The RCA Graduation Show ended this past week but for some it is the beginning of bright new careers in the automotive design world. For Green Car Design it was an eye opening event that showed us what the future might look like once green technology has been refined and fully integrated into the design and manufacturing life of cars. Why do we call it ‘Dare to Dream’? Well, its simply because we believe that 2008 will be the year that will demarcate the before and after of a historical period in transportation design; the ‘before’ is defined by the combustion engine and its derivative designs and the ‘after’ by green technologies and a new world of design opportunities. In this new world there will be pioneers who will shape and influence the look and feel of the cars of the future.
We singled out two possible candidates that could manage the job of translating eco into a new automotive design language from the RCA graduate show, Jon Radbrink and his final project Nuaero and Sergio Loureiro with his final project Pheonix.
“You cannot be a designer today without considering how design can contribute to the improvement of our environment - and how good design can make a difference!”
Jon Radbrink is 26 years old from Stockholm, Sweden and before he came to London to join the MA in Vehicle Design at the Royal College of Art, RCA, in London he ran his own design studio in Stockholm working with graphic design and web interaction. There he did work for Scandinavian Airlines and Electrolux Wascator and then went on to get his BFA at Konstfack University College of Arts, Crafts, and Design where he continued his work with Electrolux creating industrial design concept products. His automotive experience began with a three month designer trainee project chez Toyota Europe Design Development Centre in Nice, France, which most likely influenced his choice of Lexus as the inspiring brand for his final project for his MA at RCA, Nuaero.
“Today, the only visual difference between a regular and a hybrid Lexus is a minuscule ‘h’ on the back. I want to create a new design language to communicate future sustainable technologies. My Lexus Nuaero concept is a vehicle that communicates ecological efficiency through its exterior form, bringing the Lexus brand message of 'Pursuit of Perfection' to life. It proposes a super efficient vehicle architecture inspired by aerodynamics.” There is a natural design bond between Japanese and Scandinavian design, they both appreciate attention to detail and a passion for making luxurious designs out of the most humble of materials; in this case plastic. Not just any plastic, Radbrink proposed the use of Ethylene tetrafluoreothylene, or EFTE, a fluoropolymer that compared to glass weighs only 1%, is self cleaning, costs less, and is recyclable. The positive and negative monocoque styling of the Nuaero highlights the flexibility and lightness of the material while creating a mysterious and very private internal cabin for it’s eco-VIP passengers.
“The Lexus Nuaero has the dimensional impact of a luxury car, with an overall length of 4730 mm and a wheelbase of 3300 mm. The width is 1999 mm and the height is 1245 mm. But, in spite of its large presence, the approximated weight of just over 800 kg is not far from that of a SMART fortwo. I believe that this design paradox of low weight and large presence could be the way we'll define premium in the future.” The interior is equally minimalist yet intriguing. Using drive-by-wire technology and in-wheel motors the space inside the vehicle is freed and sculpted to enhance the sense of ‘touch’. The sensual form of the steering wheel is important because it dictates the way you interact with it such as pushing to brake and pulling to move. Like liquid mercury the Nuaero has a sci-fi feeling to it that defies the senses and it feels like an unattainable future but its that very daring imagination and understanding of design that will shape luxury green cars in years to come, perhaps what nature intended.
In stark contrast to Radbrink’s ethereal interpretation of eco-luxury Sergio Loureiro, also a graduating student at RCA this year, literally stripped the car down exposing the green technologies that power his concept called Pheonix for all of us to see and ‘understand’.
Loureiro was born in Luxembourg and studied at the Univesité de Technologie de Compiègne just outside of Paris and worked at PSA-Peugeot-Citroen as a studio engineer before attending the Royal College of Art. Portuguese in origin he speaks four languages fluently and has always shown an interest in automotive eco-design. His graduating concept car Pheonix, however, is the first time he mixed passion and eco design, demonstrating that green does not mean boring, far from it!
“The green car of tomorrow will not be about speed but about the sensation of speed.”
Loureiro has a clear vision of tomorrow’s car. While die-hard car fanatics are busy mourning the death of the car Loureiro is celebrating it’s rebirth by looking back in time, capturing the nostalgia from years gone by, and creating a new fascination in car design. Inspired by the technical look of objects like watches and engines, and car body designs like the Monaco Trossi 1935 and the Gilera Tarf he exposes the energy saving engineering elements in his Phoenix concept. The aim of these elements is to regenerate most of the lost energy in a vehicle; by aspiring to make every element of the car, from engineering to design, sustainable and efficient perhaps the future of car design is not all that gloomy. Pheonix will not be a racing car but it sure looks like one and for Loureiro that is the point.
“Electrical sports cars will not be about the horsepower or the speed but about the driving pleasure so this car is conceived in a world of enjoyable sensations a mixture of motorbike and science fiction.”
The red flames and orange translucent wings allegorically refer to thrust and power, while the individual driver and passenger seats echo the freedom and independence of riding kind of tandem motorcycle. In fact the ‘Bisiluro’ (double canon) architecture that Loureiro chose concentrates the forces on the axis of the vehicle maximising efficiency and increasing driving sensation. Once again, as in the Deus Ex Machina wearable motorcycle, it is the human structure that dictates the proportions and inspires designed sensations rather than engineered speed. Pheonix's individual cockpits lean in and out of curves generating electricity that is stored in the battery packs and injected back into the car when needed. Like a motorcycle the proximity to the road is an essential highlight as it makes the passenger feel more in touch with the road, making it less passive than electric cars tend to be. Car lovers should feel a little happier at the prospect of these two talented designers entering the work force later this year as they dare to dream up the new green cars of our future.