In development since 2006, the LIFEcar is an ecologically-conscious effort that promises to capture the same driving excitement associated with Morgan while at the same time moving away from the pollution of internal combustion engines.
LIFEcar, or Lightweight Fuel Efficient Car is a joint development by Morgan, two universities (Cranford and Oxford) and QinetiQ. Significant funding was also provided by the British Department for Trade and Industry.
Morgan decided to use their Aero 8 platform, which is a modern interpretation of the classic Morgan shape. The most significant difference between the two cars is the drive train. The Aero 8’s gas-powered V8 engine has been replaced with an electric motor powered by a hydrogen fuel cell.
This fuel cell is smaller than that typically used in larger electrical vehicles, as the LIFEcar’s small size and light weight allow for lower power requirements.
Performance figures have not been released, although Morgan claims that the vehicle will have a 200 mile range before the fuel cell requires replenishment.
The hydrogen in the fuel cell is broken down in combination with oxygen to generate electricity that will power the motors located at each wheel.
Extra power will be provided through re-generative braking, similar to a standard gas/electric hybrid except in this case the energy captured by the system will be stored in ultra-capacitors instead of charging a battery. The capacitors will discharge during acceleration to increase performance.
The project itself came about as the result of almost $3 million dollars of investment by the companies and educational institutions involved. The fuel cell technology was developed by QinetiQ and implemented by Cranfield University, who provided the expertise required to manage the fuel system in the car itself. Oxford University assisted Morgan with designing and fabricating the electric motors.
Morgan has stated that the goal of the LIFEcar is similar to that of the Tesla roadster, which is to prove to the market that electric motoring does not have to be boring or be wrapped in a visually-unappealing package.
The company feels that its clients will have to ‘get used’ to a future of ultra-quiet sports cars, lacking the visceral snarl of today’s high-output gasoline engines. Will fans of these types of vehicles agree?
As a small company, it was a smart move to spread out the development costs of this vehicle across as many sponsors and interested parties as possible.
In the event that its consumer base does not embrace the LIFEcar to the same degree it has other Morgan products, there is unlikely to be a significant negative effect on the company’s finances.