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Rinspeed iChange, the Electric Car that changes shape

The Swiss company Rinspeed will be showing the ‘iChange’ electric sports car at the Geneva Motor Show, the world’s first car with a body that adapts to the number of passengers on board.

Rinspeed boss Frank Rinderknecht says the vehicle is more than just a clever concept car. “The iChange is a symbol for the fundamental changes the auto industry undergoes worldwide.  And it is clear that only those companies will survive that have innovative answers for the demands of a new automotive era. The days of gas-guzzling behemoths are coming to an end. The iChange is a signal for the coming global changes to individual mobility. We need to be ready to meet these challenges with new ideas.”

In seconds a streamlined one-seater sports car transforms into a comfortable car with room for three. At the push of a button the rear end of the teardrop-shaped car magically pops up. “We have designed and built an extremely flexible vehicle. In it we have brought the themes of versatility and continually changing energy demands to their logical conclusions.” The result is a streamlined, lightweight zero-emission car with dramatically reduced energy consumption.

The basic idea behind the iChange is that the energy demand of a vehicle depends mostly on its weight, the type of engine it uses, and its aerodynamic properties. The engineering-services company Esoro that traditionally builds Rinspeed concept cars has built an extremely lightweight car weighing in at only 1050 kilograms. The car is powered by an electric motor. The idea of the pop-up rear end was conceived to account for the sizeable effect aerodynamics play in fuel consumption.

“While other cars always have to ferry around their puffed-up exteriors that can accommodate up to seven passengers even if they’re just transporting a single soul, the iChange features an adaptive body.” The sole driver is conveyed in a teardrop-shaped car that offers optimal aerodynamic properties and thus minimized energy consumption. If more than one person need to be transported the expanding rear provides room for two passengers. As a result of the increased weight and no longer optimal aerodynamics the energy consumption increases – but only for the time passengers are actually on board.

The energy for the electric motor comes from lithium-ion batteries that are available in two different stack configurations for short- and long-distance driving. The electric motor of the iChange produces 150kW, capable of propelling the car to a top speed of 220 km/h. The sprint from rest to 100 km/h takes just slightly over four seconds.

This performance is made possible with the help of a six-speed pre-selector gearbox from the Subaru WRX car. The central research department of Siemens AG (Corporate Technology, CT) supplied the integration technology for engine/generator, electronics and battery connection interface.

The gearbox and drivetrain are lubricated with eco-friendly lubricants from Motorex. Custom-made lightweight 17” and 18” forged wheels with aerodynamic shrouds are supplied by light-alloy wheel specialists AEZ.

The concept car has no doors. The entire electrically powered roof section of the car measuring just 1.03 metres in height tilts forward to allow passengers to board.

The car has no key, but instead has an Apple iPhone, which also controls the most important vehicle functions.

The route guidance of the navigation system is also especially eco-friendly: The system calculates the most energy-saving route and displays the directions in realistic 3D view.

Solar panels on the top and sides of the roof provide electricity to the fan to keep temperatures in the iChange comfortably low on hot summer days. The large Sharp solar panels also provide additional eco-friendly charging of the batteries.