Local Motors, the American car company best known for its crowd-sourced Rally Fighter off-road vehicle and competition-inspired 3D-printed Strati, has launched yet another automotive competition – aiming to develop the lightweight passenger car of the future.
Low weight was once a given in passenger vehicles, as monocoque construction techniques and miniaturisation of components allowed passenger cars of the 1950s and 1960s to shrink from their behemoth forms of earlier automotive decades.
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Since then, ever greater demands for safety, equipment, comfort, refinement and performance have sent weight figures skyward. European and East Asian cars have become significantly heavier than their 1970s and 1980s counterparts, while American vehicles have maintained the mass of their lumbering 1970s equivalents.
While performance, safety and economy have all improved in that time, technological developments to reduce weight have taken a back seat to perfecting internal combustion and aerodynamics.
Local Motors’ theory is that many more benefits can be found if weight were also reduced, and its LITECAR Challenge encourages designers, engineers and scientists to conceptualise a five-passenger saloon that embraces the benefits of low weight, without sacrificing important safety and performance standards.
The company, in collaboration with American energy research and development agency ARPA-E, is offering $150,000 in prizes to winners of the competition. Entries will be judged on criteria including kerbweight reduction, vehicle safety, innovation and supporting evidence.
Concepts must also rely on existing automotive infrastructure, so while innovation is encouraged the vehicles should have solid grounding in reality.
While there are no plans to produce the winning vehicle, Local Motors is certainly in a good position to produce a proof-of-concept, just as it did with the 3D-printed Strati – and such a competition has rarely been more relevant to modern automotive needs.