The Crowdfunded Flat-pack Car that will Democratize Motoring

Only one in eight people in the world have access to a motorised vehicle. The OX is looking to change that.

Imagine an affordable, flatpack, utility vehicle, purpose-designed for use in all manner of difficult terrain and flexible enough to perform a multitude of humanitarian tasks. Designed by partners The Norman Trust, The Global Vehicle Trust and Gordon Murray Design, the OX is set to change the face of transport in the areas of the world where this is most needed.

The vehicle is designed to be as capable and flexible as possible in difficult conditions so features generous approach and departure angles and a high clearance. Each wheel of the two-wheel drive system is independently suspended to allow for the roughest of trails and the OX is also light, with marine grade plywood used wherever possible to ensure minimal fuel consumption. The prototype OX I saw was fitted with a 2.2Ltr petrol engine but this can be swapped out easily to an engine suited to the available local fuel supply. River crossings or flooded roads are no problem as the air intake is 1m off the ground, but make sure you take your swimming trunks if you go that deep!

Frank went on to explain that the OX is designed to be as simple as possible to fix as facilities to repair and modify vehicles are basic or non-existent in Africa. No on-board computers here and the literal nuts and bolts are all standard, universal sizes that basic tool kits can deal with. It is designed for an everyday person to be able to fix and repair and features some cunning bits of design to allow for dealing with common problems.

The air intake filter is simply a chunk of plastic foam that can easily be removed, the dust banged out and replaced in seconds while the windscreen is made of three identical plastic panels that can be swapped around if one is broken or cracked by flying stones. Simplicity is the name of the game here, and the entire top half of the vehicle is modular, to enable conversion to whatever purpose the user needs, be it a portable school, a water transport or an ambulance.

  • A vehicle that will provide mobility for rural areas in developing countries with poor infrastructure
  • Lightweight, rugged and durable to maximise payload for goods and people
  • Capable of operating in adverse terrain and hostile conditions
  • Low cost, designed for simple maintenance with fewer parts
  • Designed for self-assembly using simple procedures and instructions
  • Supplied fully assembled or flat-packed for easy shipping and local assembly

The Ox was conceived by one of the UK’s leading philanthropists, Sir Torquil Norman, who is recognised for his charitable work with disadvantaged young people through his charity The Norman Trust. To take the idea off the drawing board Professor Gordon Murray, designer of the McLaren F1 supercar, jumped on-board and threw some of the design team from his automotive technology company GMD behind the project on a not-for-profit basis.

The Trust and GMD have spent approximately £3 million bringing the OX to the working prototype stage. Preliminary engineering design, extensive component selection, benchmarking and testing was undertaken by GMD to increase confidence that the OX will cope with all of the environments that it is likely to be put to work in. The prototyping stage of the OX development has seen three versions built: XP1, XP2 and XP3.

The next stage is further engineering improvements and updates followed by testing on the ground in Africa. To fund this The Norman Trust and The Global Vehicle Trust are seeking £450,000 via a campaign. Check out the video below to hear Sir Torquil and Professor Gordon Murray discuss their passion for the OX and the benefits it could bring to developing countries.

Technology writer for FastCo, Quartz, The Next Web, Ars Technica, Wired + more. Consultant specializing in VR #MixedReality and Strategic Communications

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store