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Profile of the 660-cc Shell Concept Car with canopy tilted forward, awaiting occupants. 

Shell Oil unveils radical city car concept

Oil companies typically don't announce concept city cars, but days ahead of the 2016 Beijing Motor Show, Shell did just that. A collaboration between Shell, Gordon Murray Design and Geo Technology, the Shell Concept Car is all about bespoke lubricants, engine friction reduction, radical downsizing and super efficiency.

Described by Shell as a “total rethink” of Murray's T.25 city car shown in 2010, the Shell Concept Car has emerged from the Project M (for Mobility) previously revealed in, aimed at creating an extremely frugal 3-seat, single canopy access, ultra-compact city car.

A salient figure quoted in a statement by Shell is that “independent testing and a rigorous lifecycle study shows that Shell’s Concept Car would deliver a 34% reduction in primary energy use over its entire lifecycle when compared to a typical city car available in the U.K.”

Regarding the car's efficiency, Shell states that its gasoline consumption has been measured using a range of testing protocols. Sample test results issued so far include a steady state figure of 2.64 L/100 km [89.1 mpg U.S.] at 70 km/h from the use of bespoke lubricants, equivalent to a 5% improvement in fuel efficiency (and consequent improvement in emissions) compared to standard lubricants available in the U.K.

No urban or combined fuel consumption figure has been released but an aspirational Project M target was a combined figure of 2.8 L/100 km.

The Concept Car has been independently tested at a U.K. certified automotive facility, stated Shell. It is understood, but not confirmed, that this was Millbrook Proving Ground. Shell states that in the formal NEDC test it produced lower CO2 emissions than both a “typical” gasoline-powered city car (28%) and a hybrid car (32%). Neither vehicle was specifically identified.

Shell provided all the fluids for the car with reduction of friction being the principal aim. The bespoke engine oil was based on a Shell premium lubricant. And Geo Technology optimized engine components to reduce friction.

The 2.5-m-long (8.2-ft) Shell Concept has a potential top speed of 156 km/h (97 mph), higher than the anticipated speed of 130km/h/81 mph). Currently the design is restricted to 145 km/h (90 mph) and is claimed to reach 100km/h (62 mph) from standstill in 15.8 s. The engine is a Mitsubishi 660cc 3-cylinder, all-aluminum 4-valve unit with variable valve timing. Claimed power output and peak torque are 33 kW (44 hp) and 64 N·m (47 lb·ft), respectively. The engine drives through a 5-speed semi-automatic sequential gearbox.

The Concept Car weighs 550 kg (1213 lb) and makes extensive use of recycled carbon fiber.

Dr. Andrew Hepher, Vice President of Shell’s Lubricant Research Team, said: “In the coming weeks and months, we look forward to sharing our research insights from this project with engine designers, car manufacturers, academics and other experts across the automotive sector.”

Shell states that if their Concept Car reached production it could deliver “material reductions in energy use in the road transport sector”. And it sees “co-engineering” as a process via which vehicle body, engine design, and lubricants, would all be created together.

With regard to its aesthetics, Shell describes the Concept Car as being “a new take on ‘tall and narrow’.”

As always with such far reaching designs of ultra-small and radically designed city cars, only time, unit cost, economies of scale, and, most importantly, public acceptance, will demonstrate their practical credibility and efficacy. But the technology it is generating may have much wider, very significant applications.

Shell Global Lubricants’ Vice President, Mark Gainsborough, noted the project's value in energy saving R&D: “This is a significant automobile engineering milestone. Insights gained from this project could be transformed in terms of how we address energy use in the road transport sector," while noting "the powerful role that lubricants can potentially play in helping achieve CO2 reduction targets.”

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