Bug-E multi-purpose EV concept features sliding steering wheel
By Paul Ridden
June 29, 2011
With a top speed of just 15 mph (24 kph), Thomas Young's Bug-E electric vehicle concept is not likely to be a contender for the next must-have personal transport solution on our roads, but that's not what it's really about anyway. This multi-purpose four-wheeler is more suited to trundling around public parks and gardens, theme parks or the golf course - and it sports four rear storage options to help it fit into numerous usage scenarios. Users would also be able to slide the steering wheel into a left- or right-hand drive position, to share the responsibility of driving without having to swap seats, or to fit in with local conditions.
Unlike the similarly-named BugE electric three-wheeler, Young's design is still very much conceptual, but he has given a lot of thought to actual mechanics rather than simply pushing out a clever-looking render and saying there you are. He told Gizmag that he sees the vehicle being 92 inches (233.7 cm) long, 52 inches (133.4 cm) wide (without wing mirrors), and 64 inches (163.5 cm) high. Its wheel base will be 61 inches (163.5 cm), it will have a ground clearance of 6.6 inches (17 cm) and a curb weight of 998 pounds (452.6 kg).
The Bug-E will have a welded box steel, powder-coated chassis surrounded by a Reaction Injection Molding (RIM) Polypropylene body with high density foam internal paneling and lightweight tubular steel internal support. Front and rear suspension takes the shape of lightweight steel springs with hydraulic shock absorbers.
To the rear, Young has made space for a modular storage system that should see the Bug-E being used for anything from golf buggy to short-haul people transporter to utility vehicle. Each of the four storage options is made from durable and lightweight roto-molded Polyethylene - there's a small trunk, a large tub trunk, golf bag tub or passenger seating for two. The load capacity is given as 750 pounds (340 kg).
The vehicle will be powered by motor shaft direct drive from a 48V brushless electric motor and four 12-volt deep cycle batteries, giving an approximate 35 mile (56 km) range. The designer proposes that the vehicle's batteries get a quick top up from a solar charging station and receive their main (probably overnight) charge from a 48V DC battery charger.
Other power system specs include:
Inside the cabin, a lever can be pushed when the vehicle is powered off, which allows the driver to reposition the steering wheel on either the left or right of the Bug-E by sliding it along a track in the dashboard. The lever disconnects the self-compensating rack and pinion steering mechanism at the bottom of the steering column. A hydraulic ram allows the steering wheel to move horizontally across the dash, and universal joints cater for steering column placement at either side of the vehicle. The lever then locks the steering wheel into the drive position.
Rather than central placement within the cabin, the designer has opted to position a dash-mounted, 3-stage toggle switch gear selector at both the left and right driving positions. The switch that's not being used is deactivated.
"I went for the two separate switches on the dashboard rather than the one because of the anthropometrics and ergonomics of the Bug-E," says Young. "I performed several research tests in a current golf cart and the idea of having gears within arm's reach of the driver rather than stretching over to the middle was more favored by the tested user demographic."
There's forward drive, neutral and reverse, with a confirmation buzzer sounding when the latter is selected as a warning to those around.
The cabin will also benefit from an LED-based Heads Up Display (HUD) system that will display vital information on the driver side only. The designer cites greater reliability and brighter image projection as his reasoning for choosing an LED over a CRT-based solution.
Young told us that he is now taking the Bug-E design to part two of the New Designers show in London between July 6 and 9. We wish him luck.
All images courtesy Thomas Young