The $6,000 SUV that seats 8 and is tough enough for the African bush
In brief: Sometimes, the future of automobiles isn't necessarily in fuel economy, it's in making them useful and less resource intensive.
Vehicle in the news
Make/Model: 2012 Mobius Two prototype
Manufacturer: Mobius Motors
Mobius Motors has a dream: provide cheap, reliable, easily repaired vehicles for those who can least afford, but most use them. In Africa, it's not unusual for a whole village to have only one vehicle. Often it's a common Toyota (pickup, Land Rover, etc). Often it's not working because it's been around for far longer than the manufacturer ever intended, and under some of the harshest conditions imaginable.
Mobius has been developing their vehicles for some time, with the current iteration being the second-generation (aptly named Two), as shown. It's an 8-seat SUV that's mostly open and uses very little glass. That's part of its charm. And part of why it's so inexpensive.
Rather than build a vehicle from the ground up, Mobius came up with a different plan: fabricate cheap sheet metal body work that can be easily repaired and painted and have the rest of the vehicle be off-the-shelf, common parts from other vehicles whose parts proliferate the country.
Enter the Mobius Two, which uses a simple tube-frame chassis, simple body panels with easy bends (and thus cheap manufacture), and a drive train from an off-the-shelf Toyota that literally liters the African landscape. More parts come from Volkswagen as well. Everything you see on this $6,000 truck/SUV mix can be replaced with similar parts that don't have to exactly match (with the exception of drive train components, assuming the whole drive train isn't just dropped and replaced).
The headlights, for instance, are common square halogen lights you can find in any auto parts store. The marker lights are from a Toyota pickup, but anything that will fit in that space can be used in a pinch - just wire into the plug. The tail lights are from a VW Bus Type II (again, infinitely swappable), and the tires and wheels are the common size and lug pattern of both Toyota pickups and Cruisers.
The Mobius Two obviously won't win any design awards for being pretty, nor will it outperform the best offroad machines on the market. Heck, it can't even keep the rain out. What it can do is bring utility and mobility to people who've been on foot since the dawn of human memory.
And so ...
That, folks, is empowerment. Empower people to live beyond their current boundaries and a lot of things can change for them. If any place on the planet needs real change, it's Africa.
Photo credits: Mobius Motors
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