The concept

The Chipmunk is a small urban vehicle that runs on natural gas. It’s designed to be driven in cities where there are natural gas infrastructures and where you could refuel directly from your home. A lot of companies are already using fleets of vehicles powered by natural gas (Over 250 000 in North America) and I’m wondering if it would be possible to use them safely in a small urban car?

The background

Natural Gas costs less 35 cents per litre and it’s cleaner than gasoline. We can use existing combustion engine with natural gas if we adapt them so the technology exists today. Of course CNG takes more space to store than ordinary fuel so it would make more sense to first target short range vehicles such as small urban cars. You could also save some time by refuelling the Chipmunk directly from home and also use less fuel by not having to drive to the gas station…

How it works

The Chipmunk could be built on a 2D stamped aluminum frame and use a 1 000 cc (1 litre) four stroke engine. Its body parts could be made of carbon fibre or simply plastic to reduce weight and cost. A closed cockpit could be designed for rainy days (or winter) and a convertible version could also be envisioned. The vehicle would be considered a motorcycle like the Can-Am Spyder roadster because it would use three wheels , so there would be fewer requirements to meet on road certification.

On our drawings we positioned two natural gas tanks on each side and created the entry from the front. That’s one way to configure the vehicle among dozens of other options. It’s possible to reduce the dimensions of those lateral tanks and offer one to three tank sizes depending on what the customer wants. For instance we could eliminate a tank on one side and install a door or add cargo space on the other. We could also design smaller tanks and locate them elsewhere. Of course side impact protection is something that needs to be considered.

The designer

I would like to thank Xavier Gordillo who created the images of the Chipmunk concept. Xavier studied Car Design at Europe Design Institute (IED) and he works as a Freelance Industrial Designer. Xavier also created the images for the Gemini concepts.