A German university has infused the development of their StreetScooter C16, an electric vehicle meant to compete with conventional vehicles on price and performance, with 3D printing to speed time to market to under a year.
The StreetScooter concept came about as a result of the work of the Production of Engineering of E-Mobility Components wing at the Aachen University. Researchers say it represents a new breed of car.
The project's Short Distance Vehicle features an exterior built largely with additive manufacturing processes using a Stratasys Objet1000 Multi-material 3D Production System.
The front and back panels, bumper systems, side skirts, wheel arches, lamp masks and interior components were all output using Stratasys' Digital ABS material.
"Being able to use it in the development of large and small parts for StreetScooter was exciting in itself, but the contribution the 3D printed parts made to the construction of the car was enormous," says Achim Kampker, Professor of Production Management in the Faculty of Mechanical Engineering at Aachen University.
Kampker says the production of full-scale prototypes which feature the performance characteristics of final-use parts accelerated testing and design verification and resulted in a prototype electric car coming through the pipeline in a scant 12-month window.
"That is just unimaginable with traditional manufacturing," Kampker said.
Making use of a funding pool raised from university professors and leading German automotive suppliers, the StreetScooter is a collaboration between some 80 companies on various areas of the project.
Inspired by Dr. Günther Schuh, the chair of production engineering at RWTH Aachen University, this latest entry into the e-vehicles market is meant to represent a direct competitive challenge to fossil fuel-powered cars.
"We need an affordable electric vehicle, because people are not willing to pay for e-mobility more than they're used to paying for conventional vehicles," said Schuh.
Schuh and Kampker say the StreetScooter will combine affordability and sustainability to create a new class of vehicles; Short Distance Vehicles.
The project adopted what they call the 'Lead Engineering Groups' process which features the simultaneous design of components and production processes through a network of partners to allow a "radical reduction of the development and industrialization costs per derivative."
Deutsche Post has actually commissioned a version of the StreetScooter to be used to deliver packages and letters in urban areas.
The developers say the StreetScooter Work model will be available on the market starting in the third quarter of this year, and add that the StreetScooter Compact model will be available for sale starting the beginning of 2015. The StreetScooter can be charged up to 80 percent in about four hours and fully charged in about eight hours using a standard 230-volt outlet.
"With StreetScooter, the Objet1000 3D Production System not only enabled the very rapid design and development of the vehicle, but also demonstrates the capabilities of additive manufacturing for producing final parts used in demanding applications," says Shelly Linor, Director of Global Education at Stratasys.