right tool for the job in London, automotive pecking order standards be damned.

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Leaning Into The Bizarre

Tesla has infamously already shown us how they can set themselves apart. Whatever you say about the Cybertruck, it certainly does look different. Some have claimed that Elon created it ‘just to piss people off,’ and maybe he did–it’s an anti-F-150 that sets its own rules.

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Cybertruck
Image: Tesla

Even if the Cybertruck is “ugly,” it makes a visual statement (good or bad) that the Big Three do not. Brands like Ford and RAM have shown us their upcoming electric pickup offerings, and they seem to elicit a nonplussed “that’s it?” response, something that nobody says about the Cybertruck. Also, to some people the Cybertruck transcends “ugly” and the traditional automotive aesthetic judgement of beauty, just as the original VW Beetle and WWII Jeep derivative did (though the Jeep’s form is dictated by its function; the Cybertruck’s shape honestly seems to run counter to any usefulness as a pickup truck).

What if Tesla applied the Cybertruck look to their new low-priced Model 1 or 2?  The idea of an ultra-angular car is obviously nothing new; Bertone and others did much of this type of visual language in seventies and eighties to dramatic effect; the Lamborghini Countach was actually one of the more tame interpretations of the style:

Bertone
Bertone

In France, Citroen went full angular with their pyramid-shaped 1980 Karin showcar. This Karin would certainly like to speak with your manager about the flat-plane design theft by Cybertruck four decades later.

Karin
Citroen

There’s also tragic executions of this aesthetic, much of it driven by the size and proportion. I’m referring of course to the infamous early EV Citicar (later sold as a Commuta). Check out those 5 mph bumpers:

1976 Citicar Electric Car

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The (Possible) Solution

Let’s bite the bullet: “our” low end Tesla (codenamed the Nole- pronounced NO-lay- which is ELON backwards) will take on the look of the much-derided Cybertruck, applied to a car about the size of a Mitsubishi Mirage. A small frunk up front complements cargo space behind the fold-down back seat, accessible by the lift up glass hatch and a large fold-down tailgate. I would be very disappointed if the aftermarket didn’t offer an insane number of fun options like tents, a mini-kitchen, add-on tailgate seats, and cargo carrying assistance options.

R3

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Unlike the Cybertruck, the little Tesla will be made of steel with some aluminum parts, but cost savings here is valued above weight reduction. If you look carefully, you’ll see that the side window frames are curved, but the glass itself is flat, as is the windshield and rear glass. The lower body is painted to match the upper parts, though a low cost model with all-black rockers and bumpers might be considered. And what colors! No fifty shades of grey here, boy. Funky, fun shades including the wedge-of-cheese yellow you see here. Is it ‘ugly’ compared to a mainstream Chevy Bolt or Nissan Leaf? I mean, was a Beetle uglier than a Toyota Corolla back in the day? Can you even picture what a 1975 Corolla looked like without Google? Are you able to identify a Beetle on a darkened street in the pouring rain from a hundred feet away? Same kind of comparison here.

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Another thing: The Nissan Leaf offers a pillarless two door, lifted four wheel drive version with a lift-off collapsible fabric roof as well, right? Oh, they don’t? Tesla would. Presenting the Lone Starr model, named for the Bill Pullman character in Spaceballs (and the state Elon’s car concern calls home now). Deep gray rocker panels and bumpers, beefy tow hooks, and light bar at the top of the windshield. Now we’ve got a ‘halo’ version to add some fun to the whole line. It’s like a shrunken Cybertruck off-road Renault Avantime:

Img20230512 18351550 2

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I didn’t draw it, but Tesla could easily offer a dual motor version for street use, and even one that would be humorously fast. I’d love to see one of these doorstop-looking things blasting to sixty in 4.7 seconds, and that would be easy for Tesla to make.

Inside, the overall stripped-down look of the interior actually fits the whole gestalt (there’s a word for you) of clean simplicity and not bargain-basement Model 3. I’m thinking you could take the screen with you as a tablet to use away from the car. Plenty of space below the windshield for options like modular storage cubes, and there’s a small drain there to help with cleaning or if you want to put plants there. No, really- you can grow plants in a car. Another option is a rubber “grass” grid to hold items like pictures or mementos such as your favorite Pokemon Quagsire action figure or something.

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Driving A Wedge Between Tesla And The Competition

Tesla doesn’t advertise, but there would still be plenty of indirect promotions. Despite this being a low-cost car, you’ll be able to waste tons of cash on items in the shape of the compact Tesla such as $75 lump of cheese in a black box, a carbon fiber $280 doorstop, and a glass decanter (no alcohol included) for $330.

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If you aren’t willing to shell out that much money, there’d be paper cutouts of the tiny Tesla available. In fact, if you right click the image below to print on the copier at work, you can have one for free:

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1

The wedge shape has always been marketable, as British Leyland proved half a century ago with the best selling Triumph of all time (yes, I was shocked about that fact as well):

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Of course, Tesla won’t make a Model 1 or 2 like this. Most renderings you see online (which are admittedly all flat out guesses by artists) show the expected white lozenge-shaped Model 3s or Ys that have been shrunken down or have the tail chopped off Gremlin-style so that it now looks sort of like the aforementioned Mirage or Civic hatch with the now-decade-old standard Telsa nose stuck on. There’s talk of drastically lowering costs, but Tesla likely can’t win the long term in a race to the bottom without some creativity. Maybe this plywood-flat-sided Cybercompact isn’t the answer, but I think that they’ll need the value proposition of a can’t-get-it-anywhere-else OG Beetle or Mini if they want to succeed in the poor man’s market.

Underlay renderings: Mitsubishi

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How The Indian Carmaker Tata Could Hypothetically Revive The Honda Element As A Sub-$20,000 EV – The Autopian

Here’s An Idea For The Gas-To-EV Charging Station Transition: Shipping Containers – The Autopian

 

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ScottyB
ScottyB
10 months ago

Actually Tesla can afford to do a $24,000.00 car because they scored the rights to produce The Dale.

This comment would be way more better if I could insert a photo. I really can’t communicate well without pictures. Hint, hint.

https://media.npr.org/assets/img/2021/01/26/elizabeth-carmichael-posing-next-to-the-dale-automobile-9c83b05cc42cdcfa5c2e82bf7bcc88e6a754d87a.jpg?s=6

Last edited 10 months ago by ScottyB
Dudeoutwest
Dudeoutwest
10 months ago

you can probably bake cookies on the dash courtesy of that amazingly large windshield. Maybe make a little flat spot to hold a full size cookie sheet?

Skrivener
Skrivener
10 months ago

Hospitals will hopefully plan for the extra work, as shattered pedestrians start turning up having been Tesla’s by that vicious car-front design? The front needs to be deformable plastic not hardened steel.

Hangover Grenade
Hangover Grenade
10 months ago

Tramp: The shape of things to come.

Jakob K's Garage
Jakob K's Garage
10 months ago

The shape of thing that will never be

Chronometric
Chronometric
10 months ago

Can we make every Wednesday Arts and Crafts day at Autopian?

Andreas Jüngling
Andreas Jüngling
10 months ago

I’m getting strong AWS Shopper vibes here… And yes, this was a series production car based on the beloved Goggomobil chassis.

https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/f/f9/AWS_Shopper_1974_2.jpg/1200px-AWS_Shopper_1974_2.jpg

Neil Hall
Neil Hall
10 months ago

I thought of the William Towns Hustler kit car: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hustler_(car)#/media/File:Hustler_4_1979.jpg

Iwannadrive637
Iwannadrive637
10 months ago

I got a free toy car and it’s blue? Score! Better looking than the Clusterfu…um…Cybertruck. Is that William Conrad’s voice on the TR7 commercial?

Dogisbadob
Dogisbadob
10 months ago

No mention of the recent Acura MDX made to look like the Cybertruck? 😛

Robert Thornton
Robert Thornton
10 months ago

It looks better than the cyber truck.

Vicente Perez
Vicente Perez
10 months ago

My understanding is that the shape of the truck was chosen to lower costs, since their stainless steel alloy is hard to stamp but easier to fold, origami style.

So if the car had this shape, it would probably be stainless also. In theory (and I am adding a truckload of salt here) Tesla’s connection to SpaceX makes their steel alloy competitively priced when compared to aluminum or regular steel. It might not be a crazy idea after all.

That said, can we just make the hatch taller and minimize the pointy hat? As much as I don’t like it, for the truck at least it is justified to create the uninterrupted line for the bed…

Last edited 10 months ago by Vicente Perez
OverlandingSprinter
OverlandingSprinter
10 months ago

I would love a Gremlin-style Model 3. Dude, please create some drawings!

OrigamiSensei
OrigamiSensei
10 months ago

Now we’re doing art projects – I love it! And wait, what? The TR7/TR8 is the best selling Triumph of all time?

I hope not to be in the market for a daily driver for quite some time, but “yes, please” to a competent no-frills EV for $25,000 or less. 150-200 mile range in a Honda Fit-like B-segment package will do quite nicely, thank you.

Chronometric
Chronometric
10 months ago
Reply to  The Bishop

I drove an Acclaim all over Europe. I called it Tronda.

Peter Andruskiewicz
Peter Andruskiewicz
10 months ago
Reply to  OrigamiSensei

So, a Chevy bolt?

Toecutter
Toecutter
10 months ago
Reply to  OrigamiSensei

I envision an elongated, Solectria Sunrise like car modified to have 4 doors or something like an all-electric GM Precept or GM Ultralite. Cd value somewhere around 0.16. Frontal area about 1.9 m^2, which with a long sedan body can offer plenty of side/head room for the vast majority of people and enough length for even the tallest passengers to fully stretch their legs. A single series string of CATL LiFePO4 batteries storing about 25 kWh could power a 200ish horsepower drive system, and the car could possibly pass safety regulations with a complete vehicle curb weight of about 2,300 lbs configured as described. Give it AC, heat, radio, roll-up windows, no screens, and have all the power stuff optional add-ons. Single speed reduction ratio driving the rear wheels(with an AWD option that adds a second motor and controller up front drawing from the same battery pack, doubling peak torque but ultimately retaining the same peak power on the same battery and suffering a 5-10% range penalty).

Geared for a top speed of about 130 mph, such a thing would do 0-60 mph in under 5 seconds(under 4 seconds for AWD), get about 100-120 miles range in the city and 200-250 miles range on the highway(as little as half that range in the worst of winter with all loads running), and if mass produced, could cost somewhere between a base Mitsubishi Mirage and a base Hyundai Elantra.

I think there is a massive untapped potential market for such a vehicle. The trick is giving the consumer SOMETHING that offers greatly more value for the money than any other car in its price range. With EVs, acceleration is really cheap/easy to get more of. So if the $15-20k “penalty box” can accelerate like ICE cars that cost 5x as much while remaining reasonably comfortable just to sit in, that is something of value that this car has that much more expensive competitors do not. Who cares if its range drops 75% or more when the throttle is abused vs what range is claimed? The vast majority of the time, the car will not be driven that way. Guess what car people are going to find unusually fun to drive as a result of that added value?

Mr Sarcastic
Mr Sarcastic
10 months ago

That is an insult to the Aztec. I am thinking we are 3 beers from save money make it a kit. Ship it and let the owner put it together.

Mr Sarcastic
Mr Sarcastic
10 months ago

Elon has done some real stupid crap. These designs would surpass anything he has done by magnitudes. You want to win EV race? Make an affordable car, not EV, CAR. Make it so as not to offend. Figure city car/ rv tow behind. If you tow an EV can it generate electricity to operate and provide power to the RV? Make it American safe and American small. Right height for retired folks to ease into, but small enough for city folk. Save money with lower range because batteries are the money. Heck buy a recently closed plant along with the equipment to produce most of the car. You do not need a damn interesting thing except low priced EV. The crappy little cars of the 70s were not design mistakes. They were we dont give a shit mistakes because big 3 didnt want to make them and the union members never gave a shit about quality. Yet we still read union labor is needed for quality. Yes the in America 90% of cars sold in the USA were union made. Look for the union label then runaway runaway. If you buy the union label you just may die today, yes die today. We give you 12 months and 12000 miles warranty, but most likely the car is shitty. Yes look for that union label but before you buy, get a short term large value insurance policy cause brother you are going to die.

Inthemikelane
Inthemikelane
10 months ago
Reply to  Mr Sarcastic

Don’t hold back, tell us how you really feel. Never been in a union being management (telecom), and dealing with union techs has never been fun, but the protections for employees is not a bad thing IMHO. How the unions run themselves though, that can be bad, especially when they work themselves into the “not my job” mentality when something needs to be done and they’ll let something fail rather than help.

Car companies built factories all across the south (and are still building), to avoid unions, so the simple question is, are those better built than the union plants up north?

The F--kshambolic Cretinoid Harvey Park
The F--kshambolic Cretinoid Harvey Park
10 months ago
Reply to  Mr Sarcastic

> If you tow an EV can it generate electricity to operate and provide power to the RV?

Perpetual motion!

ADDvanced
ADDvanced
10 months ago

Who’s gonna tell him….

Austin Vail
Austin Vail
10 months ago

As someone who dislikes the push for EVs, this is an EV I’d be interested in. Cheap cars are good. Bring back cheap cars. This one has a charming design and comes off a lot less irritating than the Cybertruck design, since being smaller makes it less aggressive and more quirky.

Boo to them for not making an American-market Model 1 though. Safety be darned I demand dirt cheap cars! I want the Tesla equivalent of a Yugo, knowing full-well how badly that could end.

MATTinMKE
MATTinMKE
10 months ago

I watched the TR7 video of it driving in the snow and yelled (actually out loud) NO! IT’LL RUST!

It was right about then my wife gave me “The Look”

MATTinMKE
MATTinMKE
10 months ago
Reply to  The Bishop

Just finished making the paper model, Bishop. Thanks!

Also, I got “The Look” again…

Ranwhenparked
Ranwhenparked
10 months ago

How much could you shave off the cost by going to sealed beams and steelies with aero plastic wheel covers?

Austin Vail
Austin Vail
10 months ago
Reply to  The Bishop

The only possible thing that could make this design better is a pair of big round sealed beam headlights. They’re like $15 at Autozone, work better than the majority of headlights in new cars, are made of actual glass so they don’t yellow with age, and look like big cute eyes. You can even get LED versions for not much more money, which could be an optional feature to improve range.

Heck, I wonder if there’d be any market for plastic housings that replace modern headlights with cheaper and better sealed-beam units… They would look ugly as sin of course, but if it’s cheaper and functionally better than modern headlights…

Ranwhenparked
Ranwhenparked
10 months ago
Reply to  The Bishop

Look, when it comes to pinching pennies to find cut-rate letter of the law/not the spirit workarounds, I’m the guy

Drive By Commenter
Drive By Commenter
10 months ago
Reply to  Ranwhenparked

LED projectors are dirt cheap. They draw a lot less current too. They also don’t need to be changed, like, ever. Helps range, looks “cool” and is cheaper. Win.

Dave Garland
Dave Garland
10 months ago

Eh, “dirt cheap” like sealed beams (which include everything you need beyond a hole and a stamped sheet metal cradle)? No way. Sure LED projectors draw less power and look cool. And while it’s easy to change a sealed beam (if the mounts aren’t rusted to crap), most people don’t own their cars long enough to need to anyhow.

StillNotATony
StillNotATony
10 months ago

A $15-20k electric car? It already exists. It’s called a golf cart.

Toecutter
Toecutter
10 months ago

This car would get crap efficiency with this sort of angular body.

An affordable long-range EV will by necessity have a small battery pack to keep parts cost down, which in turn will require extensive streamlining, a small frontal area, and an emphasis on weight reduction. The trick to an affordable EV with a small battery, that still gets acceptable range, is to keep the energy consumption down. James Worden’s Solectria Sunrise succeeded at this, getting 200+ miles range on a 26 kWh battery pack, in 1998.

This Cybertruck-esque monstrosity would be lucky to get 300 Wh/mile highway, assuming it was light weight. For a given amount of range, it will be more expensive than a Tesla Model 3. This is the wrong direction to go. An affordable EV should be aiming for less than half that consumption.

I’d go in a different direction. A platform that can accommodate both a sedan and a sports car, the former shaped similarly to a 2000 GM Precept(0.16 Cd), the latter shaped like a Panhard CD Peugeot 66C(0.13 Cd). Somewhere around 100-130 Wh/mile is possible in such configurations cruising 70 mph on the highway. This means you don’t need a battery pack bigger than 25 kWh, in order to get a 200 mile range in fair weather, 130-ish miles range in the winter with the heat running full blast. Both cars could be kept lighter than even the lightest ICE cars, because modern LiIon batteries are now at 270 Wh/kg, we have switched reluctance motors available approaching 98% peak efficiency, and the total EV drive system including this size of battery would weigh significantly less than a complete 4-cylinder 1.5L ICE system.

So yes, bring on affordable sub-$25k EVs that weigh less than Miatas and accelerate like $250k exotics, and cost $2.00 to recharge from empty. Time to upset some apple carts.

Eggsalad
Eggsalad
10 months ago
Reply to  Toecutter

Your points are all valid, but I see a different perspective. A $15-20k EV would and should be a city car, a commuter car, a 2nd car for a 2-car household. From what I understand, aerodynamics don’t come into play at speeds below ~35mph. If 80% of the intended driving is at speeds below 35mph, aerodynamics won’t really effect range very much. Why not have fun with the design?

Toecutter
Toecutter
10 months ago
Reply to  Eggsalad

In that case, we already have the Nissan Leaf. Its relatively low range limits the size and scope of its market niche.

What people are clamoring for is an affordable/inexpensive EV that they can drive to the next city over without having to stop and charge along the way. That product doesn’t exist today, in spite of the technology existing to enable such for nearly 3 decades already.

It is on the highway, not in the city, where long range really matters. Hence my preoccupation with slippery aerodynamics.

Mr Sarcastic
Mr Sarcastic
10 months ago
Reply to  Toecutter

Okay where do those stats come from? An affordable EV will be for common sense people who realize they do not lead long range 90% of the time. Like people who dont drive off road get a 2 wheel drive Mitsubishi for $20,000 instead of a safari equipped jeep wrangler at $80,000

D.B. Platypus
D.B. Platypus
10 months ago
Reply to  Mr Sarcastic

“Common sense people” buy used Hyundai Elantras. That’s what your new, cheap EV has to beat if you want to go after that market segment.

Toecutter
Toecutter
10 months ago
Reply to  D.B. Platypus

Very much so. Used Hyundai Elantras are now going for $15-20k these days. That is the price point that must be targeted, and the value proposition offered by reduced operating cost of the EV vs the Elantra could still be enough for the EV to find a buyer vs the used Hyundai if it turns out to have a higher purchase price than the Hyundai.

Toecutter
Toecutter
10 months ago
Reply to  Mr Sarcastic

Some “common sense people” can only afford to keep one car, use that car for everything including long trips, and have a budget that they must work within.

A more efficient car not only lends itself to more range per pound of battery, it also reduces the purchase price for a car with a given range per charge, as well as reduces the per mile battery cost and per mile fueling cost of that same car.

A $20,000 Mitsubishi Mirage equivalent EV, that provides comparable functionality to the existing ICE Mitsubishi Mirage, and offers all of the advantages an EV has over ICE with as few of the downsides as possible, is a value proposition that on its own could convince large numbers of those who would have normally bought an ICE Mitsubishi Mirage to buy an EV instead that can do all the same stuff as the ICE Mirage, while being more reliable, longer lasting, less expensive to operate, ect. than said ICE Mirage.

ADDvanced
ADDvanced
10 months ago
Reply to  Toecutter

I think you’re right. And even if it is a city car, range anxiety is VERY real, and something that they will be cross shopping about. I think it will wind up being a prius/insight shaped hatchback that maybe uses a smaller touch screen but same UI has model 3, with some attractive headlights/taillights so it still looks like a Tesla. Cost cutting everywhere. Steel wheels w aero hubcaps. Unpainted black bumpers. Cloth seats. Cheaper materials.

Thing is…. it’s so hard to do. Even if you do get a 20k Model 1 or whatever, pricewise it would be competing against used model 3s at that point in time, and the model 3 would be a lot nicer inside, still has great reliability, better performance, better range. At the end of the day, most people make emotional decisions and try to justify it later.

Last edited 10 months ago by ADDvanced
Mr Sarcastic
Mr Sarcastic
10 months ago
Reply to  Toecutter

A cheap EV will not be a long range EV. It will be built for the needs of city dwellers and rv tow cars.

Michael Beranek
Michael Beranek
10 months ago

Seems like he’s in a race with others for whom everything they touch turns into shit.

PaysOutAllNight
PaysOutAllNight
10 months ago

When Elon was selling a vision, I was on board. Now that he’s selling an ideology, I’m out.

Chris with bad opinions
Chris with bad opinions
10 months ago

But why?!?!?!

Mr Sarcastic
Mr Sarcastic
10 months ago
Reply to  The Bishop

So all on board for crazy ELON but noway when he is on his meds? Actually liking him more now that he is realistic. (For him)

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