12:grn:hrs - design a green car in a day!

How would you design a green car?

That is the question we asked our teams during Green Car Design’s 12:grn:hrs – design a green car in a day! event held at the Design Council during the London Design Festival 2011.  By now the teams had met each other and discussed what direction their project might take over lunch, see Part 1 Morning Session


- Quattro Elementi (Four Elements) – team leader Sebastien Stassin, Partner at Kiska, and his team members Micol Costi, Anjum Quayyum, and Alexandros Adamou.

- Driversity – team leader Giovanni Piccardo, formerly Pininfarina, and his team members Alex Hartley, Juan Mateo, and Nico Sergent.

- Luci (Light) – team leader David Wilkie, Design Director Mia-Electric, and his team members Claudia Reder, Adrian Clarke, Mike Whelan, and Miles Kaye.

- Car Blanche – team leader Hugo Spowers and his team members Valetin Vodev, Carlo Cialli, Jakob Jodlowski, and Adam Jefferson.

Each team was allowed 40 minutes ‘outside’ time to research the outside world for ideas and clues.  In addition the teams were allocated 3 x 10 minute slots of internet time to be used one at a time for looking up information and supporting key concepts.  All in all most of the work was done at the table, throwing ideas back and forth from personal knowledge to assumptions about social behaviour.  What was essentially different about the process was that 4-5 strangers had gathered for a few hours to try and develop a green car design that quite literally came out of the blue. 

Of course this is not entirely true, each team leader with their own personal experiences and company culture behind them would tend to think in a certain way.  His team members were then there to challenge, learn, and add to that experience.  Together they did in one day what sometimes is achieved in weeks or months in a day-to-day situation.  The fact that time was limited and the groups didn’t know each other distilled ideas to their most relevant and important elements.  Some people were sceptical that solid work would come out of the day but everyone was enthusiastic to give it a try, see for yourself how each team developed their own green car design!

Team Quattro Elementi, with Sebastien Stassin as team leader, used cliché words mini, utility, water, and leisure for their concept that carried their team name Quattro Elementi.  The concept was simple, a one size fits all flexible vehicle with plenty of personality!  Water - many drops of water can make a body of water and so can many QE cars make a flock.  In this flock is where many of the Leisure elements come into play for Stassin’s team.  Social Media connects EQ cars with like-minded individuals allowing them to join ‘en route’ and pursue given social interests.  Eventhough the concept uses one battery pack platform the car can be used in its small state, Mini, or it can expand up and lengthwise adding a Utility feature.  As most cars sit parked all day the automated version of the QE can be used 24hrs a day as a delivery van, taxi or car sharing vehicle while you are at work; earning you money in the meantime.  The minimalist design of the EQ does not mean that everyone must or will be the same…much to the contrary.  EQ is equipped with Augmented Reality technology that will project your very own Avatar that can be downloaded from any App store online.  Feeling like a petrol-head today?  Download ‘Fire’ Avatar packed with sound effects.  Or wish you could have that latest Fiat 500 Gucci?  Download the ‘Water’ Avatar, a mix of your favourite luxury brand!  The interior is also as flexible and fun.  Using Auxetic adaptive material seats can be morphed into beds and visa versa, adding to EQ’s FUNctional design.        

Team Luci, with David Wilkie as team leader, has words sport, cloud, and comfort.  Unlike other teams the cliché fell naturally into play rather that intentionally as their 'design for less' approach made them realise that no-one really needs a 7-seater car everyday.  Usually you only need 1-2 seats per car and occasionally need extra.  This led to the creation of the Luci Solo, a 2-seater module whose design was driven by materials and function rather than aesthetics.  With a soft top, made mostly from flexible solar panels presented in the Morning Session by Material ConneXion, the structure is created by tension vis-a-vis a frame made from reinforced Radius-Pultrusion fibre profiles.  The 3-wheel layout, two front and one rear, reduces weight and allows for the Solo battery to sit upfront.  The seats are also made from felt made from PET, recycled bottles, and are thermoformed in place to act as part of the vehicle’s structure.  They are in turn recyclable at the end of the vehicle's life.

But the Luci family is not an only child!  Because the Solo acts as the central module it can couple with a variety of attachments.  Featured in the presentation were a Pick-Up module, a Family module, a Sports module, and a Taxi-module.  Each one of these modules could be equipped with its very own battery pack and therefore ready for action at any time.  This is where the Cloud element comes in.  Log into the Cloud and you can find out where your next closest module is available and how charged it is as well.  Solos can be stacked up against each other for space saving in congested city situations and quick access.  The Solo and extra modules can all be part of a sharing scheme where you own or rent a Solo or extra module creating a sustainable market unto its own.  The team did not forget the importance of the driving experience either.  Since each combination of the module creates a different car segment so does the driving position change when coupled.  As a Solo driver you might be in cruise mode but when connected to your family pod the driving position will lift and straighten intuitively changing your attitude!

Team Driversity, with Giovanni Piccardo as leader, explored the cliché words young exemplified by ‘fresh style’, natural embodied by ‘sustainable materials’, and transparent was reflected in ‘cradle to cradle’ emissions free manufacturing.  With all its diversity in culture, France, Italy, Spain, and England represented this team explored the meaning and impact of alternative fuels and sustainable transport as a whole the most amongst the teams.  Eventhough today’s market drives the electric powertrain as tomorrow’s saviour in actual fact hydrogen as a fuel is the cleanest.  There are issues with the stigma where hydrogen is negatively typified by fiery explosions when in actuality it is safer than petrol.  So the team’s mission was not only to blow away myths about green cars but was also to give hydrogen a fighting chance. 

Their final concept, Eco-Bomb, was a 2-seater tandem hydrogen fuel cell vehicle with a range of 200 miles and top speed of 60 mph.  This ‘to-the-city’ car was imagined for people who live outside and commute regularly to the city with the added benefit of a small bike in the rear as a range extender when parking is limited or altogether non-existent.  The body would be made from Curran®, the rotten carrot derived material with similar properties to carbon fibre presented in the Morning Session whilst the bomb cross tail-light would be laminated with Light Tape.  Layouts, other than the traditional tandem position were considered but were forgone for the ultimate aerodynamic droplet shape. “Exploding myths about green cars” was the main goal for the team to increase awareness and inform people in a really accessible way.  The result a tongue-in-cheek message from England, smooth design moves from Italy, aggressive stance from Spain, and emotionally charged fuel choice from France…a truly European design!   

Team Car Blanche, with Hugo Spowers as team leader, chose cliché words bamboo, light, and exciting to guide their concept.  They came up with 3 initial concepts  - the first was ‘holiday machine’, the second was ‘eco-sports car’, and the third was a vehicle for developing countries.  Seeing as many of the members had an interest in cycling and camping they naturally gravitated towards the holiday machine.  But not just any Holiday Machine, a high-end luxury vehicle for up to 4 people in a 2+2 configuration.  Motivated by their material choice of bamboo they considered what a car may look and feel like if it were designed using human power as its fuel.  The result? a double tandem layout built with bicycle technology.

After considering a high seating position as the potential profile they realised that the carriage-like layout would neither be practical nor in line with ‘light’ and ‘exciting’.  At the 11th hour they turned to the conventional sports car shape with a totally unconventional approach.  Imagine, if you will, walking up to this car, it never had time to be named, and coming to the realisation that the entire body is made of weatherproof tensile fabric drawn over an organically grown bamboo chassis a double tandem bicycle structure.  All your expectation would be challenged as you realise the simplicity of this proposal.  Not only are the materials sustainable, bamboo can be locally grown at a rate of 1-2 inches per hour into complex, but the power generated to weight proportion is directly related to the number of passengers in the vehicle; being able to be drived by one person of four generating some serious speed!  The vehicle could function entirely on human power or if so inclined could be equipped with in-hub electric motors to help with regenerative breaking adding power on demand.  To top it all off elasticised hammock seats act as suspension…happy days!

And the winner is…

This day, seemingly run by random elements such as strangers gathering to design a green car in a day, car designers picking names out of a box, or teams given cliché words to design with within a window of 12 hours, was not, after all so random.  The one guiding string throughout is the design process.  Every designer uses it in a different way, and it leads him or her down different thought paths; it is almost guaranteed you will get an interesting result.  How you structure the process naturally helps to generate radical, provocative, important, or even life-changing results.  12:grn:hrs was structured as a time driven exercise with ‘out of the car designer’s studio box’ ingredients.  The results speak for themselves!  Freethinking can almost always shift the status quo in even the smallest way and create a huge impact.  Our day would not have been complete without a peer review and a vote on best design of the day.

After a glass of wine, a beer or two, some quiet relief that the task was done the votes were counted and the clear winner was Luci, the modular 2-seater plug-and-play concept by David Wilkie, Claudia Reder, Adrian Clarke, Mike Whelan, and Miles Kaye.   Luci's appeal as a Solo 3-wheel car was immediately evident, added to the honest use of recycled and sustainable materials was the key social element that is tip toeing around the automotive industry these days.  A worthy winner to an intense day!  Keep posted here as Luci and this story develops.  In the meantime let us know which concept you liked the best.

Which 12:grn:hrs concept do you like?

Quattro Elmenti
Eco Bomb
Holiday Machine