Local Motors will be releasing two models of the ReLoad Redacted car in Q1 2016 at a price tag of $18,000 to $30,000.
If it’s up to Local Motors, not only will the vehicles of tomorrow be autonomous, they’re going to be 3D-printed as well. That’s because the Phoenix-based company, who introduced the first 3D-printed automobile (the Strati) back in September 2014, has unveiled the electric car that it plans to sell next year. The design for the coupe was chosen by the company’s crowdsourcing community and a panel of well-known judges from among 60 other entries. Among the judges in the contest was former “Tonight Show” host and auto enthusiast Jay Leno, who said “You need something that makes you go ‘what’s that?’”
The winning entry, named Reload Redacted – Swim and Sport, was submitted by mechanical engineer Kevin Lo, who envisions a reconfigurable, low-speed neighborhood car. Set to debut during the first quarter of 2016, it will be priced in the wheelhouse of $18,000 and $30,000, with a fully-homologated highway-ready version to follow towards the tail-end of next year. Lo, who works for Hewlett-Packard on advanced printer systems, received $7,500 plus royalties from future sales for his mockup.
“In addition to its revolutionary design, the entry showcases many benefits of Direct Digital Manufacturing (DDM), including the ability to create a completely customizable vehicle. What’s more, its design boasts a flexible foundation that can support many different styles and technology options,” Local Motors writes.
According to Lo, Reload Redacted – Swim and Sport has some clear benefits over Local Motors’ original 3D-printed car. For instance, any part can be easily removed, reprinted and replaced in the event of an accident. Having chose form over function, the vehicle is built around a skateboard-style chassis that houses the powertrain, battery, steering and suspension. What’s more, both redacted versions feature external speakers for the audio system, and interchangeable front, rear and roof panels to accommodate different styles. The target audience for such a vehicle will be the “social, outgoing, adventurous type,” Lo notes.
The battery technology in the test platform, which will also serve as a base for the development of the 3D-printed car’s powertrain, employs the same lithium ion chemistry used in existing electric vehicles (as well as iPhones). Local Motors is already working to identify numerous cutting-edge battery options, such as exploring lithium sulfur battery technology, which creates three times the energy at half the weight of lithium ion technology.
Meanwhile, the company has launched a program it calls the Local Motors Co-Created (LOCO) University Vehicles. Three colleges have already signed up to participate: the University of Michigan, Arizona State University and the University of Nevada-Las Vegas. Several projects will focus on developing an autonomous vehicle.
“Think Uber, but with low-speed, autonomous cars,” explained Ed Olson, an associate professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science at University of Michigan, who leads the project. “The goal of this program is for us to begin to understanding the challenges of a transportation-on-demand system built around autonomous cars.”