If driving is such an important exercise, why not start learning younger! A UK based company has released the first ever car for kids, Firefly. Interesting name though it may be, it does not run by solar energy from a bunch of fireflies under the bonnet, but on another magical phenomenon called electricity. Yes, fully electric it houses twin electric motors with two 12v batteries.
Young Driver Motor Cars Ltd of the UK researched that nothing was suitable to teach driving practices to 10-17 year olds. All available options qualify as toys at best, which are mostly for ages under 5 years. Hence the company hired a team of automotive experts to create a bespoke small electric vehicle designed for younger drivers. Initial design was revealed at a Gadget Show, where more than a 1,000 youngsters put together 4 prototypes in action. The company has been continuously working on Firefly to make it drive and handle just like a real full sized car. So kids will get that genuine feel of actually driving more than just a toy.
If you get under the skin of the Firefly, it has a hydraulic rack and pinion steering, independent suspension and even hydraulic disc brakes. The dashboard is a tablet which is touch obviously and styling of the entire body has been done by Chris Johnson who has previously worked with manufacturers like Jaguar, Volvo and Ford. For ease, driver’s seat is adjustable to suit youngsters of different heights right from ages 5 to 10 year olds. If you want to give a tutorial to your kid, or just sit on the passenger seat, it is very possible as Firefly has been designed to accommodate adults nearly 6 feet tall. To keep the weight of the car as low as possible, it has GRP or carbon fibre body.
For propulsion, under the bonnet sit twin electric motors which have been restricted to a top speed of 16kmph. Batteries are good for 9 hours of operation. There are two modes on it, Junior or Experienced mode. Firefly also has an optional safety sensor for Junior mode (whose patent is pending) identifies front obstacles and stops the car in time before collision. Junior mode has speed restricted to 8kmph for immediate braking. Adults do get the convenience of halting the car from a distance as big as 120metres through a remote control in case of an emergency both in forward or reverse motion. Experienced mode deactivates the 8kmph speed limit but keeps the remote control sensors active. Firefly has LED headlights/taillights and indicators, optional leather upholstery on seats and steering and bespoke colour options for exclusivity.
Although designed for Young Driver program initially, Firefly can soon be bought by general public from 2017. Price tag lingers somewhere near Rs 4.95lakh which is a bit too much, but hopefully local assembly might and Government subsidies might bring it down. Kim Stanton, Head, Young Driver, says “We know that youngsters will enjoy driving it and that through this they will learn about road safety, finding out about the basics of driving and gaining a better understanding of how it feels to be behind the wheel. That can only be of benefit when it comes to them being pedestrians, cyclists and future motorists out there on the roads.”