Vehicle: Car: Adjustable
Modular Car For Life   (+6, -3)  [vote for, against]
A mini 'Euro' car that accepts expansions to become a sedan/wagon and a minivan.

The Car For Life, in its initial form, would be made from light but durable frame, and a cheap plastic and aluminum plated body. These plates, e.g. the doors, hood, etc, would be removo-expandable in a very easy manner, much like some current models of cell phone. The interior would be 2-seated with cargo room in a hatchable back. Inside of this cheapish car, however, would be a very well engineered and built engine, designed perhaps by Mercedes (The Car for life would probably be a Mercedes-Volkswagon joint venture as its small and efficient nature would be an attraction to europeans, the first market into which it would be introduced).

Now, this car would be relatively cheap, though the engine would put the price up a bit, and would be ideal for sales to students and other low income individuals. The beauty of the system, however, is that the hatchback comes off and allows the attachment, at any conveniently located and supported service station for a minimal charge beyond the cost of the unit, of an expansion unit. The unit would continue tracks and contain seating that would introduce 4-or-5 seating capacity into the originally very small car. The large and durable engine would support this new weight and, if the owner so chose, he or she could upgrade the side panelling to somthing slightly safer than plastic. These backs could be rented for road trip vacations, installed at the local service station before the trip and removed afterwards. As the rented section only takes wear and tear to almost wholly replacable parts, the cost of these rentals would be small and the enterprise would no doubt be profitable. The backs could also be rented for moving purposes.

As the family owning the car grows, they may opt for the third extension turning the high-clearence sedan into a full blown minivan. The third extending section could be placed in the middle section, between the front and sedan expansions, or it could have seperate wheels for a 6'wheeled vehicle. The middle section could also be rented with the back for movings and especially long and heavy duty trips.

It will truly be the Car for life


Just noted that this is just a rehashing/expansion of the Expandable Car. WIll keep it up, however, as it includes the rental/moving system which is, as i consider, a novel idea.
-- Sand Jack, Nov 26 2001

GM Autonomy http://www.edmunds..../48581/article.html
GM concept car: a "sled" that accepts replaceable bodies [krelnik, Oct 17 2004]

IAD Alien
Sadly never caught on. [wagster, Jul 03 2006]

The engine, I feel, should also be replaceable, mainly to keep up with the constantly evolving emission standards. A small, cheap, dirty engine would be acceptable at first - to lower the initial cost of purchase.
-- neelandan, Nov 26 2001

The engine would, of course, be replacable, but there's really not much point -- an engine is a massive new cost and it really usually makes more sense to buy a new car.
-- Sand Jack, Nov 26 2001

If you doubled the size of the car, wouldn't you need not just a new engine, but to go with that a new gearbox, transmission, exhaust, etc? Trying to be all things to all people just means it's going to be stuck in the middle, neither fuel-efficient nor sporty.
-- pottedstu, Nov 26 2001

The car begins with a largely overclassed engine so that upgrades do not need the installation of a new engine, nor a new transmission (and ideally the car would be manual transmission anyway) the exhaust system and other length-dependant car bits are expandable from modular parts. And who said it was supposed to be sporty?
-- Sand Jack, Nov 26 2001

So your car's going to have hideous fuel economy when small and be underpowered when in people-carrier mode. It'll almost certainly be less safe in accidents, with more opportunities for mechanical failure. It's likely to be less pleasant to drive, because the parts (engine, gearing, body shape, driver position and visibility) will be misproportioned.

Better solutions include buying 2 cars; buying 1 small car and renting a larger one if you only need it occasionally; trading in your small car when you get a family; you and your spouse having complementary vehicles (one big one little) and swapping; leasing and car sharing schemes.
-- pottedstu, Nov 26 2001

I had this idea myself a couple of months ago, but didn't post it. I think it'd work best with electric cars.

Start with something like a Metro / Firefly / Swift, two or four seats and a little bit of cargo space. Going on a trip? Snap on the 'minivan' module, more batteries, extra wheels with extra motors, more room for the kids and luggage. Moving? Snap on the 'pickup'. More batteries again, and more wheels. Going out in the country somewhere, away from civilization? Add on a module with a generator and a gas tank to keep everything else running. Control and charging equipment in the main body, the others just attach to it. Rent the extra pieces when you need them, or if you'll use them a lot, buy them.

I like this idea.
-- StarChaser, Nov 26 2001

As do I. Some of these examples are probably doable. Of course, nothing is stopping you from taking a stock item off your car and replacing it with a part that was chopped off of another vehicle--putting roof beams in for bicycle seats or floods, or a trunk lid moonroof would be extreme examples. I suspect all cars would begin to resemble the VW 'Thing', not that it's at all bad.
-- reensure, Nov 27 2001

Basically a good idea, and baked already. Read something about this in Popular Science a few years ago.
-- entremanure, Nov 27 2001

I keep seeing commercials for new vehicles in which the main emphasis is on some new gadgetry like a built-in DVD player or a forward-sliding child safety seat, most of which have little to do with the functioning of the car itself. A truly modular car design could do away with having to buy a brand new car just to get the extras. You could buy the stripped-down version relatively cheaply and add new components as you go along, turning it into anything you want to.
-- DrAwkward, May 04 2002

I think I first heard an idea like this in the 1970s: a "modular" car, with a detachable engine module that could be fitted to a variety of "passenger" or "utility" modules (2 passenger ragtop roadster, 4, 6, 8 passenger sedan or shuttle modules, cargo van and pickup modules...) The consumer buys the passenger module, or modules, and leases the power module. Body modules could be swapped as needs change. Thus the consumer could have his cool roadster for "fun" driving or commuting, a sedan module for family outings, a pickup module for those weekend projects... After the power module reaches a certain predetermined mileage, it's returned for servicing or exchanged for a new or reconditioned one. (I'm thinking maybe 2 year, 20,000 mile intervals here.)
-- whlanteigne, Sep 27 2002

I had this idea a few years ago. My reasoning followed much the same path regarding the problems with engine and body modules. Maybe you could have a large-ish engine with cylinders that could be switched in or out according to whether you wanted economy or power. My main concern was how to incorporate the strength needed into an assembled vehicle without adding too much weight (the reason why most soft-tops weigh more than their hard top equivalent is due to the reinforcement needed to stop the car folding in the middle when the roof is removed). In the end I concluded that the cost of changing, adding and/or storing extra body modules meant that most people would rather go for owning two or three disparate vehicles. I think StarChaser's idea of electrically driven modules is the most practically feasible-or will be when the technology becomes widely available.
-- egbert, Sep 27 2002

I have but this to say regarding the idea. 3800/3.8L supercharged engine at 250 hp/280ft/lbs, lasts nearly forever, and makes 30mpg on most vehicles. AWD, with a rear frame which has a midgate that can be opened when the minivan attachment is in place, or closed when the pickup attachment is in place. The length and general driving characteristics would remain the same. It's doable, folks, I just wouldn't have one. I prefer real vehicles.
-- Darknight, Sep 28 2002

Take the modular concept a little further along- a hybrid vehicle, with electric motor/generators in the wheel hubs. The power module contains the generating engine and part of the battery array, the body modules contain the other battery components- sized by the needs of the module- more battery power for the larger modules, less or none for the 2-seat commuter version... Realistically,the obstacles to doing this aren't engineering design or economic factors- First of all, how do you register the vehicle? One license plate for the power module, another for the passenger module, like a tractor-trailer? How is it titled? Second, how do you explain this to your insurance agent?
-- whlanteigne, Sep 28 2002

[whlanteigne] General Motors has been showing a concept car called Autonomy that uses some of those concepts. But the outstanding feature is all the power train (fuel cells, motors) is in a skateboard like "sled" which accepts replaceable bodies on top.

Buy it as a small two-seater. Need a truck later? Swap in a truck body.
-- krelnik, Nov 08 2002

Mercedes did a concept called (as far as I can recall) the "VRC" (Vario Research Car) in 1994: four cars in one- convertible, sedan (saloon), pickup, and wagon (estate). Body styles could be changed by switching removable plastic body parts.

I like this, but for my needs I want a passenger-carrying minivan that converts into a pickup.
-- whlanteigne, Jul 03 2006

Back in the 80's there was a rather optimistic company called IAD which designed the 'Alien' concept car. It was slightly modular (can't remember exactly how much) and you could plug in different engines for when you were doing different things. And it looked *really* cool. (link)
-- wagster, Jul 03 2006

Hey Jack, I just want to ask how far did you get on the modeling of this car, Im working on a similar project, an as I see for the dates of the coments, by now surerly you have an important development of the project.
-- venado, May 15 2008

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