How growing demands on the function of cars are changing the appearance of future cars? A look at car design between futuristic concept studies and the timeless idea of the car that is being realized anew again.
Today’s possible requirements for the car of the future are many and varied: Perhaps we will be able to drive forever without refueling, perhaps cars will come from 3D printers in the future, or perhaps we will drive around intelligently networked and fully automatically with electric motors. The latter is currently probably the most pursued goal in the automotive industry.
Vehicle manufacturers are therefore already trying out ideas for the next ten to thirty years and presenting their findings in so-called concept studies, among other things: Automobiles in which alternative technology is installed. It is also noticeable that the design of these cars wants to look strongly like the future. Car manufacturers are deliberately trying out a design free of contemporary conventions with their concept studies. This is feasible mainly due to the development of technical possibilities. At the same time, it is also possible to check how drastic changes in the typical company design are received by the clientele.
Inspired by science fiction movies
Looking at current designs for the cars of the future, it is striking that they are often sleek science-fiction-like designs, some of which have nothing to do with current car design.
One might think that BMW based its design for the Vision Next 100 study on the Audi RSQ, in which Will Smith appeared in the 2004 film “I, Robot.” The future of the car is often based on the idea of piloting a car through the streets. The design of Cadillac’s thorium-powered automobile is also reminiscent of the vehicle of an evil villain whom one would rather not meet. With the egg EN-V of General Motors one can befriend then already rather, but also here the draft reminds of a film-like, from today’s reality still far removed scenario.
Cars of the future from the past
Concept studies are nothing new: in 1933 the probably first concept car Volvo Venus Bilo is presented, even with a tailor-made luggage set. And at the latest in the 60’s and 70’s all more or less renowned car manufacturers romp in such a format. In addition to numerous aerodynamic designs for sports cars and supercars, the Coupe Karin from Citroen is worthy of mention. In 1980 Citroen presents a body that breaks new ground: no back seat, but three front seats, the driver as the ergonomic center of the whole. Similar trends can be found today in the models of Volkswagen I.D Family again: People at the center. Karin also has a computer to bring together and display information about the vehicle and the road. Striking exterior features are the pyramid-like glass roof and the clad rear wheels, which we find again today in the current BMW concept study already mentioned. It seems that ideas from thirty years ago are not yet established even today, but nevertheless they are being pursued to some extent. Many of the concept studies remain one-offs anyway; usually only individual stylistic elements find their way into series production. Whether this will change with a transition to electronic drive models?
Technical requirements as a reason for change
Design, especially for cars, has always been linked to technical requirements up to now. Certain components have to be built into the body in a certain way for it to work. A lot could be gained at this point with electric cars. By eliminating the engine, cooling system and exhaust, the development of a new vehicle architecture is conceivable, such as in the EN-V model from General Motors mentioned above. That would mean that at some point technology would no longer determine the shape, but rather taste and the respective culture.
Autonomous intelligently networked vehicles also mean leeway in car design: passengers would not necessarily have to be seated. The interior could be used accordingly as a kind of living room or study. Driving, like so many other things, will thus become even more target group-oriented.
Another example of technological change is the rearview mirror: the days of the rearview mirror seem soon to be over; it would be replaced by cameras and sensors that surpass the performance of the human eye. Again, a point where the visual distinctiveness of a car as we know it can and must be revised.
However, it is said that we will not see a noticeable change in car design for 10 years at the earliest. As when horses were replaced by engines but cars continued to look like carriages, e-car manufacturers will only later address existing needs visually as well.
If you ask designers about the car design of the future, they first think that the current car design will continue to exist. Still, there will be room for new contemporary designs that bring current technology to life. Nevertheless, from a designer’s point of view, there are indeed timeless forms that must remain in order to appeal to certain emotions.
We will only see what such a car of the future will actually look like when we call it a car of the present. As before, some style elements from concept studies will make it, some will remain unique. The car is likely to become more and more of a place to stay, not just tied to its pure purpose.
And at some point, we might fly around with a flying egg from Volkswagen, who knows??