Legendary car designer Gordon Murray has announced a partnership with Shell and former Honda engine guru Osamu Goto to “co-engineer an ultra-compact, efficient car for city use based around the internal combustion engine.”

Simply called Project M, the car is likely to be a development of Murray’s T.25 concept, first seen in 2010. The concept drawing you see here appears to show a similarly tiny rear-engined three-seater. The T.25 was built using a process christened iStream, with a simple and cheap to produce tubular steel chassis with bonded-in composite panels, eliminating the need large and expensive steel pressings.

Project M will be unveiled in November, but probably won’t lead to a production car. Instead, it is intended to inspire thinking about maximising personal mobility while minimum energy use, according to Shell. Regardless of what comes out of Project M, urban mobility certainly needs radically rethinking. By 2050, three quarters of a projected global population of nine billion are expected to live in cities.

Shell collaborated with Murray on the T.25, which used experimental Shell lubricants in its Smart-derived engine, delivering significant gains in fuel efficiency. The petrochemicals giant is using the project to highlight the role new types of lubricants have to play in increasing fuel economy and the importance of integrating them into the design process from the start. Project M will probably use an engine built by Goto’s Geo Technology, designed specifically to make the best use of these new lubricants.

Murray, Shell and Goto have worked together before to design the all-conquering McLaren-Honda MP4/4 F1 car that won 15 of 16 races in 1988.

“I think the Shell car is really important,” Murray said. “We can really look into the future a bit and see where we should be going, in not just materials but in design philosophy and other technologies and take a holistic look at where the future car’s going.”

Selda Gunsel, vice president of lubricants technology at Shell, said: “Since working with the Gordon Murray Design team on the T.25 car in 2010, we have given further thought on how to deliver a complete rethink of the car, using as little energy as possible.

“We believe this Shell car will demonstrate how efficient a car can be when Shell works in harmony with vehicle and engine makers during design and build, supplying fuels and lubricants technical expertise,” she added.

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