Vehicle has been penned by former McLaren F1 designer, Gordon Murray
Shell reckons it has designed the car of the future - but the jury is out whether British motorists will agree. The Project M, dubbed an 'energy efficient concept car' was revealed in Britain last week.
Made up of a three-seat city-car design and a 660cc powerplant that can achieve a claimed 107mpg, it's based on an F1-derived platform that's already well tested.
The space-age shape is the brain child of former McLaren F1 designer Gordon Murray.
In fact, very little from the outside of the Shell Project M differs to that of Murray's 2010 original, called the T25.
With a one-plus-two seat layout (one at the front and two at the back), it's a reasonably comfortable city vehicle for three, even though it has a road footprint no more than a quarter that of a Ford Mondeo.
And don't assume because it's tiny it's unsafe; the T27, an updated version of the T25 with an electric motor, passed Euro NCAP's high-speed crash tests in 2011.
The 'iStream' design, now in its third guise as part of the Shell partnership, is now more fuel efficient thanks to a bespoke engine lubricant.
Tipping the scales at 550kg, it's half as heavy as a conventional city car and 80kg lighter than the original T25 - that's around the same as removing the weight of an adult male.
The featherweight is even green, made from recycled carbon-fibre composite body panels and a tubular frame while additional steps have been taken to improve the aerodynamics of the iStream silhouette.
The 600cc petrol engine has also been updated with less friction for greater efficiency, helped by a new formula of lubricant - this is where Shell comes in.
The prototype 'Helix' Ultra low viscosity oil works with a bespoke transmission fluid to deliver a 5 per cent economy improvement on its own, the oil colossus claims.
This, added to the slimmed-down weight and better aeordynamics provides a 107mpg return when travelling at a steady speed of 45mph.
Mark Gainsborough, executive vice-president of Shell’s global lubricants businesses which backed the project said, 'This is a significant automobile engineering milestone.
'I’m very proud of what Shell’s scientists and their partners at Geo Technology and Gordon Murray Design have achieved.
'Insights gained from this project could be transformational in terms of how we address energy use in the road transport sector. Energy use and climate change are major issues for society.
'This project shows that if we use the best of today’s technology, including cutting edge lubricants science, we could potentially have a major impact on energy use and reduce CO2 emissions.'
But despite Gainsborough's words of excitement, don't expect to see a Project M on the road anytime soon.
Dr. Andrew Hepher from Shell said the vehicle will be used to showcase the technology and features it uses rather than being put into production.
'Our car may be small, but it’s packed with potential,' he added.
'We want to accelerate the conversation about how we make road vehicles more energy efficient and less carbon-intensive.
'In the coming weeks and months, we look forward to sharing our research insights from this project with engine designers, car manufacturers, academics and other experts across the automotive sector.'