Design Concept of the Day 2: BMW Vision Next 100

March 7, 2016 § Leave a comment

bmw vision next 100Well, we were wondering why the BMW stand at the Geneva show was somewhat lacking in drama or surprises, and now we know: the big reveal was saved for this week and a special event in Munich marking the company’s centenary. To celebrate the big 100, BMW has revealed a concept reflecting ‘sheer driving pleasure of the future’, looking at trends and tech for the decades ahead. Main objective was for this vehicle not to be anonymous, but highly-personalised to suit each driver’s needs, with seamless interactions between human, machine and surroundings. Yet it had to still be driver-focused, and offer an ’emotional’ mobility experience, despite using advanced AI (with more humanised interactions) and new materials, including intelligent and networked materials created by 4D printing.

bmw next 100 intDesign started with the interior, a roomy dome, with wellbeing a priority and, inevitably, autonomous elements: Ease mode, with ambient lighting and atmosphere when the driver can sit back, and Boost, a more dynamic DIY mode in which the car’s software – the ‘Companion’ – ‘learns’ about the driver and their style and preferences to support accordingly. The interface features what BMW terms ‘alive geometry’ – a 3D display set into the instrument panel and areas of the side panels, consisting of nearly 800 moving triangles giving gestural, often peripheral, information to the driver. Effectively, the whole windscreen can serve as a giant display, the head-up display working in parallel to an analogue dashboard, and BMW describes it as involving the driver “in a form of preconscious communication, where an intuitive signal predicts an imminent real-time event.” The Companion can also signal to other road-users the status of the vehicle (automated or not) and communicate to, for example, pedestrians that it is safe to cross.

BMW points out that most of its fabrics are recycled or renewable, with components such as the side panels also made from residues from carbonfibre production. It expects in the future for the use of less wood and leather, and no leather is used inside the Vision Next 100. No word on its powertrain, but at this stage in the game, I think we can safely assume that it’s (conceptually, at least) electrified. Full lowdown & much more detail from BMW here. Conclusions? However advanced its tech and interfaces are, and its ability to communicate with the outside world, the Vision Next 100 is still very much a car, and a personal one at that: for all its work on mobility services, BMW certainly doesn’t envisage this core part of its business going away any time soon.



Design Concept of the Day: Toyota Setsuna

March 7, 2016 § Leave a comment

Setsuna+Concept__midToday’s picture is of the Setsuna – ‘moment’, in Japanese – which is all about durability and the changing nature of a family’s relationship with a car over time with the accumulation of “precious, fleeting moments”, apparently. Toyota’s displaying it at Milan Design Week, and yes, it’s wooden. To last for “many generations if properly taken care of”, and to change in colour and texture as it ages; there’s Japanese cedar for the exterior panels and Japanese birch for the frame, assembled using a nail- and screw-less Japanese joinery technique. And an electric motor to drive it. More here.
In other news to start the week:
  • Natural gas: “not a ‘bridge fuel’ but an expensive dead-end on the road to decarbonising transport”, says pressure group Transport & Environment, based on research by Ricardo Energy & Environment which finds no GHG savings in shifting to CNG or LNG from diesel (cars and trucks) and very little advantage in terms of air pollution. In fact, due to emissions and methane leakage in gas extraction, production and supply, overall GHG emissions are raised. T&E argues for governments to stop incentivising gas use, and says that for cars, petrol-electric hybrids, electric and hydrogen are better bets. Waste biomethane can have niche uses at a local level, but that’s about it. Full set of report downloads here.
  • Full text of Audi chairman Rupert Stadler’s speech at the company’s annual press conference here: Stadler outlined [amongst other things post-#dieselgate] three key ‘milestones’, digitisation, electromobility and urbanisation, and confirmed its first all-electric large car for 2018. Hybrids and PHEVs are seen as a ‘bridge’ tech for the next 10 years, with the brand “thinking about electric mobility in high-volume terms” as well as high potential for fuel cell tech. The ‘urbanisation’ part of the plan includes mobility services and apps, including on-demand access to shared vehicles.
  • I like a Living Lab, and the latest to come to my notice is an electric bus project in Helsinki: VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland, with Helsinki Region Trasnport, is testing platforms for mobility services including new user interfaces and transport/logistics solutions as well as cabin-space innovations. The city of Tampere is also involved. More here.

Geneva 2016: the aftermath

March 3, 2016 § Leave a comment

IMG_1312So, Geneva: a good show for electromobility, though probably a better event for supercar-lovers this year. If one got past the stands of McLaren, Aston Martin, Bugatti, Lamborghini, Pagani et al, there were plenty of plug-ins nonetheless, covering pretty well all sectors of the market. At the exotic high-concept end was the Italdesign GTZero (pictured) – three motors giving 483bhp, a modular structure also allowing for a hybrid powertrain and a Lamborghini Espada-like design demeanour – and at the other, barely-even-a-car, end I have to admit that the styled up Citroen e-Mehari by Courreges (second image, below) caught my eye. Nice to see the Volkswagen Budd-e for real, too – lovely clean-looking design with a minimal, modern interior and well-developed connected-car vision, as well as its (putative) electric powertrain.

IMG_1304In between the extremes came the electric/PHEV/hybrid Hyundai Ioniq (exceedingly dull to look at, but then that’s probably the point; an important mainstream vehicle, all the same), the similarly three-way SsangYong SIV-2 SUV (still at concept stage), the oddball Morgan EV3, Toyota’s hybrid CH-R compact crossover, the Lexus LC 500h coupe (an underrated good-looker, I thought), plus the [Citroen] DS E-tense electric coupe concept (see below), which was great fun if, it has to be said, a bit silly and show-offy.


IMG_1331Croatia’s Rimac Automobili brought along its very limited-edition Concept_One supercar and its new ‘evil twin’, the Concept S (pictured), though the company’s tech and batteries are really where it’s at, and though there wasn’t any new news as such from Quant, it put on a strong stand with the near-road-ready Quantino, larger Quant F and a mock-up of how to refuel its nanoflowcell batteries with ioniq liquid (electrolyte-swapping; image below).



IMG_1327Nissan brought along the autonomous IDS as seen in Detroit with news that it was going to introduce ‘piloted drive’ on the Qashqai, as well as talking about its connected-car vision which includes smart EV-charging infrastructure and vehicle-to-grid link-ups enabling cars-as-energy-hubs; its ‘fuel station of the future’ concept co-developed with Foster & Partners describes autonomous parking-up to wirelessly charge, for example. Lots of talk about ‘mobility’, not least from Volkswagen which announced three new ‘Volkswagen Future Centers’ in Potsdam, China and California where designers and ‘digitalisation experts’ will work alongside each other on software, UX, HMI/interface design, infotainment, new interior concepts and services; it was bullish about electromobility, too, with big investment in Audi in particular to spearhead new plug-in model introductions. Hyundai also announced its ‘Project Ioniq’, research & development on future mobility ideas. Much, then, in the wake of #dieselgate, to be positive about.


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