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Saturday, 31 October 2015

Yamaha Sports Ride Concept - Another Scoop of iStream


The Tokyo Motor Show has come and gone, but amidst the bonkers kei cars with hilarious names and super-weird concept cars with even more hilarious names, Japan had something a little more down to earth and a little more important to offer... in the shape of a two-seat sports car put together by a motorcycle company with the help of an ex-F1 designer. Why is it more important? Because of how it's made. Meet the Yamaha Sports Ride Concept.

Why is a bike company making a car, you might ask? Well, Yamaha have already been tuning/developing car engines for manufacturers - their CV includes the Lexus LFA and IS F, as well as the Noble M600 - plus they supplied V10 F1 engines in the 1990s (and put one in the crazy OX99-11 supercar concept), so they're not new at this. It would seem that they've been flirting with the idea of making cars for the last few years, because back in 2013 they released the Motiv.e city car concept.

In fact, they announced this year that it will go into production by 2019, so clearly they're serious about it (see the specs in the first of the two images below).


Sports Ride Concept's chassis
Both cars use the "iStream" production methods originally formulated in 2010 by Gordon Murray Design, a firm started by the man behind the McLaren F1, LCC Rocket, Brabham BT46B fan car, McLaren-Honda MP4/4 and many more road and race cars of high acclaim. The construction of an iStream car involves steel tubular subframes welded together, with Formula One-esque composite "sandwich panels" (a paper-based honeycomb structure between two layers of composite skin) bonded to it, giving a very light, very strong and crucially very cheap chassis on which to attach an interior and exterior. Up until now the composite in question has been glass-based, but now GMD have come up with a method of using carbon fibre that is fully automated, much faster and much lower-cost than the traditional method of layering it up by hand.

The result is a mid-engined two-seater that weighs just 750kg, over 100kg lighter than the Alfa Romeo 4C, which uses a conventional carbon tub. With today's safety regulations, that's some feat. Even a Lotus Elise is up past 900kg these days. In fact, the Sports Ride is barely heavier than a current Formula 1 car!

It won't have the power of a current F1 car, though. They said nothing about what engine is nestled behind the seats, so it could be anything from the 1.0 three-cylinder unit from an earlier GMD prototype to one of Yamaha's bike engines. Whatever it is, it's connected to a paddleshift gearbox of some kind. Until they reveal more, this could be a rival for anything from the Honda S660 and Mazda MX-5 to the aforementioned Alfa 4C and Lotus Elise.

The neat thing about the iStream process is that it can be adapted to any style of car and have the same benefits for strength, weight and packaging. The tube frames are modular, so you could the middle section of the city car and attach it to a longer rear section to create a five-door family car if you wanted, or make new frames for an SUV/pickup/supercar/whatever. It wouldn't take much to make room for a big V8 in the Sports Ride; add a longer tail and leave the front two thirds the same. The same basic architecture can be the basis for a manufacturer's entire range of cars!

Even the factory itself - which Yamaha will build somewhere in Europe - is purportedly extremely efficient, taking up to 80% less capital investment, using up to 60% less energy and still allowing for a new car to be finished every 100 seconds, whether or not it's made using carbon fibre panels. GMD claim that iStream cars produce 40% less CO2 from production to destruction than equivalent conventionally-made cars, using more recycled materials in their creation as well.

Apart from the leather, that is. You can't recycle cows... yet
So basically, it's all good. The only not-good thing is that there was no mention of the Sports Ride going into production during the Tokyo show. That doesn't mean no, of course, seeing as it could in theory be built on the very same production line as the Motiv city car, but we'll have to wait and see. If this new production process is everything it's cracked up to be - and with Gordon Murray involved it's more likely than it is unlikely - then this spells very good news for the automotive industry, not least the returning TVR, who are also licensing iStream from GMD for their new V8 sports cars.

I sincerely hope it does live up to the hype, whether we get a flyweight two-seat Yamaha out of the deal or not.

(Read more about iStream here)


I wonder if the Yamaha trumpet is an optional extra?


Article written for SmallBlogV8. If you find it on another website, it has been copied without the author's permission and must be reported for copyright violation.

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