Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Chassis Jig Table Construction

This week marks the official beginning of chassis construction. Not the chassis itself, but the construction of the Jigs we'll use to build the Rally Fighter chassis. The images shown are the tables that Colby has been welding together and will serve as the platform from which the Jigs will be made. The tables are being built upside down for ease of fabrication and accuracy. The table tops are 1" thick steel which were cut from a 4' x 8' plate, making them very durable and a true surface to work from. The tables will not become the jig, but serve as an accurate, highly durable surface to build tooling from.

Rather than fabricating a table and integral framework specifically for the Rally Fighter, building these tables for tooling will allow us to build not only the Rally Fighter Jig, but several others for component parts and eventually, other vehicle jigs and components. Furthermore, rather than purchasing a machined table which can cost tens of thousands of dollars, we elected to spec out the needed steel and build our own. This approach allows us to build very inexpensive, purpose-built, and accurate tables which will translate into Jigs with the same characteristics.

You will also notice that there are several tables. We decided to make the table in sections to allow us flexibility as we move forward to separate the table into smaller sections for transitioning from vehicle jig construction to component fabrication, and building jigs for smaller vehicles we will have in our portfolio in the future.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Build Specs - A Fuel Efficient Approach

After posting some of the performance specs for the Rally Fighter the other day, the team decided to post a few "specs" on the build of LM vehicles in order to bring the details mentioned over several posts to one place.

Efficient & Sustainable Vehicles

Local Motors has set a course to build efficient vehicles in a sustainable manner. Though Jay, Ari and I have all touched on different efficiency features, specifically for the Rally Fighter, we thought it time to describe our overall intent.

We intend for each vehicle we build to be “most efficient per class”. This is a high bar to reach, and a worthwhile challenge. Here is how we are going to meet the challenge:

Lightweight: Lighter vehicles require less energy, and therefore less fuel, to move. By using materials such as carbon fiber and thermoplastics, Local Motors is able to build cars of superior safety and strength without the extra weight of traditional materials, like steel.

Vinyl Coating, not Paint: Paints are generally hard on the environment. While some more eco-friendly paints are available, they are very expensive. Plus, a typical paint job can add 100-150 pounds of weight to your vehicle. So, we are not painting Local Motors vehicles. We will wrap in vinyl.

Vinyl wrapping has multiple benefits. Among them: price, weight, flexibility, end of life recycling.

Your vinyl wrap will cost less than a typical paint job and weigh less. And now, with the Local Motors community, you will be able to custom design your Rally Fighter (and soon, other Local Motors vehicles) vinyl wrap to your unique desires. Plus, when you tire of your vinyl wrap design it can be removed and recycled; you can’t do that with paint.

Build it JIT, and Make it Simple:
JIT, or Just-In-Time, build processes reduce waste as compared to other manufacturing models. Local Motors will not build 1,000 Rally Fighters that will then bake in the Southwestern sun as they hope for a buyer. Rather, each Rally Fighter build will be an experience and part of the purchase.

By building JIT, we will allow ourselves some agility. If we find a feature that needs adjustment, we are able to do so – without recalling 1,000 vehicles. Allowing this agility will reduce waste and increase efficiency.

We are keeping it simple. Rally Fighters and every Local Motors vehicle are built with your input, and therefore feature “everything you want, and nothing you don’t”. All of the gadgets and add-ons in today’s cars add an extraordinary amount of weight, which increases fuel usage. In addition to the extra weight, by the time many of these built-in components, like GPS , make it to market they are outdated. So why include it? Instead, we will design your Rally Fighter to incorporate your existing and desired technology – like your iPhone, or your personal choice of GPS etc.

Build it Locally: Local Motors is the ultimate experience for a car enthusiast. Cars built and designed for you, for your local area, and with your input and collaboration. It doesn’t get more personal or exciting than that.

What some people don’t realize is that our choice to build cars in regional Micro-Factories is also very sustainable. Local Motors is able to adapt and incorporate the most efficient fuel choices and powertrains per region. This could mean electric powertrains for Hawaii and Manhattan, CNG (compressed natural gas) for Texas, and hydrogen for California.
Because we are small, decentralized, and build JIT, we are able to help you build cars that make sense for you and for your local area.

With Local Motors, you are working with a community of talented car designers to develop the cars you want. As result, you know that every car built in a Local Motors Micro-Factory will not only be “most efficient per class” but “hottest in class” and “best designed in class” as well.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Performance Specs

Preliminary performance specs are now up on the Rally Fighter Build Process page.

We're still in development so some of these numbers may change, but we thought we'd share some of them to give everyone an idea of what we have planned. Although the specs are somewhat limited, once we begin testing of the first prototype months away, we will have more performance specs like you'd expect to see on a vehicle website, in a magazine, or witnessing them first hand in the vehicle, out on the street or off the beaten path in the American Southwest.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Scuderi Gets Physical

This week at the SAE World Congress, the Scuderi Group gave the world it's first look at a physical protoype, compared with the computer generated simulations we've seen thus far. As I've mentioned, there's already a protoype undergoing assembly and testing. Scuderi says it should be running by the middle of May. The cut-away model seen at the SAE World Congress is an exact copy of that protoype.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Crash Testing - Size Differential

With the recent push for automakers to make smaller, more fuel efficient vehicles a staple of their portfolio, and in fact phase out the larger vehicles they make, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) has expressed a great deal of concern lately. Their concern is that as manufacturers the size and weight of vehicles continually decrease, the level of safety does as well.

In an effort to reinforce this concern and their support of President Obama's plan to limit the incentive for manufactures to build more fuel efficient vehicles by turning to making cars very small, the IIHS conducted some crash testing. Although the head on collisions they simulated between mid-size sedans and some of the smallest cars on the market are under fire by many manufacturers as an inaccurate representation of the majority of crash scenarios and the way in which NHTSA certifies crash-worthiness, the tests prove ONE thing:

Larger cars fair better in a crash.

I say ONE thing because "large" is almost always paired with a word we at LM consider a dirty word: "heavy". Sure, the physics of the matter do show that a larger, heavier car will survive a crash quite well, but a car can be large and light and still withstand a severe hit well. A vehicle doesn't always need to be heavy to be safe. With the right design, the right materials and good use of space (which equals time much needed to allow the vehicle to absorb a crash before the occupants do), a large and light vehicle can be very safe.

Here is the video showing the IIHS test of the Mercedes C Class hitting a Smart Fortwo head on. As you can see, if there is more space between the extents and interior components of a vehicle, there would be more time for the vehicle to absorb the blow before transferring the force to the occupants. The Smart does a 450 degree spin, with the steering wheel and Instrument Panel coming loose when hitting a Mercedes C Class.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Wind Tunnel Testing?

When I was working on the chassis today in the area of the Rocker Panel and the Belly Scoop, I decided to do some further research on the P-51 Mustang to check the proportions and if there was anything that I would need to consider with the chassis design to maintain this feature and make it as close to the original as possible.

The picture below immediately caught my attention:

This is an image of the P-51 in the wind tunnel at Langley Air Force base, one of the four largest tunnels in the world, despite being built way back in 1931. Now knowing that the P-51 was tested there, and having been there to test the Factory Five GTM myself, this would be a great place to test the Rally Fighter given the ties that both our engineering team and the RF design inspiration we have at Local Motors. Although the reasons to test the Rally Fighter in the tunnel are not as significant as those for testing the GTM and even moreso the P-51, it would be great to see the Rally Fighter amidst the twin 36-foot diameter fans just like it's "grand-daddy," the P-51. Adding to this visual comparison would be the results of conducting the test, also something I think would be cool to have, although given the use of each of these greats in design history, I'm sure the p-51's drag coefficient is far superior. For those reasons, I don't see wind tunnel testing in the future for the Rally Fighter, but the possibility definitely got me thinking today about the car's history and the marketing and historical significance of getting it in the tunnel.

Even if it doesn't make it into the tunnel, it's no matter...we'll still be taking flight in the Rally Fighter later this summer!

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

BMW Engine - Partial Scan

As mentioned, in an effort to continue progress on the chassis and body development, we pressed forward with a partial scan of the BMW engine. Below is a screen capture of the result, which as you can see, represents the transmission, the back of the engine, and the engine cover. From this data, we then created an extrusion from the top of the engine cover to represent the rest of the engine and its components, which we don't have installed completely.

What we will do once we have the parts in house and installed on the engine is complete the scan and update the model in the chassis. Once again, even when we don't have all of the physical data, the scanner has allowed us to capture what we do have and engineer the rest based on some assumptions, preventing what would have been a serious bottle neck in placing the engine in the model if we absolutely had to wait to get the parts, install them on the engine, and take measurements once that was done.

Monday, April 6, 2009

BMW Engine Ready for Scanning

Now that we've made the switch to the BMW powerplant, we need to dress the engine, scan it, and put it in the model to check the fit and design engine mounts. However, since we are waiting on some of the parts to complete the engine, and we need to keep moving forward, we've had to make a few engineering assumptions, and continue with the scan so we don't loose valuable time in the development of both the body and the chassis.

What we've decided to do is assemble the parts of the engine we can that will be on the outer portions, and estimate the rest of the area that the engine will take up once fully dressed. The way in which we've done this is pretty simple - take a look at a completed engine in a car, take some quick measurements and block off the area they will occupy to create a rough engine envelope.