A driverless taxi, an eco car connected to an eco home, and a vehicle with a strong Finnish design identity were some of the highlights of the 2010 Royal College of Art Vehicle Design degree show. One of the hotbeds for recruiting talented emerging car designers – the alumni reads like a who’s who of the motoring industry – this year’s show felt uncharacteristically light on innovative thinking.
Swedish designer Marten Wallgren was deservedly awarded the prize for best design interpretation at the Pilkington Automotive Awards, which takes place alongside the show, for his 2025 commuter service concept. The Grid is an optional autonomously driven two-sears vehicle powered by solar panels that connects to other similar models on the road to create a community charging grid – a plug-and-go taxi rank of the future.
Wallgren told us: ‘I wanted to explore how autonomous car driving will change the architecture of the car.’ When empty and driven autonomously to pick up users the cabin is thin like an airfoil for minimum wind resistance and energy consumption. When a passenger embarks, the cabin folds down to create the required seats.
Judge and vehicle designer David Wilkie said: ‘The rational next step from today’s hi-tech intelligent driving and braking systems is the ability to remove the need for a driver. The Grid meets social and environmental needs by developing a solution for improved car sharing systems and energy efficiency whilst also meeting the tastes and preferences of consumers.’
The award for best use of glazing went to German designer David Seesing for his Symbiosis concept, a complex car made from a double layer of glazing designed to channel air flow through the vehicle to aid fuel efficiency and temperature control. Seesing worked alongside architecture firm Rogers Stirk Harbour in exploring how certain ways in which the profession has responded to sustainable building can assist vehicle design. He told us: ‘I tried to view vehicle design from an architect’s eyes, looking at how they create buildings and what technologies they integrate, and then try to apply that to my vehicle.’
The battery is a structural part of Symbiosis. ‘This is the heaviest part of the car so I placed it low to bring the centre of gravity down,’ he explained. ‘Right now the shape of the battery is limited (they are flat) but engineers are working to change the shape.’
His conceptual car interfaces with a building – for which Seesing sketched a prototype - using it to create internal airstreams that constantly pull air through the vehicle parked outside. Seesing said: ‘The building creates an artificial airstream using a chimney effect to naturally ventilate the living space. To connect both vehicle and building, the car is parked in the artificially created airstream and keeps generating energy when parked outside. This way the vehicle and building form a system with a constant energy flow between them.’
Miika Heikkinen’s Aava is a small fuel cell powered promotional vehicle designed for the hypothetical Helsinki Winter Olympics 2030. During the games, the car will offer tours around what the designer calls ‘real Finnish sights, not the artificial ones tourists see’ after which the vehicle would be turned into a micro rental system.
The Finnish designer told W*: ‘The concept’s ecological and pure materials have been chosen to reflect traditional Finnish design and heritage. The design is based on the forms of an abstract birch sculpture I did to represent Finnish nature. I chose fuel cell power because we have 180,000 lakes in Finland, so theoretically we can be oil independent. We can produce the hydrogen. The power source, gas and materials will be Finnish for a fully sustainable solution.’