(Image credit: press)

An inspired three-wheel urban run-around and a clever take on Citroën's quirky design heritage were two of the highlights at the Royal College of Art's interim vehicle design show this month.

The double challenge project, developed in collaboration with the French marque, required final year vehicle design students to imagine a small car that could establish a unique electric vehicle aesthetic for Citroën. Working with French aerodynamic simulation software company EXA, the cars also had to be as aero-efficient as possible.

Heikki Juvonen's E-3POD Antistatic was chosen as the best overall design with the Finnish student starting a six month contract at the PSA Design Centre in Paris on graduation. Juvonen has envisaged a micro-size electric pod that is positioned between the car and bicycle -- crucially the E-3POD is to be seen as an electric product rather than a car. The three-wheel electric vehicle features two smaller wheels at the front so that the driver sits inside the third larger wheel that includes a hub-less design. 'I see it as an introduction to electric driving and something that will coexist with other vehicles,' Juvonen told W* at the RCA.

Philippe Holland, head of Style Graphique at Citroën, said Juvonen's design was 'a quirky and nice sculpture, and an interesting concept for city driving'. He also congratulated James Harness on understanding the marque's design heritage and how to walk the fine line between beauty and beast with his Ugly Ducking concept. The charmingly boxy concept is a quirky sculptural piece that negates all the conventions of current automobile design.

Harness explained that he was tired of the proportions in automotive design. 'The current vanguard of automotive design expresses clichéd proportions,' says the young designer, 'and an aggressive pumped and chiselled form language that subversively distributes the idea of personal superiority and dominance.' He notes that while this aesthetic may be appropriate for German manufacturers in particular, it doesn't necessarily fit in with the identity of Citroën.

Instead, the exterior of this three-seater prototype features a combination of brave and somewhat brutal flat surfaces and organic shapes. 'It has a flat/organic form language,' Harness muses. 'I wanted to combine two form languages, 80s brutalism and more modern organic surfacing,' he explains, 'and to study the differences between them aerodynamically.' The combination of the curvaceous front and sharp, flat rear, proved to be aerodynamically almost ideal.

Holland also commended Juliana Cho's Memory Piece, calling it 'a beautiful styling object' and inline with Citroën design heritage. He added that he was very impressed with what the RCA students had produced. 'They are truly exceptional ideas for the future design of electric Citroën vehicles,' he told us. 'This type of powertrain is increasingly recognised as an important solution for economically and environmentally viable urban transport, so it's fantastic to see the electric visions of these potential car designers of tomorrow.'

Gallery & captions

Heikki Juvonen's E-3POD Antistatic electric tripod suggests a new type of electric vehicle for urban commuting. The lightweight modular construction is aerodynamic to minimise the required battery size and helps with lower production costs. The lowered weight is emphasized in design elements such as the rear wheel, which works as a supportive structural element, the shared suspension for both front wheels, and the use of scratch resistant plastic for the canopy. The silent electric engines also make sound insulation redundant, allowing for lighter material selection.

James Harness's Ugly Duckling concept uses a flat/organic form language with anthropometric proportions that stimulate curiosity to engage and excite consumers into electric driving. The surfaces are made from one-way Lexan glass and inside the driver sits centrally, with the two passengers close behind and to either side.

Adam Phillips' Communicate aims to work alongside other objects in cities instead of what he calls 'invading' the cityscape. The interior rises up from the street and the top shell reflects the environment around it.

James Brooks' Boite is a statement against the masculinity of current automotive design, featuring a pod that is suspended from an external structure so that it appears to float.

Murray Westwater's Cympod has been designed with markets like China and India in mind as an affordable form of urban transport.

Richard Bone's A Car For Sharing is a shared transport concept for urban mobility that features a four-person flexible seating arrangement.

Hitesh Panchal's Fashionista is an electric pod that is also a female accessory-- the design deliberately feminine to appeal to this market.

Dai Shang's City Core is a tiny upright electric pod that utilises smart city grids and is designed for dense metropolitan environment.

Juha Pekka Rautio's C-Crab has been inspired by various sports activities to visualise a more aerodynamic package.

David Eburah's Gallery hopes to make the electric car relevant to the modern urban environment by creating a boutique where users can pick and choose what they drive.

Ian Kettle's Egoiste -- as the name suggests -- uses extreme proportions to attract attention and thus promote electric driving.

Juliana Cho's Memory Piece is a daily commuter electric concept that has relaxing seats and is fun to drive so as to alter customer perception of electric driving.

Fernando Ocana's C-Flex is made from electro-active memory polymers so that it can change shape to adapt to different conditions and occupant needs.

Ido Baruchin's Cyto concept self-generates energy using wind turbines and features regenerative braking for improved efficiency.

Elizabeth Pinder's C-Voile is a single person electric concept that works a bit like a surfboard, the rider rolls and pitching the deck with his feet.

Jonathan Bell has written for Wallpaper* magazine since 1999, covering everything from architecture and transport design to books, tech and graphic design. He is now the magazine’s Transport and Technology Editor. Jonathan has written and edited 15 books, including Concept Car Design, 21st Century House, and The New Modern House. He is also the host of Wallpaper’s first podcast.