Three years after announcing his master plan to change the way we think about affordable, efficient and sustainable personal transportation -- as well as rewrite the rules on how to most effectively build these micro-movers, design whiz Gordon Murray has officially unveiled his long-teased T.25 city car. Appearing at the World Forum on Enterprise and the Environment at the Smith School in Oxford, England, Murray also provided new details about the potentially game-changing iStream manufacturing process that will be used to produce the gasoline-powered T.25 as well as its all-electric sibling, the T.27, which is being done in concert with the British-based firm, Zytek.

Establishing his own independent consultancy in 2007 after years of designing numerous championship-winning Formula One cars as well as the striking McLaren F1 supercar, Murray has always viewed the T.25 and its super-efficient production methodology as being intimately interwoven. A mere 7.8 feet long, this diminutive city car is considerably smaller than the smart fortwo but can still carry three people, courtesy of its center-mounted steering wheel and a 1+2 seating configuration. A single flip-up door facilitates entry/exit while also allowing the T.25 to be parked in extremely tight spaces, while flip-down rear seats offer six different interior configurations. In keeping with its primary mission, the car also boasts a turning circle of less than 20 feet.

Like the smart fortwo, the T.25 is based around a rugged F1-inspired modular central structure that uses tubular steel and composites to optimize passenger protection. Stabillty/traction control and anti-lock brakes are standard, as is a rear-mounted 51-horsepower/660cc three-cylinder gasoline engine that drives its aft wheels via a five-speed clutchless transmission. Although the T.25's claimed top speed is 90 mph, getting from 0-60 mph will require about 16 seconds. However, fuel economy is projected at an impressive 74 mpg on the Euro cycle.

Building for a more-efficient future

While the T.25 -- which is expected to go on sale sometime within the next two years at a price that starts below $10,000 -- and the sub-$20K T.27 EV embody numerous unique design elements, it's the iStream production process that may end up being the most far-reaching legacy of Murray's precedent-shattering approach to car manufacturing. By employing a series of simplification techniques for the build process -- including the use of color-impregnated body panels that eliminate the need for a separate paint shop -- iStream permits the facility itself to be nearly 80 percent smaller -- and 80 percent less costly -- than a conventional auto factory while offering superior flexibility and adaptability during the entire assembly sequencing. It also results in a massive reduction of the CO2 emissions associated with these types of operations.

After analyzing the various specific elements that iStream entails, Holger Erker, managing director of the well-respected German engineering consultancy firm IPE Engineering, declared that it could be "positively qualified as the most promising manufacturing process development in the car industry of the next decade." While a healthy measure of skepticism is called for when it comes to claims regarding any undertaking on this grand a scale, Gordon Murray has amassed a remarkably solid track record in actually making the seemingly impossible ultimately come true. If he can pull this one off, it could be the greatest coup of his career.

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