The theme for this year's Design Challenge forces designers to envision vehicles that are both kind to the environment yet stylish and exciting to drive. Each concept vehicle must weigh no more than 1,000 pounds, seat four adults, be efficient and safe and provide a rewarding driving experience. Sustainable materials, highly exotic designs and a vision of the future are judging criteria.
Nine automakers in total have answered the competition's call, namely General Motors, Honda, Mazda, Maybach, Mercedes-Benz, Nissan, Smart, Toyota and Volvo. Here are some examples of the entries..
Aera's highly advanced body structure utilizes a 3D lattice, mono-formed frame. This polyhedral structure is similar to configurations found consistently in nature, e.g., inside the grouping of bubbles. The structure is formed from unique semi-solid freeform manufacturing, creating a naturally strong and extremely lightweight frame. All major body parts, including interior components, are essentially "grown" into a single part lattice structure. Its 10,000 psi composite air storage tank has ample capacity for a 1000 mile range.
The iV is a super-lightweight sports tourer that showcases "organic synthetics," a revolutionary manufacturing technique in which automotive parts are cultivated like agriculture in a 100% sustainable, carbon-neutral process. Featuring an interwoven organic frame, iV's chassis material is synthetically grown and formed into an aerodynamic shape. Derived from fast-growing ivy and re-enforced with spider silk composite, the biopolymer frame is flexible and ultra-light, yet extremely robust. While the canopy collects solar energy, it also provides protective safety and open-air views of the outdoors. Underneath, a slim bio-battery provides stability and a near limit-less range made possible by regenerative super-capacitor technology that recoups 60% of kinetic energy spent.
MAYBACH DRS - "Den-Riki-Sha"
This MAYBACH is the world’s first NMV (Naturally Manufactured Vehicle). Its production process is unique: Per a highly perfected and complex metamorphosis, a readily developed car is born out of a coded DNA-cocoon. Organic intelligence, aligned with advanced bio-mechanical engineering skills, created this special process being designed for a limited number of exclusive vehicles. Powered by a self balancing electric drive unit and controlled by an onboard computer that is plugged into a mega city's transport infrastructure, the MAYBACH DRS delivers a smooth, luxurious journey . To extend its range, this human-electric hybrid allows pedaling power to be supplemented by the driver.
Volvo Air Motion Concept
Tipping the scales at under 1,000 lbs. the Volvo Air Motion Concept is lighter than a Formula one car and delivers an exhilarating drive in a beautiful Scandinavian body. The car is designed like a clam shell and sculptured from ultra light carbon fiber. Minimizing weight and complexity, while maximizing driving enjoyment, is the philosophy behind this vehicle. The concept car employs thousands fewer components than a traditional car, thanks to the powerful, yet simple compressed air motors that replace a heavy internal combustion engine. The motors cool down under load rather than heat up, thus removing the need for heavy cooling systems. To compress the air needed for the centrally mounted air tank, Air Replenishment Sites are used. Powered by air turbines floating 1,000 ft. in the air, they harness the power of the wind and convert it to electricity to provide the compression.
Starting with the MX-5 as a benchmark, the design team has carried out a systematic process of reduction and consolidation. In this process, a multitude of MX-5 parts were replaced with fewer, simplified ones. Innovative lightweight materials have been used extensively to obsessively lower weight. Aimed at the global market of 2020, and with projected volume of 500,000 units annually, the MX-0 would have positive effects on the world's environment and economy by way of less energy consumption and minimized use of raw materials. The MX-0 is powered by high torque electric motors.