MI Switch: Wild, Woolly and Plugged In
By EV World
Wild and woolly Calgary, Alberta in Canada is known for its Stampede, oil fields and tar sands. It's also probably the last place you'd expect to find a concept car design and engineering firm.
But that's where expat British designer and former Southern Californian, Nathan Armstrong moved his young family after his children began to develop asthma. And while Motive Industries, Inc. is well known within the small fraternity of the automobile engineering community, it would have probably remained off EV World's radar had Armstrong not decided to enter the Progress Automotive X Prize.
It has been EV World's intention to eventually report on all of the X Prize teams over the coming year, but as list continues to grow ever longer with each passing week, we may not be able to reach them all. [See The Next X Prize Beckons Velozzi]
Two key points came out of our discussions with Armstrong. His intention is to showcase his firm's design and engineering capabilities -- they have already done a number of well-recognized concept cars for Detroit -- and to NOT go into the car manufacturing business.
The Switch will be a four-passenger, plug-in electric vehicle constructed out of light-weight aluminum and plastic composite materials. It's attractive, but conventional styling is intentional. Armstrong has learned over the years, he explained, that cars tend to look the way they are for very pragmatic reasons of manufacturability and safety. The Switch will incorporate those lessons learned.
We use the term "will" because at the time of the interview, the physical car didn't exist. What you see below is -- like the Imperia Roadster in Belgium -- a very clever computer rendering.
Besides showcasing the company's skill set, the Switch will also incorporate proprietary technology the company has developed, including a new type of transmission, though because the X Prize organizers have moved up the date of the competition some 12 months to 2009, Armstrong is doubtful he'll be able to incorporate it into their vehicle, settling instead on a single-speed version... for now.
He also wants to highlight how a small, nimble team can develop a 'near'-OEM-level vehicle like the Switch. He stresses that he believes the auto industry is going to have to adapt itself to high-quality, but low volume production, producing vehicles that may not have all the amenities to which consumers have grown accustomed in order to produce affordable cars in the future. His goal is to demonstrate that it's possible to produce consumer acceptable vehicles with much smaller capital investments and engineering time by using state-of-the-art technologies.
"You can go through three or four generations of vehicles in the time that it takes a large company to do one," he told EV World.
For more insights into Armstrong's X Prize entrant and his views on future auto manufacturing, you will want to listen to the entire 35-minute interview using either of the two built-in MP3 players (Mac/Win) at the top of the page, or by downloading the 7.7 MB file to your computer hard drive for transfer to your favorite MP3 device.