Daimler’s recent introduction of a doorless, open-roof electric car might have startled some, but in the wild world of concept cars it’s far from daring.
Since their invention by the auto industry in the late 1930s, concept cars have afforded engineers and designers an opportunity to let their imaginations run free. Notably, some designers have taken the idea to an illogical extreme, producing cars that are more memorable than functional.
But some of today’s production vehicles have their roots in concept cars. The recently introduced Cadillac ELR, for example, started out as the Cadillac Converj at the 2009 Detroit Auto Show. Similarly, the Ford Mustang and Pontiac Firebird evolved from concept cars that seemed daring in their day.
We’ve collected photos of concept cars that range from wild to pragmatic. From Smart’s Fourjoy, to Cadillac’s racy Converj, to BMW’s shape-shifting GINA, we present some of the best-known and most unusual. Click on the concept car below to start the slideshow.
Winner of a Peugeot design competition in 2005, the Moovie Concept Car was designed for city dwellers who needed to fit into tight parking spaces. Each of its wheels were independently driven by their own electric motors, allowing the car to rotate on its own axis. The vehicle’s two-passenger interior was designed for brightness and visibility. (Source: Wikicars.org)
Photo 1, the Peugeot, makes a mistake that has characterized concept cars for decades--too much glass. Leave that one out in the summer sun and you can bake baguettes inside.
Very few of the designs seek to solve the real problems facing automobiles these days except for the VW electric. It offers modest range in what might be affordable and well suited to daily commuting and local trips. That is far more practical than being able to race at 250 mph, however much the latter may seem to compensate for certain masculine shortcomings.
The BMW with fabric skin is interesting. Clearly there is a century-long history in aviation. Is the shape-shifting feature just cutesy-poo, or does it somehow optimize aerodynamics over varying speed regimes? If so, I would like to know how many teaspoons of gasoline this would save over the life of the vehicle? Also, how durable is the fabric versus sunlight, weather, shrubbery, etc? Again, based on aircraft, fabric skin has a limited life, even without "shape shifting."
I especially like the idea of the tri-color tail lights on the Mustang that would depict acceleration and coasting different from braking. With simple accelerometers one could easily depict deceleration as well.
Daimler claiming they're jettisoning unnenessary ballast makes thier car look like a dune buggy wannabe, with less character and usefulness. In the USA, such a vehicle might be usable in SoCal and Florida, but you'd not be able to take it on the beach.
Greg, I thought they were big wheels as well, but I am not so sure. I think that the big circles around the doors are just for style and the wheels are all the same size. Perhaps Chuck could check it out.
Definitely true, tekochip. It's a good thing that most of these vehicles never reached production. On the other hand, I do like the fact that the auto companies give their designers and engineers the freedom to dream up and build these concepts. I can't think of engineers in any other branch of technology that get this kind of opportunity.
The question of whether engineers could have foreseen the shortcut maintenance procedures that led to the crash of American Airlines Flight 191 in 1979 will probably linger for as long as there is an engineering profession.
More than 35 years later, the post-mortem on one of the country’s worst engineering disasters appears to be simple. A contractor asked for a change in an original design. The change was approved by engineers, later resulting in a mammoth structural collapse that killed 114 people and injured 216 more.
If you’re an embedded systems engineer whose analog capabilities are getting a little bit rusty, then you’ll want to take note of an upcoming Design News Continuing Education Center class, “Analog Design for the Digital World,” running Monday, Nov. 17 through Friday, Nov. 21.
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