The shape of things to come
TraXall International explores some of the most exciting electric car design features hitting our roads and considers how the look of future fleets could be revolutionised.
From Doc’s DeLorean time machine and the Batmobile to James Bond’s ‘Wet Nellie’ and Ghostbusters’ Ectomobile, we have always been fascinated by fantasy cars and out-of-this-world added extras.
There has long been a chasm between reality and fantasy. But in an era of rapidly evolving technology possibilities, has the only limit to what a car can do become our own imagination?
After all, Marty’s hoverboard dream became a reality so why not a talking, flying car? A time travel motor may be pushing it, but surely a mainstream submarine car must be on the cards in the not-too-distant future?
If Liverpool’s Yellow Duckmarine can already transport tourists from road to water, it is surely not ‘unsinkable’ that UK exports could reach European shores in one seamless ‘aqua-land’ journey without stepping foot on a ferry or plane?
Think the unthinkable and imagine the unimaginable and one day it will be a reality.
No limits. Nothing is off the table when it comes to car design it seems.
It’s a mad world
Henry Ford would sure to have been incredulous if you’d told him we’d one day be plugging our cars in to power up.
But here we are with smart fridges that instantly reorder our favourite snacks when they run low, so why not a car that can take you on a magical mystery tour to a new restaurant or diagnose if you need to a vitamin D top-up?
Tan as you drive? Consider it done. A crease-free shirt for an impromptu meeting? Sorted. Just-in-time anniversary flowers ordered and delivered just as you pull onto the drive? No problem. Argument averted. Customisable car colours to match your mood at the touch of a button? Yes please.
In the blink of an eye, these may not be a pipe dream. After all, some of the following ‘unthinkables’ are already in the pipeline and heading your way.
Here’s our roundup of the top five game changers in car design that will soon be on your fleet checklist.
1. The dynamics of aerodynamic design
Car shape and size need no longer be defined by bulky engines, batteries and boot space. The proliferation of electric vehicles has opened the door to new, exciting aerodynamic design possibilities – with electric drivetrains comprising of electric motors that are smaller than internal combustion engines and batteries that can be stored under rear seats or boot floors.
While internal combustion engine vehicles had to be designed around aerodynamic-limiting bulky bonnets, battery electric vehicles don’t have the same constraints and can be built with sleeker ‘skateboard’ designs.
Greater aerodynamic efficiency not only improves the range of the vehicle, it can also mean smaller capacity batteries, lowering the cost to consumers, and the environment. Win-win-win.
2. Urban mobility matters
In response to the urban mobility issues of congestion and pollution, there are several key players making inroads in the ‘tiny but mighty’ market scene. The race to design and mass-market the most eco-friendly, space-saving vehicle with the longest driving range is on.
The Swiss-born Microlino combines the advantages of both a car and a motorcycle with 50 per cent fewer parts than a regular car, weighing only 513 kilograms and an impressive 110-mile drive range.
In France, Citroen’s Ami can be driven by anyone over 14 years of age, with no need for a driving licence. Although in other European countries the age limit will be 16 and some will insist on driving licences, the Ami is set to be an urban revolution.
But is it a car? A bike? A scooter? A quadricycle? Whatever it is, even if you don’t drive one, you’re sure to overtake one soon. Although they’ll have the last laugh when they squeeze into a parking space fit for a Barbie car, leaving you searching in your SUV.
3. Home is where the car is
Meanwhile, technology will replace everything from rear-view mirrors to steering wheels and human drivers may one day become a thing of the past. Technology will also pave the way for cars with home comforts, from cinema screens and on-demand music to virtual reality gaming.
Interval refreshments will be available from the rear seat right. Popcorn anyone?
Technology and digitalisation will certainly match electrification in terms of the impact on car design. Will we one day wake up, work, eat and sleep in our cars – and never leave?
4. Less is more
When buying a car, we used talk about ‘added extras’ but not anymore. The future is all about ditching and diluting.
Producing zero exhaust emissions is not the only major driver to how cars look and feel. Motor manufacturers are increasingly under pressure to reduce end-of-life waste by using fewer parts and less environmentally toxic materials, where possible.
For example, by omitting a car’s front grille, when it comes to recycling there are 10 to 15 less pieces to dispose of. BMW’s i Vision Circular proves that a car could be made with just seven materials – all recyclable. Watch this space for how and when they can achieve a mass rollout that doesn’t cost the earth.
5. Any colour …as long as it’s green
Electric cars are better for both human and environmental health. Fleet managers are constantly charged with reducing fuel and emissions but what about how cars are made and what they are made of?
Leather interiors are synonymous with luxury, but what are the wide-ranging eco implications of this choice? You may proudly manage a low carbon, fuel-friendly fleet, but if it is made up of leather interiors, which contribute to large quantities of greenhouse gases, then your green credentials are compromised.
In response to this, VW’s EV range offers leather-free and wool-free interior options, while Mercedes’ EQC can be fitted with nappa leather made from recycled plastic. Even Bentley’s EV concept car uses vegan grape leather produced from the waste from the wine industry.
Total reinvention, not modifications or make and model upgrades, will become de rigueur over the next few years where the sky’s the limit and the world is your oyster – or a built-in pearl encrusted coffee machine. Self-cleaning, of course.
The marriage of EV and digitisation will inevitably be a relationship that creates a long-lasting, but sometimes turbulent car design revolution. Partnerships will end, others will flourish in the bid to develop the cleanest, safest, cheapest, greenest, smallest, fastest, feature-packed car of the future.
Once EVs make conventional engines obsolete, car designers will have a blank canvas and a blank space to fill. What would you put in yours?
A space scooter, maybe?