A self-sufficient car that can run without fuel or charging stations, and one that encourages drivers to exercise, are among concept vehicles we could see in the future.
The annual Pilkington Automotive Vehicle Design Awards at London’s Royal College of Art (RCA) showcases inventive, original car design concepts from international young designers studying the MA Vehicle Design course.
In its 29th edition, this year’s judging panel included design figures from car brands including Audi and Jaguar Land Rover. There were 21 shortlisted designs in total, 18 of which were from men and three were from women.
This year’s winners include Thrive by 24-year-old Irish Patrick Carton, a self-sustainable car that can generate electricity from rain, wind and sunlight, and Autonome by 25-year-old Spanish Javier Garcia Gallardo, a two-part car which can be customised with bespoke interiors, such as resistance ropes that control steering to encourage drivers to exercise.
Thrive is intended for use in rural areas where there may not be fuel resources at hand. It works by using piezoelectric materials in its structural design, which create an electric charge when put under mechanical pressure.
While moving, the car also generates energy from wind and rain through gills at the front of the car and hydrophobic glass. Air is filtered through flexible gills, causing them to flex, while the glass repels water and directs droplets from rain into a collection bowl, which is then swirled.
Autonome can be split into two parts – a generic back-part and a customisable front-part. The back part aims to be a “shared resource” and is an autonomous vehicle that would be able to deliver itself to consumers on request, then return itself to a docking point when they didn’t need it anymore, with the aim of reducing environmental impact. Drivers can then choose from a selection of different structures and interiors for the second part, which hopes to give consumers the power to personalise their cars.
Other shortlisted concepts at a glance
Commendations were also awarded to 25-year-old Belgian Frederik Vanden Borre for his concept Loop and 28-year-old South Korean Hosan Song for his concept Mercedes-Benz Autonomous Racing.
Loop is an autonomous car that would function as a form of public transport that aims to provide greater safety for pedestrians. Vanden Borre has envisaged a new road system, which sees vehicles travel in a series of concentric rings, like Olympic running tracks, meaning the car would have no need to park. The car would employ safety features, such as a door at the back for passengers to alight and movement sensors on top.
Vanden Borre also imagines entertainment features that would allow Loop to be used as a tourist vehicle, such as augmented reality projections which could provide information about historical sites. “I approached this project with an idea of human-centred design, and looked at how autonomous technology can rearrange the city,” he says.
Mercedes-Benz Autonomous Racing is an autonomous vehicle which uses artificial intelligence that would enable it to compete in driverless car racing. The car has no driver’s cockpit so has a central engine, and is accompanied by a human-operated drone which would be able to analyse the car’s racing performance.
25-year-old Estonian Paul Piliste’s concept Guilt Free Thrills aims to be more environmentally friendly. The car, made from carbon and plant-based bioplastic, would contain titanium dioxide parts which would “clean the air”, he says, by capturing carbon particles and converting them into a liquid. This would then be converted to a powder and this material used to 3D-print other products. “I wanted to tackle consumerism and over-consumption and show drivers they can be more self-sustainable,” says Piliste.
Separation is a concept car from 27-year-old South Korean Minwoo Choi, made from carbon and glass, which block sound out from the outside, with perforations and patterns that help. The concept aims to separate people from busy city life, says Choi – “It’s about having your own calm space and silent interior,” he says.
27-year-old Kate Darley’s concept Positive Wellbeing uses materials that aim to encourage tactile-ness and feeling, she says, to reduce stress caused by traffic. The car also includes communal, social space with chairs that face inwards, and lowered windows to allow more visibility of the outside world, with the aim of “connecting people to their surroundings”.
Dale Harrow, a professor at the Royal College of Art, says all the shortlisted designs show “immense potential”, and hopes that this year’s graduates will “make their mark on the fast-changing world of automotive design”. “With the manufacturing and engineering industries in the midst of a skills shortage, it is vital that the students’ talent is nurtured and used in the workplace,” he says.
All photos © Graham Flack and courtesy of Pilkington Vehicle Design Awards.