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Old 09-06-2012, 09:02 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Open Source Car/Truck brainstorming...

This will be a bit loooong and rambly admittedly. :P I welcome feedback on any topic.

I have an interest in/have been following/have tried to participate in discussions along these lines elsewhere on the web over time. It's a bit early (I do not know whether anything using these principles will see light within 2 years) but I hope to eventually have something useful to share when ideas refine more over time. I fully believe in the Open Source philosophy and the sense of Free Ideas - meaning if someone else's particular decisions and compromises are not those you would choose, you have every right to take what you want, leave what you don't, and come up with new ideas for the rest. While sharing those new ideas with every other Open Source project out there free for them to take or not as they wish.

I'm exploring a philosophy for my own Open Source car/truck project because I was not happy with the other ones I had seen so far. Anyone is free to take anything I come up with and apply it to theirs or start new spinoff projects themselves. I'm just saying that so there isn't a confusion of "well those OTHER guys are doing...", yes I know, but i'm probably doing it a bit different with my own philosophy. My philosophy can change with good reasoning but there are things I deem important that others may not, leading me to different decisions.

A few core parts of my philosophy that may be different than others. First off I believe in what I call a "tinker toys" or "Lego" style approach. That means instead of saying "this is our design!" the design is deliberately made extremely flexible and adaptable, modular and morphable. I believe the engineering should serve the people that need it, instead of people made to fit a mass market cookie cutter approach. If we are not running mass production facilities there is no REASON to forcibly compromise everyone to one standard with the possible exception of engineering simplicity. What i'm hoping is to provide engineering rules of thumb that allow for a range of interpretations better fitting needs, for instance my car might be 14 feet long because that's all that fits in my garage, whereas yours might be 17 feet long because you have the room and want a little more space to stretch out. The engineering rules of thumb might indicate 18 gauge metal suitable under 16 feet but needing 16 gauge for over 16 feet because of strength issues. Ideally software could help you choose the most relevant dimensions, compromises and similar and tell you what to use exactly based on your stated priorities.

Next I have a severe orientation to the realities of poverty and financing not being available. I see endless first world comments that totally lack this, saying things that are easy... if you have the money to get the "best" solution. (ie "oh just put a 6 speed in there" or "just put a cummins diesel in there, not that cheap GM model") Or the financing that lets you lower Total Cost of Ownership over the long run even if you can't pay for it outright at the beginning. The realities for many people are that they either lack money period to do something, or lack financing and often have to build and upgrade as they go. Therefore my design philosophy is to be extremely friendly towards these situations having grown up with it myself. Flexibility of building cheap to start, constant upgrading, "run what ya brung" or have available and similar trumps almost everything else. I'd give up mpg to gain flexibility here, because if the difference is a pretty good car with very good mpg or no car because you can't afford the brand new engine that design requires, many people are just stuck with no car then.

Besides which properly designed, you could support both the people that need hyperupgradeability/flexibility and those that can stick with a single "right" design from the beginning. (ie - shared parts, the aero shell and rest of powertrain is the same, whether you built something around a Perkins diesel which perhaps we decided was the 'perfect' engine, or whether you had more weight for universal mounts to run some older VW engine until you can afford that $5000 Perkins in two years of fuel savings)

Many vehicles would be hybrids of new and used parts. Many used things still have alot of life left in them. Many new things are not much better than the older things they replaced - capitalism only caring about a profit this quarter has seen to that. In other cases the used things can "make do" until you can afford the better new thing because it might be 80% as good but 20% of the cost. A design to be used in africa where there are an abundance of Range Rover V8's but not as many chevy small blocks might differ from the US where the reverse is true, i like taking advantage of what i term "market anomalies" which by definition vary by region, and over time. What was abundant and cheap in the 1980's for engines was not the same as in the 1990's necessarily. Therefore platform flexibility is the best way to take advantage of this - you don't know what opportunity will be up tomorrow even if you have a Best answer for here and now today. Someone in Mexico or Brazil may have a totally different used market and will have a different Best answer.

An example - some people might make their shell out of fiberglass, another out of wood, another out of carbon fiber (clearly the best, for those that can afford it). Some might make their frame from scrap steel yet sourced from adequate psi original sources and without any real corrosion, firstworlders might use boxed aluminum members like a Lotus. Yet powertrains and shells would swap between both frames if desired.

Because this is a "people's vehicle" (designed by and for the people driving it) we do not have to make ANY of the BS compromises that corporations have to make for "profitability" which includes things like the lifetime expected maintenance profits, designed in obsolecence and similar. I want to come up with designs you can leave to your grandkids 1 million miles later. You might swap out parts as they wear out, or upgrade over time, but it's considered a long term investment instead of something that must be replaced every few years like in the west.

Again, because this is a "people's vehicle" and not some conspicuous consumption mentally ill western culture obsession, the project would deliberately AVOID many things that are not practical. The design doesn't care even 1% about building sports cars or luxury vehicles. You shouldn't have to be miserable or have granny's back go out from the ride or seats, but everything is exclusively engineered around the bottom end of the market - the 95% of the world that can't afford Corvettes and Cadillacs and would be content to just make it through summer harvest with enough vegetables to not starve to death this winter. "Sporty", "sexy" and similar adjectives will be a foreign language here.

Things like safety DO matter. Alot. If you look at communist era vehicles they had 1950's safety tech in 1990. This isn't intended to be a "communist" project mind you, just it's just a comparison... people doing things on the cheap often can't think as hard and deep about future problems. They are just trying to solve the immediate problem. For instance in foreign countries things like earthquake resistance or fire resistance is often not even there or vastly inferior, death rates are horrible during disasters. This is one area where I see no reason that the open source vehicle should be in any way inferior to a new or newer corporate produced vehicle. It shouldn't have even required market forces to make these kind of improvements, most techs we could have had decades earlier "if we could afford it". Mercedes had airbags in 1981 and antilock brakes were invented in 1929. "Poor" and "unsafe" should not have to go together.

Aerodynamics - this thing. http://www.asme.org/getmedia/482ac3d...45ef/23516.jpg Seriously, just... that. The 12,000 miles per gallon Shell Eco-Marathon winner with 0.75 coefficient of drag. Perfection has been achieved - full stop. Not even VW's 1 Litre can come close. (that's like twice the drag at 0.159 for what I saw) Nobody thought below 0.10 was even possible, I don't know whether its due to raising up out of ground effect or what but getting as close to this shape as possible is the goal. The "raised body" design instead of "lowered to the ground" actually has other advantages too - i'd much rather have the potential for ground clearance (if say the wheel fairings were retracted) than to try and run with one inch ground clearance on a third world dirt road. Therefore the design principles would always orient towards stretching it out (length instead of width or height) and getting as close to that shape as you can out of the construction material used. This matters less at the lowest speeds but if you have a shell at all, that's what we'd try to design around.

Even truck type designs would try and get that shape - when possible pulling a long load instead of a wide or tall one, enclosing when you can, but obviously that's not always an option. I'd think a semi tractor and trailer with this shape would be fascinating. :P Drag is the majority of their fuel use afterall, I wonder if we could see something that size exceed 20mpg...

System reliability and low lifetime repair/maintenance costs/ease of repair - this means the total system is reliable. Not always perfectly reliable individual components. An example would be the first transatlantic jet engine flights were required to have 4 engines, so that two could go out and the two left had the power to keep the plane in the air. It was only more recently that two engine only planes like the 767 could fly across oceans when individual jet engine reliability had climbed high enough that it was less of a concern.

Now i'm not planning multiple engines, but my main point is that it is a viable strategy (if you've ever seen how things are done in Vietnam for instance - your pickup engine might get swapped out into your boat to do service for awhile then back in... by viable I mean it works for those who cant afford a better way, not that it is cheap in labor or time) to have everything more easily accessible, designed to be worked on by the people who own it, down to the most major parts of all being swappable with reduced labor compared to typical modern vehicles. For alot less money buying three of an engine used and running one as it is until it has a problem, then putting in one of the backups to run longer works better for some people than having everything brand new at the start. Or it might work better to run something used until you're forced to rebuild it, running the backup engine for a bit so you can take your time (maybe it's harvest season and you're busy, that's a bad time to have to rebuild everything if you havent done it before and have to go slow) on the one that will go back in afterwards.

Also mentioned though because reliability and inexpensive parts to repair will probably trump absolute efficiency or lowest weight. 10mpg more doesn't matter if it breaks down 3x as much.

BSFC - this is another area of optimization, probably spawn a sub project all its own since any breakthroughs here apply to all other ecoprojects by definition. This is one case where when possible people are probably encouraged to spend the money to upgrade - the aeromods themself would make a Model T flathead engine efficient in the total system of this car, the idea is you upgrade what you can afford when you can afford to do it or good opportunities arise. If a cheap Isuzu diesel becomes unexpectedly available you might buy that instead of the carbon fiber aeroshell you originally planned to put on this summer.

Most importantly though, is that you potentially could modify or otherwise play with engines that may not have been common in passenger vehicles because they got better mileage but maybe were considered "too rough" or loud for common tastes. Or you could experiment with modifications like the 6 cycle water injection method I posted on, or trying to replicate Smokey Yunick's 250hp 50mpg fiero with its "homogenizer" turbo. Or maybe you design it as a hybrid, or to run off CNG, or producer gas... Instead of designing for just one engine shape really tightly it would encourage experimentation and try to accomodate other philosophies of self sufficient fuels and fuel efficiency. I'd want input from specialized experimental users on how the design could be altered to accomodate them without negatively affecting other areas.

That's plenty of detail for one post. You'll either be bored to tears or have a few comments you want to add by now.

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Old 09-07-2012, 02:21 PM   #2 (permalink)
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Open ideas can come together. Look at this open-source community and see their work, ideas and get their feedback on your own ideas. https://forge.localmotors.com/#hash_projects
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Old 09-11-2012, 06:47 PM   #3 (permalink)
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I dropped a hint about Local Motors and no-one picked up on it. I'm glad to see it mentioned again. They partner with Freightliner(?) and Domino's Pizza for design challenges, why not an eco-modder challenge?

Another thing I like, although it's not open source and limited geographically is I'm a Green Driver:

Green Driver

Turn-by-turn GPS that calculates a route to give you the fewest possible red lights. And allows traffic engineers to know more than those pneumatic tubes they stretch across the traffic lanes to gauge road use. Win-win.


One of the reason I like a Ledwinka/VW layout is it's so modular.

The drive train, chassis and body can be freely interchanged:
• Drive train — steam, electric or Pinto, Alfa Romeo, Subaru, VW cut down to 2 cylinders
• Chassis — You want double A-arms and over 1G side force on a 100' circle? Mendeola Suspension - Home
• Body — I don't know where to even start

Last edited by freebeard; 09-11-2012 at 06:48 PM.. Reason: formatting
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