RCA Vehicle Design Degree Show 2010 highlights
Marten Wallgren (Sweden)
The Grid is a concept for a car sharing system for 2025. The two-seater semi autonomously driven commuter car has the option for driving yourself or being driven. The vehicles within The Grid are covered with solar panels and together they create not only a grid for car sharing, but also an infrastructure for energy distribution.
The design was inspired by artist Eva Hild’s clay sculptures where holes and surfaces are connected in an endless transition exposing the chassis. When the commuter car is empty the cabin is thin for reduced wind resistance and little energy consumption. When a passenger embarks, the cabin folds down and creates the required seats. The size of the vehicles means that they can be stored like supermarket trolleys where the batteries are then connected for an even distribution of energy.
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.’
David Seesing (Germany)
Symbiosis explores the possibilities of connecting architecture and transportation to form an energy efficient living system. Inspired by architecture, the four-seater vehicle is restructured as a multilayered system consisting of three main parts: the interior cabin, supporting framework and the exterior skin. While piezoelectric crystals, integrated in the framework, create energy from airflow between the layers of the vehicle, the exterior skin of the car collects energy from sunlight.
Air intakes at the front and the rear automatically control the airflow through the car. This is used to cool the vehicle’s components or manipulate the air between the layers for thermal insulation to heat the interior by capturing heat from the battery and hub engines. The electric hub motors in all four wheels generate kinetic energy from suspending and breaking the car. 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 both vehicle and building form a system with a constant energy flow between them
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