I was originally going to write an article about the missing electric sports car called the JJAD P1-E. I say missing, because it was announced with a full fanfare back in 2009 as a Tesla Roadster beater. JJAD were described as Britain’s answer to Tesla and they were planning to build a car with two electric motors and lithium batteries for power. Production was expected to start in 2012 with 500 units a year coming out of the factory and a price about 50% less than the Tesla Roadster – at that time the only Tesla model. No car ever appeared and I presume that funding was not forthcoming, crowdsourcing wasn’t big back then.
In researching the designer, Jim Dowle, I discovered that the company was a small two-man outfit (still operating today) with great ambition and skills. No prototypes of the car ever appeared and Dowle lead a fairly “under the radar” existence other than he loved rallying! He once did the Plymouth to Dakar rally in a VW Beetle – there really is such a rally!!
Global Vehicle Trust
Last year Gordon Murray, who is an icon of the auto industry got together with a group to develop the OX T.34 truck, specifically designed for Africa and appointed Dowle as the lead engineer for the project. Dowle had worked on Murray’s McLaren F1 development and other motorsports designs. The fascinating thing about this particular vehicle is that it comes flat packed for local assembly – rather like some Swedish furniture!
The OX was the brainchild of Sir Torquil Norman, a very successful British businessman who could see that many countries, especially in Africa, needed cheap vehicles to help the local economies grow. He founded Global Vehicle Trust (GVT) and with Murray as the lead designer, set about creating the idea for the OX T.34. They took the flat-pack idea and the age old concept of Complete Knock Down kits (where cars are packaged up for assembly in smaller factories around the world) and created a very simple truck.
Six trucks can be packed into a 40 foot cube container and each one takes about 6 hours to assemble the parts together with another 12 hours to reassemble onsite. The flatpack uses the vehicle’s frame as a basis to store each component safely with the engine and gearbox crated separately. This clever design allows for more vehicles to be shipped in each container. One consideration has been import duties – the designers hope to get a reduced rate in some countries by packing more in!
Seating is McLaren F1 style – with the driver in the middle and the whole unit can be configured as a minibus or utility vehicle depending on requirements. The idea behind the central driving position is that it can cope with left and right hand drive countries. In Africa there is a mix thanks to the historical occupations by Britain and many European countries.
Powered by a Ford 2.2 litre diesel motor delivering about 100 horsepower it is not All Wheel Drive, however with plenty of ground clearance and lightweight, will cope with many conditions on the continent. The concern by the designers was that an all wheel drive system would lower ground clearance and add weight which would negate the design brief. The vehicle has a wide wheelbase to allow it to use the tracks made by bigger trucks and has the capability of driving through a 1 metre flood!
To make the vehicle better than many heavier 4x4s, the designers came up with OXGlide Suspension – trademarked to GVT. This is made up of hydraulic leading and trailing arms, telescopic dampers and coil springs with progressive rate geometry and bump stops. GVT are confident that this setup will match or beat many other vehicles out in the wilds where traction is paramount.
The body is made of a waterproof wood composite and every panel is flat including the glassware – to aid shipping and replacement costs. The chassis is a form of a ladder style with a spaceframe mounted on top to bolt the panels on to. The focus isn’t beauty but sheer practicality in the form of the Mobius that I wrote about several months ago. In fact, my first impression of the OX T.34 was that it reminded me of an old Haflinger or Pinzgauer built by Steyr-Puch in the 1960s!
Like most new developments these days, the funding of development is significant and so GVT has set up a crowdfunding site to help get this vehicle to the people that need it most:
I think this is a great initiative – as I heard on a podcast today, all the new technology will be focused on the world’s biggest cities and petrol/diesel vehicles will still be needed in rural areas. For continents like Africa, simple, reliable designs like the OX T.34 are absolutely needed to improve the lives of the local population.