One of the most imaginative concept cars we've ever seen turned up at Auto Shanghai this week and it didn't come from Japan, Germany, France or America – it was the result of two years work in China by Geely engineers and is the synthesis of over 60 IP-protected ideas. In essence, it's an ultra compact, two-door, four-seater with a built-in, folding three wheeled electric scooter in the rear. When the scooter is docked, the car shares both its battery and electric motor to extend the all-electric range or ensure the scooter is fully charged. The vehicle is proposed as having choice of gas-electric hybrid or fully electric powerplants. Sheer genius … and a catchy name which must surely attract a legal challenge. Geely is regarded as one of the future automotive powerhouses of the global automotive stage with its dynamic chairman Li Shufu sometimes referred to as China's Henry Ford. Geely recently purchased the Volvo marque but a huge range of new vehicles on show at the separate Geely stand made it clear that future growth of the company will involve homegrown Chinese creativity and marketplace knowledge.
Gazzumping many of China's looming energy, urban congestion, air pollution and population ageing challenges, the McCar is almost certain to see production and will surely be a hot seller for the traditionally strong Chinese extended family. When questioned about the possibility of Volvo internationally marketing Geely's range of electric and hybrid vehicles which is expected to begin rolling out next year, Volvo CEO Stefan Jacoby refused to rule out the possibility.
The name is purportedly an abbreviation of "Magic Car", though it's hard not to be a little wary of the claim, given McDonalds' global familiarity and shining brand attributes of modern convenience, family appeal and value-for-money.
Another clever feature of the McCar is that the three wheeled scooter can be swapped out to fit a standard fold-up wheelchair in yet another nod to flexibility in catering to the needs of a family.
The Geely McCar offers yet another example of a car incorporating secondary transport. The vehicle-in-vehicle concept has previously been explored by General Motor's 2007 Flextreme Concept (which incorporated his and hers Segways in the rear), Honda's 2009 EV-N battery electric vehicle (with a U3-X one-wheel personal mobility device embedded in the passenger door) and Suzuki's 2007 Pixy + SSC Concept as it's a logical way of adding "last mile" transport, car pooling and overcoming the inevitable urban congestion China will face. China currently has 125 cities with more than a million people. America has nine cities that large. Between now and 2030, China will need to accommodate a further 350 million people in its cities. Clearly, traffic congestion will reach new heights as the world's most populous country grows rich.
The electric McCar seems perfect for such an environment. It has a 12kWh battery, giving it a range of 93 miles and a top speed of 52 mph. The hybrid McCar has only an 8kWh battery for an electric-only range of 31 miles but the petrol engine extends the usable range to 373 miles and unified energy management across the two conjoined vehicles will mean that the 18mph electric scooter has an additional range of 18 miles once the McCar is parked in the McCarpark.
We had a good laugh about the name at Gizmag's virtual HQ. Geely might just get away with using it, which wouldn't have happened if they'd called it the iCar.