Home » This Is How To Make A $16,000 Electric Car

This Is How To Make A $16,000 Electric Car

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Just a few weeks ago, there was a little flurry of stories about how a Department of Energy official proposed a competition for American carmakers to come up with an EV that would sell for just $16,000. Keep in mind that the current cheapest EV in America right now, the 149-mile-range Nissan Leaf, costs nearly twice that amount at just under $30,000. Selling an EV for $16,000 is a big challenge, and will take some really innovative and out-of-the-box thinking to pull off.

The good news is that I’ve barely even seen the inside of that box, and neither has our own Bishop. And between the two of us, I think we have some pretty good ideas for making an incredibly affordable yet still useful and desirable EV. I don’t think this competition has officially begun or even if it will be A Thing at all, but that didn’t stop me from making a bunch of inarticulate demands of the Bishop and him processing those into some wonderful drawings of what I think are pretty damn good design ideas. So, with that in mind, let’s take a look at what sort of cheap EV the Bishop (let’s be honest, mostly Bishop) and I came up with.

Vidframe Min Top
Vidframe Min Bottom

I think there’s a crucial rule behind developing a successful inexpensive car, and that rule is honesty. All of the inexpensive, mass-market “people’s cars” that have become icons had this in common. Cars like the Volkswagen Beetle or Citroën 2CV or Renaut 4 or Fiat 500 never tried to be something they weren’t. They all had ideas that made sense for their own particular goals, even if those ideas and solutions may seem peculiar when compared to more mainstream cars. But they worked.

There’s a reason nobody is going to be collecting Nissan Versas in the future, but people still will be collecting vintage Minis, and that’s because the Versa was never comfortable with what it was, and always strove to be seen as a somehow-shrunken premium car that it very much wasn’t. The cheap cars that somehow captured our hearts and minds, the ones we all know and love, they never tried to be anything other than what they were, no matter how weird and cheap that was.

Cheapcars

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So, in designing our $16,000 EV, that is the philosophy I want to keep in mind. We don’t want to make something that’s trying to be an ensmallenated Tesla Model S or Lucid Air; whatever we make will openly and proudly have affordability as a key core principle. And, to go a little further, I’d like this car to be affordable as you own it, too! I want a car that’s forgiving of human failings and circumstance and chance and fate! If something bad happens, I want this car to work with you, and be cheap and easy to repair.

Modern cars are nightmarishly expensive to repair, for both mechanical problems and fixing damage from a wreck or other outside circumstances. This car will understand that, and try to be better. This car will also be easy to upgrade, on a timeline you as owner choose. It’ll be as modular as possible, with standardized parts that can be easily replaced and upgraded. It’ll be hackable and customizable and a rich aftermarket to support the car should be allowed to form and thrive; this is an idea I’ve dreamt of for quite a while, and I think now is the ideal time for it to happen.

With these ideas in mind, I made this rough sketch to explain what I was thinking to the Bishop:

Torchsketch

There are a few key features to note here:

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  • All lighting equipment is cheap, off-the-shelf stuff. The taillights, indicators, marker lights, and sealed-beam headlights are all out of parts bins. If you break one, you can order one online for dirt cheap or likely find a replacement at an auto parts store nearby. No more headlights that cost thousands of dollars to replace.
  • The bumpers are big, unpainted things designed to take whacks and shrug them off.
  • The need for unique body panels has been reduced as much as possible. The front and rear door stampings are identical parts, just reversed. The same goes for front and rear clips.

If the reversible panels idea sounds familiar, that’s because I cribbed it from those old masters of penny-pinching, AMC:

Amccavalier

The AMC Cavalier concept car was all about reducing the number of stampings and dies; AMC only really implemented this in one stamping for front and rear bumpers on some of their cars, and the Cavalier eventually grew into the car that would be the Hornet, but the clever ideas in the original concept are certainly worth stealing.

From that crude sketch and a lot of back-and-forths with the Bishop, the car that I just now decided I want to call the Modulo took shape:

3 4view

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Here’s a view from the rear quarter:

Rearquarter

Sure, it looks a little funny, but I think for a car like this, that’s a good thing! All truly successful cheap, every-person’s cars have had a quirky look about them. Let’s get some callouts on here so you can see all the crucial features that a car like this I think needs to have:

Modulo Callouts

Aside from the cheap, off-the-shelf lights, we have ports for sensors and cameras that can be added whenever the owner decides they want, say, dynamic cruise control or some sort of Level 2 driving assistance. You can buy the car without those features, then add them in later when you’re ready. That concept will carry throughout the car.

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Here’s what the Bishop has to say about the panel-reuse concept and overall design theory:

“Here’s what you need to know about manufacturing: the tooling needed to make things like stamping out metal and molding plastic is expensive. Millions of dollars need to be spent up front before you’ll see any parts. At the same time, it goes without saying that making 50,000 parts will likely give you a cheaper per-piece price than making 25,000 pieces; you’ll pay for that tool much faster.

What that means is the fewer parts, and the more parts we can reuse, will make a product cheaper. The key to the Autopian car design is symmetry. Most cars are symmetrical left to right, but few are mirrored front-to-back; ours will do just that. Starting with the unibody frame underneath, we’ll use gigapress-formed parts where hopefully we could get the left and right to be exactly the same pieces welded together. All frames would be painted the same white or grey regardless of the colors of the other body panels we add to keep costs down. The fenders and hood that bolt on can, of course, be in different colors, preferably bright and fun ones.

There’s been talk about cars like the Rivian requiring expensive body repairs for even minor shunts. The Autopian car’s visible parts are all easily replaceable; just unbolt them and ad the new one in minutes.

The front and rear doors are mirror images of each other, so left front would be the same pressing as the right rear. Lastly, the bumpers are black plastic pieces that are used on both the front and rear of the car, with apertures that can accept different lights. That was a key requirement from Jason; he’s sick of hearing about $1000 lamp assemblies on cars and wanted the Autopian car to have lights you could buy almost anywhere inexpensively. Headlamps are old-school sealed beams, and taillamps are the “orange stripe” stock ones made by Hella and others (a reflector ring fills the space in the aperture).”

We have a main unibody frame that’s always one basic color, and the body panels provide the actual color of the car. And those panels are kept to a minimum! Same doors front and rear, same unpainted, rugged front and rear fascia panels, same fender/wheel arch panels front and rear. Here, look at the basic components:

Components

The motor and gearbox assembly will be mounted on the rear axle, close to other crucial drivetrain and charging components, which will be effectively under the rear trunk floor, and accessible via a removable floor panel. Up front, we have a mirror of this compartment but as a frunk, and below that floor will be more power and electronic hardware, along with the 12V battery.

Doors

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I especially like how the doors turned out; there are just two stampings, and both doors open at the B-pillar, meaning the rear doors are suicide-type doors. The windows open in circular arcs, and operate manually with simple catch-and-slide mechanics – unless an optional power window module is installed, which can be added on a door-by-door basis. Speakers can be added to any door panel, along with anything else the aftermarket decides to come up with.

Side Opendeck

The rear “wagonback” cover can be removed easily as well, transforming the rear cargo area into an open bed, like a small truck. Here’s more from the Bishop:

“Naturally, the Autopian car isn’t exactly the same front and back; the front would have a typical hood and windshield while the rear is covered by a “wagon back” style hatch. My guess is that we could offer a standard “trunk lid” rear or a “fastback” style roof for those that prefer something different. The roof is a wide open hole; a collapsible, removable canvas top would be standard. You could upgrade to a multi-piece rigid unit or even a solar panel one to charge batteries and power your bluetooth speaker at a picnic or beach. Speaking of beach, after removing the roof, you could even unbolt the rear “wagon back” hatch for a full open style similar to what you could do with a 1986 Nissan Pulsar NX (and like that car a canvas cover could be offered in case it starts to rain while the “wagon back” is back at home).”

Another thing I demanded of the Autopian Modulo is that it should have removable, swappable batteries. I’ve thought that EV batteries should be easy to remove and swap out as an alternative to charging or for maintenance purposes for years. The EV industry has not agreed with me, and has been integrating battery packs ever more tightly into the structure of its electric cars. This has some engineering advantages, but it also means that replacing a bad battery pack is extremely costly major surgery.

While EV battery life is generally better than was expected in the early modern EV era, it’s still not a question of if you’ll eventually have to replace an EV battery, it’s when. I can’t abide the idea that a car should have such a financially crippling time bomb embedded in it, so the Autopian Modulo will have modular, standardized battery packs.

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Batteryremoval

There will be slots for six batteries, three per side, and they slide out from under the rocker panels. The car can run with as few as one pack if needed and the base model will likely be sold with two by default, but buyers can add more if desired. I would hope each module is capable of delivering at least, say, 40 miles, for a total range of 240 miles with a full six-pack on board. Even if the individual batteries only get 30 miles per pack, the total would still be 180 miles, which is still decent enough for an entry-level EV like this.

While you can use conventional EV chargers and fast chargers to charge the Modulo, there’s also the option of battery swapping. They’re already doing something much like what we’re imagining with scooters in China:

We’re imagining something similar for the Modulo, ideally done in an open-source way, so any number of companies could operate Modulo-compatible battery swap stations that meet dimensional, voltage, and connector standards. A typical station may look like this:

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Rechargestation

They would be sort of like propane tank stations are at countless gas stations across the country: you’d pay for the “rights” to however many batteries you want, and you just swap them out when they’re depleted, and back into the system they go. When they get too degraded, they’re pulled from circulation and go on to become wind farm load levelers or some similar use. This way, you may own, say, four “batteries” but you never actually have to physically own a battery that’s constantly and slowly degrading.

Plus, you can upgrade your range as needed. If your daily life works just fine with three batteries, then that’s all the battery rights you need to own, except for the three times a year you take big road trips, and in those times you temporarily pay for access to three more batteries. It’s flexible and easy and you’re never going to be dragging around battery weight you don’t need and never will be stuck having to shell out $20,000 for a whole new battery pack.

The inside of the Modulo is based on the same principles of modularity, ease of use and repair, and ready upgradability. The HVAC unit is optional and mounted in the center console; this can be a basic unit with just a heater or a full HVAC unit with A/C. The HVAC distribution pipes form the structural basis of the whole dashboard, with other components mounted to them.

The instrument cluster and center-stack infotainment displays and touchscreens are both cheap, off-the-shelf Android (or iOS, why not?) tablets running an app for their specific functions. They connect to the car for power and data with standardized connectors and can be replaced or upgraded at will. They’re not necessarily automotive grade, but if they fail after a few years, they’re cheap to replace. Plus, as technology improves, better tablets capable of running updated infotainment or instrument cluster software can be used. Systems like Apple CarPlay or Android Auto can be used in lieu of the center stack infotainment tablet if desired, too.

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Dash

Like the rest of the car, the modular interior would be designed so that aftermarket options would be available, so if you wanted, for example, nicer leather seats, you could swap out the more basic seats the car came with for fanicer ones whenever you wanted.

Seats

The seats, like everything else the owner has access to on the car, would be designed to be easy to remove and install with only basic skills and tools. This would go for as many elements of the car as possible. Flooring may start as rubber matting, but that could be removed and replaced with carpet, using the same basic fasteners. The same goes for interior door panels or headliners or whatever.

This is the way we can get to a $16,000 useful, desirable EV. Maybe that $16,000 edition is the most basic one, with rubber flooring and manual windows and just two battery packs and cheap tablets and no extra cameras and sensors and so on. But what makes the Modulo different from most cars is that you can buy the $16,000 basic one and over the years, as your fortunes improve, you can easily add and modify your car until you’ve doubled the range, got better seats, full carpet, A/C, adaptive cruise, whatever. And you did it on your pace, and installed every upgrade on your own, with ease.

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If you get in a small wreck, it’s not a devastating thing; it’s a little bit of money and a weekend’s worth of time to make things right again. As the car ages, you’re not stuck with a degrading battery and vanishing range; you just go to your nearest battery swap station and get yourself some new modules.

I think making a good, cheap EV needs to be a pretty radical departure from the sorts of EVs we see now, and needs to be something that looks at the entirety of the ownership experience, not just something that looks sleek and crows about range and 0-60 times. It needs to be something that’s not just affordable at the point of sale but stays affordable throughout its long and devoted life with you.

It’s time for the Autopian Modulo. Are you listening, Advanced Research Projects Agency – Energy (ARPA-E)? Go ahead and officially issue that $16,000 challenge! We’re ready! Well, unless we have to actually build these, in which case, um, we don’t have those resources. But we’re open to talk!

 

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Along with Martin, Dutch Gunderson, Lana and Sally Decker
Along with Martin, Dutch Gunderson, Lana and Sally Decker
1 month ago

I like the idea, but I’m concerned that it would be a more expensive Tata Nano, which had kinda similar goals but was ultimately rejected by its market because it was perceived as “cheap”. Which in the Nano’s case, it was.

Fuzzyweis
Fuzzyweis
1 month ago

A for effort, I dig it and would love it if somebody((*cough*DodgeNeon*cough) pursued it. I’m getting Chrysler CCV vibes, instead of a gigapress it was thermoformed plastic, manual window slides, it was for less developed markets, but Daimler shelved the idea.

I’d be happy if car makes just went back to compliance EVs on their current cheap models, GMs kind of doing it but needs a Trax EV, Ford could do a Maverick EV, give them only 150 miles of range, throw in the tax incentive and they could be dipping into the high teens new.

Johnpmac
Johnpmac
1 month ago

Yep, Tesla should ditch their disaster and hire you guys. I bet you’d do it for say -half a billion a piece- which is real savings!

Ronald Pottol
Ronald Pottol
1 month ago

You do want to be able to heat and cool your batteries, and really, much of the car, your passengers, motors, electronics, and integration can boost efficiency.

Harmanx
Harmanx
1 month ago

Take my money! (…especially if you reconsider the charging port location, such that drivers won’t have to stoop or get on their haunches to access it as they become more geriatric.)

Sklooner
Sklooner
1 month ago

Just start taking deposits and you can be the next Elio, but with a product

Jon Benet
Jon Benet
1 month ago

I really like it. It has some Honda vibes to it. I feel the front and rear bumper might benefit from being 3 pieces each. Shipping those full size things all over would be a nightmare. A 3 piece bumper would ease the aftermarket logistics, as well as add some custom-ability. I like the battery solution of having multiple packs depending on need, but disagree with the recharge stations. The batteries are going to be just to heavy to swap them in and out. With battery prices dropping quickly and the emergence of a North American battery materials supply chain I feel we aren’t far off.

MATTinMKE
MATTinMKE
1 month ago

I’d like mine in KTF Green, please.

Nic Periton
Nic Periton
1 month ago

How well did The Bishop know William Towns?

OnceInAMillenia
OnceInAMillenia
1 month ago

Get rid of those expensive screens – do what the VW up! did and just run the infotainment system as a driving-safe app on the driver’s phone.

Drive By Commenter
Drive By Commenter
1 month ago

Generic Android tablets are cheap. Like $200 for a decently powerful one on Amazon, less for one with a smaller battery. Probably much less ordered directly from the manufacturer. Swap it out when the screen dies.

OnceInAMillenia
OnceInAMillenia
1 month ago

Totally, but being able to remove $200 from the cost of a car would be huge, especially you’re going for cheap

IanGTCS
IanGTCS
1 month ago

Didn’t one of the cheaper European brands do that recently on a base model small car. Seat or Skoda maybe? Basically a spot to plug in your phone and it connected to the speakers.

OnceInAMillenia
OnceInAMillenia
1 month ago
Reply to  IanGTCS

Yes – the VW up is the same car as the Seat Mii and Skoda Citigo

AssMatt
AssMatt
1 month ago

I love how of all beachy things, a beach ball is the prop demonstrating the trunk. Not only is the ball presumably inflatable, beach balls are available in so many sizes as to be useless for scale reference.

Still, I do really love everything about this, and can’t help but wonder how many auto execs are hip to (or members of) your site; I guess we’ll see in a few years!

Urban Runabout
Urban Runabout
1 month ago

There is so much to enjoy about this – I’d put myself on the wait list if I could, as this is exactly the car that’s needed Right Now.

That said – I’m not sure that that retractable round windows are the right answer – as it seems that without an internal mechanism, they’d either be all open or all closed, and possibly shattered due to dropping – besides which they’d be awkward to use for the driver – how do you reach up over your left shoulder to open it at tollbooths? The fixed shape is expensive to make too. Why not just have fixed rectangular panels, and sliding angled panels for all doors?

I like the plug & play AC – but we need a heat pump to condition and cool the batteries anyway – so lets put a small heat pump in the frunk with ducts to the dash and a plug and play AC unit in the frunk as well..

Now lets use the newly-emptied door cavities as HVAC ducts with perforated panels as vents – a-la-Mercedes-Benz W116. No more pipes all over the place! Just some 3D printed plastic dash panels that have simple notches/clips for your tablet controls/displays, a few switches, embedded ducts for the defrosters and door heat, and recesses for the passenger-side airbag and open bin storage. Meanwhile, aux-heat is accomplished as an upgrade with electric floor heating and heated seats.

What goes between the front seats? A sturdy base clip with speakers front and rear where you can pop in a basic storage console with a lid, a reinforced lockable version thereof (for your tablets, phone and laptop when you’re parked), a Yeti cooler – or an infant/small child safety seat.

Got a bigger kid who still needs a safety seat? Pull out the center rear seat and replace that with the same speaker/bracket as in between the front seats to accommodate a larger child safety seat – or the lockable storage console, Yeti cooler, etc.

I’d also say that the standard roof should be a very simple plastic panel – like the Wrangler or Bronco – that can be unclipped and replaced with the Webasto canvas roof cartridge, solar glass roof, etc.

Space
Space
1 month ago
Reply to  Urban Runabout

With a mind on battery chemistry and using active air cooling they could probably get away without a heat pump for the battery.

Cayde-6
Cayde-6
1 month ago

Sadly, a $16,000 car is something that can only be achieved legislatively.

As someone on the old lighting site pointed out (just today, as a matter of fact), the reason no one manufactures a $16,000 car is that a $60,000 car does not require $44,000 more in parts and labor. Hell, even if a $60,000 car cost proportionately the same (IE, approximately 400% more) to make, the total number of dollars per unit sold would be greater.

Adrian Clarke
Adrian Clarke
1 month ago
Reply to  Cayde-6

This is something I sort of covered when I reviewed the Kia and the Dacia last year. A cheap car can be done but you need a very specific set of circumstances: a global footprint, vast parts commonality and markets that will support a small cheap car. A $16k car in the US is a very different prospect to a £16k car in the UK.
Also something a lot of people forget is those small cheap hatchbacks were basically loss leaders/market share protectors. A lot of the time they never made any money, yet cost just as much as larger models to design and develop.

Cayde-6
Cayde-6
1 month ago
Reply to  Adrian Clarke

But then, of course, the other thing stopping a car manufacturer from selling a $16,000 EV is the fact that the current cheapest EV is just a bit under $30,000. As you said, a $16,000 vehicle would be a loss leader. But why sell a car that costs $16,000 to manufacture as a loss leader, when you could sell it for $9,000 in profit and still be the cheapest EV on the market by a double-digits percentage?

Last edited 1 month ago by Cayde-6
Adrian Clarke
Adrian Clarke
1 month ago
Reply to  Cayde-6

I think the difference is the BOM between a $16k ICE car and a $16k EV. The latter is not possible at the moment without a massive compromise (or losing a lot of money – something that is rarely talked about when mentioning low price Chinese EVs). The Dacia Spring will be interesting but it’s very cost cut vehicle built in India (I think) and that has traditionally not worked worldwide.

Urban Runabout
Urban Runabout
1 month ago
Reply to  Cayde-6

The car itself is sold at cost.

Profits are made with accessories, extra batteries, battery subscriptions, replacement parts.

Because only the most miserly among us would actually drive the base model with just the two standard battery cartridges, no subscription for swappable/recharged batteries, and no accessories.

Adrian Clarke
Adrian Clarke
1 month ago
Reply to  Urban Runabout

This will never work. The mainstream never accepts this business model – witness the outcry over subs for heated seats and additional unlocks built into the cars. About the only place this really works is companies like Ford and Mopar which have the ability to offer a wide variety of official accessories and rabid fan bases willing to buy them.

Urban Runabout
Urban Runabout
1 month ago
Reply to  Adrian Clarke

“…witness the outcry over subs for heated seats and additional unlocks built into the cars.”

Paying for something already built into the car is quite different from paying for hardware & equipment that the factory, your local delivery showroom or you add yourself.

Adrian Clarke
Adrian Clarke
1 month ago
Reply to  Urban Runabout

This is a fair point, but the mainstream market doesn’t make that differentiation. Companies that have tried aftermarket bolt on customisations have always given up on the idea – Mini, Opel with the Adam, the Fiat 500. And it adds a lot of cost and complexity on the manufacturers side as well. Customers just aren’t interested.

Captain Muppet
Captain Muppet
1 month ago
Reply to  Urban Runabout

Sold at what cost? The cost of the parts? The cost of the parts plus assembly? The cost of the parts, assembly, tooling for all the parts, tooling in the factory, the factory itself, the 4 years of engineering and validating the design, the marketing, the HR department full of soulless arseholes, the staff canteen, the chargers in the car park for the press fleet, the press fleet, the interest on the loan required to start this all up years in advance?

It’s hundreds of millions of overhead to amortise in to the cost of each car, and you won’t sell a single car for at least the first four years of the project.

That’s a lot of profit to try to make on optional parts that you’ll be competing with the aftermarket for.

I’ve badly depressed myself now. I try so hard to be positive.

Ecsta C3PO
Ecsta C3PO
1 month ago
Reply to  Captain Muppet

For sure. Until all upfront costs are paid off “at cost” doesn’t really exist, it’s a decision made by stakeholders of how much revenue to collect per unit to pay off the debts.

Canopysaurus
Canopysaurus
1 month ago

I like it. One question: does that $16,000 price tag include a chain saw for removing the batteries?

UnseenCat
UnseenCat
1 month ago

This seems like an idea straight out of Star Trek’s optimistic, egalitarian future worldview. Not our hyper-capitalistic society. Off-the-shelf, standardized parts? Where’s the planned obsolescence? Where’s the proprietary, limited parts supplies? Cars like this could probably be kept on the road for decades. (Hmmm… kind of like the classic “people’s cars” that inspired the design exercise…)

This is exactly why Open Source design is a good thing. Open standards anyone can develop further. Upgradeability as technology marches on. It disrupts lock-in and obsolescence and replaces it with an ecosystem that thrives on support and innovation. (Just imagine the analog to the JC Whitney catalog pages of accessories for this thing!)

Adrian Clarke
Adrian Clarke
1 month ago
Reply to  UnseenCat

Like Local Motors? Do you really want open source engineering and design in something your family are going to travel in? There are reasons ASIL exists.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Automotive_Safety_Integrity_Level

Last edited 1 month ago by Adrian Clarke
Urban Runabout
Urban Runabout
1 month ago
Reply to  UnseenCat

Open Source design is a great way to give profits to someone else.
Profits are made in accessories & licensing fees.
This is how you keep earning money on a 15 year old car – because when it’s sold or passed on to the kid, and the new owner wants to upgrade/modify to make it like new – who sells the parts to make that happen?

Adrian Clarke
Adrian Clarke
1 month ago

Matt: “Has anyone seen Adrian?”
Torch: “I don’t know. What’s that soft sobbing noise. Anyone else hear that?”
David: “Oh Adrian’s in the stationary closet crying into a bottle of red wine”

Last edited 1 month ago by Adrian Clarke
Adrian Clarke
Adrian Clarke
1 month ago

The Bishop: “Jason and Adrian are like the fire and ice of Autopian Design Studios. I’m kind of in the middle, like lukewarm water”

The Bishop
The Bishop
1 month ago
Reply to  Adrian Clarke

“there’s a fine line between clever and stupid….we prefer the latter”

The Bishop
The Bishop
1 month ago

Only one person here is dumb enough to waste an entire weekend indoors doing drawings of a car that looks like two red frogs cut in half and fused together.

Cayde-6
Cayde-6
1 month ago
Reply to  Adrian Clarke

David: “Oh Adrian’s in the stationary closet crying into a bottle of red wine”

Now I’m curious if you mean a closet for office supplies, or a closet that does not move. In the case of the latter, this would also imply the presence of a closet that does move, which would be vastly more interesting.

OrigamiSensei
OrigamiSensei
1 month ago
Reply to  Cayde-6

Isn’t a “closet” that moves called the TARDIS? (I know, I know, it’s a phone booth).

Adrian Clarke
Adrian Clarke
1 month ago
Reply to  Cayde-6

How the fuck do I know? The rusty ex-Volga parts container that houses to all the mouldy Galpin memo pads from 1964 we’re forced to hand transcribe fax messages on. Also I think a weasel lives in here.

Last edited 1 month ago by Adrian Clarke
Wezel Boy
Wezel Boy
1 month ago
Reply to  Adrian Clarke

It isn’t me.

Wezel Boy
Wezel Boy
1 month ago
Reply to  Wezel Boy

Although I did live a few blocks from Galpin in the 70’s.

NotSpanky
NotSpanky
1 month ago
Reply to  Cayde-6

Rincewind’s travelling luggage (from Discworld) would be close.

Toecutter
Toecutter
1 month ago
Reply to  Adrian Clarke

I bet you could design a car that meets the goals outlined in this article, that also looks great and has low drag.

Chris D
Chris D
1 month ago
Reply to  Toecutter

It could be done, and eventually it will. It could start with a recently discontinued vehicle that has all its stampings and design work finished and polished over the years, such as the Malibu. Smaller would be better – a previous generation of something European that could be sent over in a kit. The previous generation Ford
Focus Estate or Skoda Superb Estate or something French from the Stellantis group would do the trick. Install the electric motor, all its related controllers and systems, some lighter weight components such as seats and wheels stateside, and there you have it. Finance it at 399/month and they would sell like ice cream in the summer.

Ecsta C3PO
Ecsta C3PO
1 month ago
Reply to  Toecutter

It’s all plastic and modular, give it an optional Charger Daytona style front and rear bumpers, rear wheel arch covers, aero mirrors, etc.

Who Knows
Who Knows
1 month ago

If the wheels were a few inches smaller, and the tires had some sidewall, you could get down to $15,xxx. That, and for HVAC, just have a fan for outside air, with heated seats, steering wheel, and heated foot areas as optional. If my bolt came from the factory with 15″ wheels, and radiant footwell heating instead of the inefficient outside coolant heater, it would be a better vehicle

Ranwhenparked
Ranwhenparked
1 month ago
Reply to  Who Knows

Go down to 13 inch wheels, ditch the passenger side mirror, go to crank windows, use round sealed beam headlights and some round analog gauges mounted in a piece of cheap MDF instead of the tablet, might be able to shave 2 grand off.

The Bishop
The Bishop
1 month ago
Reply to  Ranwhenparked

the windows don’t have cranks at all, and those are honest-to-God sealed beams from AutoZone. Hard to believe, but it’s quite possible that a tablet might be cheaper than actual analog gauges; especially if the tablet is not included in the base price

Urban Runabout
Urban Runabout
1 month ago
Reply to  The Bishop

it’s quite possible that a tablet might be cheaper than actual analog gauges”

Exactly.
That 10 year old iPad with the functionally dead battery sitting in your drawer just needs to be plugged in, cleared to factory settings, upgraded to the most recent OS, a single new app added and plugged into the dash – and there you have a functioning instrument cluster at zero cost.

Dan Pritts
Dan Pritts
1 month ago
Reply to  Urban Runabout

The expensive part of an iPad or android is not the hardware, it’s the software.

Toecutter
Toecutter
1 month ago
Reply to  The Bishop

You could use cheap digital meters for gauges also. The one in my e-trike was all of $150, and that’s quite a bit fancier than what I’d have in mind.

Rollin Hand
Rollin Hand
1 month ago
Reply to  The Bishop

There’s a reason they are going to screens. Because it IS cheaper. Then they charge you extra for them.

Realistically, on Prime Day, you can get a 10-inch HD tablet for next to nothing. And you know they are still making money on those. An Android tablet would probably cost $20-50 per car. The big cost would be software development.

IanGTCS
IanGTCS
1 month ago
Reply to  Rollin Hand

Assuming the car has obd2 isn’t the software quite cheap? I have a cheap Bluetooth dongle and a free app that’ll tell me speed, rpm etc. Assuming you don’t want ads popping up I couldn’t see the software to show the basic gauges being overly expensive to develop.

Joe L
Joe L
1 month ago

I’d buy this sort of electric car. I’d consider using a double-DIN hole in the dash so the owner can look to the aftermarket for however they want to handle entertainment and navigation, but leave a movable bracket for a tablet if someone wants a bigger screen.

MrLM002
MrLM002
1 month ago

I agree with most of this, but there are three things I’d change:

1.) If you use aluminum for the chassis, suspension components, etc. you don’t need to paint it.

2.) Since you’re going with an independent suspension front and rear setup I wouldn’t go with RWD as standard, I’d go with AWD. There’s nothing stopping an electric motor from moving as fast in reverse as it does when going forwards. So save money by having the same drivetrain unit front and rear. You just add the mechanical steering mechanism to the “front” side (with rear wheel steering being an optional upgrade). With the correct steering mechanism and interior design it would also be easy to make the vehicle RHD by just installing the RHD setup on the opposite end, making that the new front.

3.) Personally I say make the car FWD, put a beam axle or symmetrical trailing link suspension in the rear, and put the battery storage in the front (over the driven wheels) for optimal cooling and weight distribution, and not having a rear drivetrain unit would allow for a lot more trunk space.

Last edited 1 month ago by MrLM002
Urban Runabout
Urban Runabout
1 month ago
Reply to  MrLM002

AWD means two motors – one of which is completely unnecessary and too costly for the $16000 price.

For someone who wants AWD – this isn’t the car for them.

MrLM002
MrLM002
1 month ago
Reply to  Urban Runabout

Depends, but that’s why I said in 3.) to make it FWD with a beam axle or symmetrical trailing link suspension.

Toecutter
Toecutter
1 month ago
Reply to  Urban Runabout

Depends upon the motors selected. If the car is light enough, you could use a cheap Chinese hub motor meant for a motorcycle in each wheel, and bypass the need for a gear reduction ratio altogether. For each wheel, the motor and controller would cost about $10/kW peak power, or less, in sufficient volume. Go look on Alibaba and you’ll see.

Last edited 1 month ago by Toecutter
Taco Shackleford
Taco Shackleford
1 month ago

I have long imagined something like this. Great work, now where can I buy one?

Ecsta C3PO
Ecsta C3PO
1 month ago

Love the lighting details, but especially the exposed ducting style in the cabin. I’m envisioning white-PVC-chic.

Plus you could crowdsource, eg. Toecutter for some Cd analysis

Adrian Clarke
Adrian Clarke
1 month ago
Reply to  Ecsta C3PO

I often dream of giving away my skills, knowledge and experience for free.

Ecsta C3PO
Ecsta C3PO
1 month ago
Reply to  Adrian Clarke

But just think of how much cash you’ll be raking in with your 0.01% share of the $500 we’ll make per vehicle!

And also, in the essence of a true crowdsource project the good ideas of trained professionals would be overlooked for flashy useless ideas

Toecutter
Toecutter
1 month ago
Reply to  Ecsta C3PO

I’m not an aerodynamicist, but I’d gladly do that job and learn everything I could as quickly as possible.

I do know some things. Coast-down testing and some calculations suggest my open-wheeled trike with no roof had a Cd value in the low 0.3X range, without any CFD analysis or wind tunnel use. Open/outboard wheels and no roof are both a massive drag penalty. Yet it wasn’t until the 1990s that enclosed sedans and coupes with full roofs and ponton body styles started to routinely get that sort of Cd, after 6 or 7-figure of expense on wind tunnels and CFD analysis.

Last edited 1 month ago by Toecutter
PresterJohn
PresterJohn
1 month ago

Incredible work guys – I think you’ve captured the “people’s car” ethos. The aftermarket would be robust for this and it would increase the sense of ownership for the average person. I love it

Abdominal Snoman
Abdominal Snoman
1 month ago

One flaw with your design is the axis the door hinges will open on. Either you have an overly strong overbuilt single hinge at the widest part of the door so they swing out horizontally, or you’re going to end up with weird anti-gullwing doors that swing down as you open them if you go for the more conventional 2 hinge design.

Ecsta C3PO
Ecsta C3PO
1 month ago

Hmm…possible solution could be to put an arc shaped support arm at the bottom, perpendicular to the door movement.

Like a car trunk arm guide but turned 90° and sliding into the body. That could give enough support to keep the upper hinge smaller

Rob Schneider
Rob Schneider
1 month ago

Or maybe go the Toyota Sera route. https://images.app.goo.gl/UsuJ4UmYvKiidLSE8

The Bishop
The Bishop
1 month ago

It probably will be an issue, but still there must be a way to do a wide single hinge. If a 1972 Eldorado with five-foot-long 150 pound doors can work with two hinges….

Lockleaf
Lockleaf
1 month ago

As cheap and cheerful in its own way as a classic Mini. Pretty great job. Well done both of you.

MAX FRESH OFF
MAX FRESH OFF
1 month ago

Shut up and take my money!

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