A new type of electric car will hit the market next year, and rather than the thousands of parts found on a Tesla, it will have less than 100 parts.
The two-seater LSEV takes just three days to make, according to the car's manufacturer. The LSEV is produced by XEV Limited, a start-up firm from Hong Kong which has a design center in Italy and production bases in China. It will hit the Asian and European markets first. XEV Limited will start mass producing the car soon with the expectations that it will hit the market in April 2019 at a price of $10,000.
The car is 1.5m high, 2.5m long and 1.3m wide, about the size of a Smart car. It has a weight of 450kg and a top speed of 70kmh. It can cover 150km (93 miles) once fully charged. The majority of the car is 3D-printed with three types of material: enhanced nylon, polylactic acid (which is a common 3D printing filament), and rubber-like TPU.
XEV has come together with Polymaker, which is a Shanghai-based new material developer, in order to enhance the material to make the car more flexible as well as more stable. All metal parts of the car -- such as the chassis and the engine -- use conventional production methods.
Make 20,000 cars before end of 2019
The car was designed by about 50 people at XEV from scratch. The company also crafted special 3D printers for the project. XEV also has six more cars in the works to be produced before the end of July. The project was started two years ago by Lou Tik, the founder of XEV Limited, with the Italian co-founder and 3D printing director, Robert Moretti. The project had an initial €2million funding after winning Horizon 2020, EU's largest program for research and innovation.
From the beginning, the team's goal was to make a 3D-printed car that could be sold on the mass market. The production line will open officially next year.
Manufacturing cars with 3D printing can cut down the research and development cost by some 90 percent compared to conventional cars while speeding up the production cycle by three-quarters, according to experts.
Help of Chinese government
A conventional car has about 2,000 components but LSEV has 40 to 60. It takes as few as three days to print one LSEV. Safety assessments show that the car is four or five times stronger than its conventional equivalents, such as Smart cars. Structural infill is added into the 3D printed parts.
These could absorb energy during impact and add strength and stiffness to the car. The 3D printing process is very efficient so the production is expected to match up to the market feedback very quickly. Bespoke adjustments can be made to the original model quickly to meet customers' needs. A single production line, which has 3D printers and assembly facilities, is expected to handle the building of 500 cars annually. Sales of both electric cars and plug-in hybrids have surged after 2014 in China after the Chinese government started providing subsidies to support their manufacture and sales to protect against growing levels of car emissions.