Got a new motor?

The future of motoring appears to be in good hands, if the RCA Vehicle Design show is anything to go by. Matthew Valentine took a tour round the exhibition

If you’re a dyed in the wool motorist, fretting that some future government is about to take your car from you and force you to walk about in the rain, carrying your own shopping, to protect the environment, don’t panic.

If the views of the latest graduates from the Royal College of Art’s vehicle design course – 98 per cent of whom can expect to achieve a senior position in the international car-making industry – count for anything, we may be more likely to simply see increasingly interesting creations on our roads over the next 20 years.

In a graduate show sponsored by the newly declared “mobility” (rather than just motoring) organisation the RAC, visitors to the RCA are treated to tiny, non-fossil-fuel-burning taxis, hybrid taxi/buses which will change routes on demand, funky recreational vehicles and sexy sports cars.

The emphasis of the show is on change, but not necessarily on a reduction in personal mobility. “Responsibility” is the RAC’s current buzzword – and given that inner-city motoring can hardly be described as fun, many drivers would surely jump at the chance of leaving the driving to somebody else, if reliable alternatives were available.

And if media interest at the opening day of the show is any yardstick, the vehicles drawing the most interest are indeed replacements for public transport which will allow city dwellers to leave their own cars at home.

A prime example was the futuristic Green taxi created by Per Ivar Selvaag. Capable of carrying two passengers, and of admitting wheelchair users, it would use an environmentally friendly power source. Designed specifically for short-hop trips, the cab would offer bench-like seats putting passengers in a half-sitting/half-standing position.

It proves that responsible does not have to equal boring: the taxi was popular with visitors because it looks good. And Selvaag also created the voluptuous Ferrari-badged concept car on the next stand, which looks like it could reduce tarmac to rubble with good old-fashioned horsepower.

He confesses that the taxi concept started out as a Formula One car: “My lecturers decided that would be too easy,” he says, so the same aesthetic concept was applied to a totally different purpose.

The RAC, for one, is happy to put its money where its mouth is when it comes to the ability of the RCA students. It has announced an annual bursary for promising students and plans to work on special projects in conjunction with the college. The first, appropriately, will be for a generic London vehicle to replace the venerable black cab.

Happily, fun will still have a place in our collective motoring futures. As well as Selvaag’s Ferrari and a number of luxury touring cars, one of the first sites greeting visitors to the show is the aggressive 900cc Miura motorcycle created by Spanish student Josep Rubau Sola (see Diary, page 15). This is a recreational concept vehicle, pure and simple – the lack of a windscreen, or space for a passenger or luggage sees to that. But the designer is unapologetic, describing the bike as a means to expel excess testosterone (although that may be an accident of translation).

So calm the petrolheads in your household by pointing out that Orwellian predictions that we will all be taxed out of our cars are just nonsense. And on no account remind them that Orwell’s real name was Blair.

The Vehicle Design show continues at the RCA, Kensington Gore, London SW7 until 30 June. Tel: 0171-590 4444.

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