Vizio.M uses composites to avoid safety/efficiency trade-off
As fuel prices rise and people become more conscious of environmental impact, companies and consumers are reconsidering their daily vehicles. Enter the Vizio.M, a joint project between the Technical University of Munich, BMW and Daimler. The concept vehicle is an attempt to build a cost-effective, lightweight — yet still road-safe — electric vehicle for the future.
They ran into a major problem, though: Fuel efficiency and weight are often a trade-off, and legacy vehicle materials like steel can provide safety and stability, but at a significant weight cost. The engineers turned to composite materials, in particular carbon fiber, to meet strength and mass-market safety requirements with minimum weight. The engineering team aims to keep the Vizio.M’s weight without batteries to under 400 kg (881.9 pounds) to meet the Europe’s L7e “Heavy Quadricycle” definition (the Nissan Leaf weighs 1,521 kg). The vehicle has a monocoque construction — the chassis and body are a single piece — derived from race cars and planes for maximum stability with a low vehicle weight.
According to BMW, many electric vehicles have lacked in safety due to cost- and weight-saving cuts in size and materials. Those based on gas-powered vehicles were often too heavy and inefficient. Current-production electric vehicles, such as the Leaf, are often criticized for driving ranges; according to the EPA, the Leaf has a range of 73 miles, with estimates from Nissan up to 105 miles.
One of the goals of the Vizio.M project, however, is a production model that is reasonably priced. The team is also searching for an efficient and cost-effective way to employ carbon fiber — currently only available in production luxury cars, at luxury prices — in mass-production vehicles.
The Vizio.M is a joint project between the Technical University of Munich and a number of large companies, including Daimler AG and BMW, as well as Siemens AG, Texas InstrumentsDeutschland GmbH, LION Smart GmbH and many others.