Design Concept of the Day: Equippe

January 11, 2013 § Leave a comment

RCA students 010_smallestRCA students 009_smallestAlexander Ibbett, a 24-year old student at the Royal College of Art, created Equippe in a three-month competitive project with Citroen. Members of the Citroen design team worked with the first-years on the Vehicle Design MA course on concepts for the delivery vans of the future; competition-winner Ibbett studied how people shop online and the labour-intensive nature of collecting and delivering goods, and came up with this platooned, networked team of Segway e-scooters which follow a larger single-seat EV in a platoon much as ducklings follow their mother in a line. They can peel off from the convoy and join another, and fold down into themselves to ‘nest’ when not in use.

Second prize went to Alexander Brink’s three-wheeled delivery scooter (below), and third to Hoe-Young Hwang’s luxury delivery vehicle – which brought expensive items wrapped in cloth and digitally-illuminated, for the recipient to ‘pluck’ from the interior. Special mentions too to Vera Jiyeong Park, for her van’s side panels of a thermo-sensitive bi-metallic material with ‘petals’ that open and close for ventilation, saving energy on cooling the interior, and to Henri Peugeot for his attention to acoustics: a silent van with stealth jet-style acoustic materials, noise-cancelling technology and an interior anecoic (ech0-free) chamber, to enable night deliveries when there is less congestion. More details on these, the further ‘special mentions’, feedback from the Citroen judges and a full picture gallery to follow over at Car Design News and one or two other publications – will post and tweet links later.

The RCA vehicle design course is one of the most respected in the industry (check out its list of alumni) and its graduates enjoy a 95% success rate in finding auto industry employment. I went to the presentation of the projects, and all the students were – as you’d expect – clearly awesomely talented, creative and imaginative, as well as being impressively focused and professional in their approach and presentation skills.

There’s a lot of smart thinking going on, and it was reassuring to find out that the students don’t just sit around drawing fantasy supercars (though I’m sure that some of that does still go on): they have to do solid in-depth research amongst vehicle user groups (such as projects with the London Ambulance Service) and engage with wider world issues such as sustainability, safety, noise pollution, congestion, the urban environment and soforth. They do workshops and are encouraged to work with people from other departments in an interdisciplinary approach (cross-departmental projects such as designing for the needs of an ageing population, for example) or with the engineers round the corner at Imperial College, as well as working on projects with manufacturers and supplier firms. Many, though not all, have an engineering-based first degree, but they do get a further grounding in technical essentials.

This project focused on delivery vans, but many of the students were looking at infrastructural issues and solutions for sharing a van between companies (slot-in and swappable cargo modules featured strongly) and drivers, pooling resources, as well as solutions to improve operational efficiency and cut energy wastage such as deliveries to people who are not at home, or running around when empty. Micro-vehicles – most likely electric – from local distribution hubs were a clear trend in their thinking, as were networking and connectivity: the delivery van of the future could well be an automated EV, summoned on demand via a smartphone app, then.

Thanks to the School of Design at the Royal College of Art and to Citroen, for an invite to a really interesting day, and to the RCA tutors and Citroen designers (who judged the competition) for their time and valuable input into my various stories. Great to meet everyone, but must mention Lars Taubert, who worked on the very cool Citroen Tubik concept (2011) – a reinvention of the classic H-Van for the digital age and one of my favourite Citroen show cars of recent years (I do like a good camper van/utility wagon, having once come very close to buying a Chevy DayVan). Stupidly, I didn’t ask him how/if a Tubik-type vehicle might be progressing towards production – but some of its proposals, particularly its connectivity platform, could well be viable in PSA’s future vans, a notion underlined by the thinking of the RCA students.

RCA students 017_smallest



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