The next generation of car designers faces unprecedented challenges in meeting ever-tightening environmental requirements whilst still building cars that people want to buy. The influential Low Carbon Vehicle Partnership (LowCVP) believes that L-category vehicles, and in particularly lightweight four wheel vehicles, will play an increasing role in squaring this circle, and the organisation is working hard behind the scenes to bring this about.
To support this goal some of the brightest automotive design students displayed their concepts at the recent Cenex LCV event. The standard was very high with some great lateral thinking on show but we were particularly taken by Nicholas Lette’s vision for the future of rural personal transport in 2035.
Nick’s design is impressive as in addition to getting the basics right he has chosen to address the topic in the round, recognising that for a car to be genuinely environmentally sensitive the production methods need to be considered carefully and the in-use well-to-wheel emissions need to stack up too.
Recognising that cities will increasingly promote cycling, walking and public transport, to provide an integrated transport system, Nick has focused his design on the needs of rural communities.
From this starting point the need to provide an affordable car became a driving principal which led to some key engineering decisions. Firstly expensive drivetrains were out, with a 3-cylinder air-cooled 500cc engine chosen as the heart of the concept. In order to limit the environmental impact, this then necessitated a biofuel which in this case is bioethanol. Now this is where the really clever thinking starts.
The bioethanol could be produced from local crops, providing employment and delivering a fuel that reduces CO2 emissions by up to 86% on a well-to-wheel basis. That’s the environmental bit sorted, but what about safety?
To produce a car capable of protecting its occupants in accidents up to the design speed of 75mph requires a fibre composite, but in this case the fibre in question is lignin which just happens to be a by-product of bioethanol production. The resulting structure is strong, lightweight, sustainable and recyclable and could be manufactured locally too.
Finally Nick has provided enough space for two people and luggage within a funky exterior which demonstrates that whilst it is all well and good producing an environmentally-sensitive car, it still has to look good to tempt buyers into dealerships.
The combination of supporting local employment, whilst delivering an affordable and desirable car that considers well-to-wheel emissions and the impact of production, has to be the future of car design, and if this is a glimpse of that future, we’ve got nothing to fear.