Local Motors Aims To Produce 3D-Printed Car In 2016

Originally published on CleanTechnica.

Wow, Local Motors sure is busy this year. This unusual auto manufacturer specializes in collaborative open source design, microfactories, and 3D printing, and we took note when the company kicked off 2015 by hooking up with the US Energy Department for a new lightweight design challenge. What we didn’t note was this other challenge launched by Local Motors, which could put you behind the wheel of a fully customized 3D printed car some time next year.

Thanks to CleanTechnica reader and commenter “offgridman” for the hot tip!

3D printing 3D printed car Sport

3D Printing & Project [Redacted]

The latest challenge comes under the heading Project [Redacted], which Local Motors playfully introduced with a video that would put the most insistent Jade Helm conspiracy theorist to shame (seriously, ice cream truck morgues?).

The challenge was to design “the next generation of 3D-printed cars,” and qualifying entries had to demonstrate that the design could result in the world’s first road-ready 3D printed car, which Local Motors really does plan to put into production in 2016.

The idea is to roll out a low-speed version at the beginning of the year, and follow it up with a “fully homologated highway-ready” model before 2017 (homologated is fancyspeak for a vehicle approved for a particular use).

The winning entry was announced last week, and it’s a twofer that demonstrates the high degree of customization enabled by 3D printing. Kevin Lo, a long-time Local Motors collaborator known as Reload, won for a duo of designs called Reload Swim and Reload Sport.

Reload Swim is a 2+2 buggy that recalls Pimp My Ride with a beach party–ready sound system:

3D printing 3D printed car Swim

Reload Sport, shown at the top of this article, features a more sleek, look-at-me-I’m-aggressive approach to style.

The secret sauce is a hull-based foundation that forms a “skateboard” upon which other elements are added:

3D printing 3D printed car custom

Did we mention that the new 3D printed car will be an electric vehicle? It will be, and the placement of the batteries was done to maximize the compatibility of the design with 3D printing. You can get more details about the construction from the Local Motors slideshow, or check out the company’s somewhat bombastically produced (on purpose, we’re guessing) video:



 

Not for nothing, but the judging panel included other Local Motors community members as well as professional judges included well known steam-driven car aficionado Jay Leno.

3D Printing & Lithium-Sulfur Batteries & Autonomous Vehicles &…

Speaking of batteries, while Local Motors currently deploys conventional lithium-ion batteries, the company is eyeballing new technology including lithium-sulfur batteries, which it claims can triple the energy at half the weight of lithium-ion.

Local Motors also has its eye on the autonomous vehicle market, leveraging its collaborative roots in the academic community.

In partnership with the University of Michigan, Arizona State University, and the University of Nevada at Las Vegas, Local Motors is forging ahead with its LOCO University Vehicles project, short for Local Motors Co-Created University Vehicles.

The first LOCO unit has gone to the University of Michigan, which will focus on autonomous vehicles for campus commuting. The idea is also to out-Uber Uber with an on-demand system. Developing new materials for 3D printing is also part of the overall collaboration.

What About That Lightweight Car?

In case you’re wondering about that earlier collaboration with the Energy Department, that would be the LiteCar Challenge, which was won by a bio-inspired, 3D-printed car called WaterBone.

As for that microfactory thing, 3D printing is a natural fit with small, low-volume manufacturing facilities. The company already has a facility up and running in Tennessee to facilitate its collaboration with Oak Ridge National Laboratory (so group hug, taxpayers!), and plans are in the works to open two more this year.

Follow me on Twitter and Google+.

All images via Local Motors.

 

Tina Casey

Tina writes frequently for CleanTechnica and other websites, with a focus on military, government and corporate sustainability, clean tech research and emerging energy technologies. She is a former Deputy Director of Public Affairs of the New York City Department of Environmental Protection, and author of books and articles on recycling and other conservation themes. She is currently Deputy Director of Public Information for the County of Union, New Jersey. Views expressed here are her own and do not necessarily reflect agency policy.