Coventry University displayed the works of its MA Automotive and Interior Design students at the Coventry Transport Museum last week. Entitled ‘Shift’ – denoting the changes that are taking place within the automotive and technology sectors at present, the show featured the work of nine graduating pupils – a far cry from the 100+ students that displayed their work at the undergraduate show earlier this year.
The goal for all of the students enrolled in the MA program was to dream up new proposals based on innovative thinking and the novel application of technology, materials and processes, demonstrating their use in future vehicles and showcasing how these designs would fit in to the future transportation scenario.
Many of the projects on show focused on electric vehicle platforms, automation and elements of personalization, each to different levels. There was a car designed for the Chinese Miao population, a future vehicle concept propelled by air, an interior concept designed to cater to the aging population in China, and a proposal that looked into on-demand car ownership and car sharing.
The students also worked on a collaborative project with Jaguar to develop a vision for a future sports car for the brand, which we’ll bring you in due course. For now, check out the nine thesis projects…
Vernacular concept – Zeyu Zhang
The Vernacular concept was one of the more interesting projects on show, mainly because of its inclusion of a specific culture and its use of locally sourced materials. Zhang chose to create a vehicle suited to meet the needs of the Maio nationality, a minority population consisting of 9m people who live predominantly in China’s southwestern Guizhuo Province. Following the nationality’s three paths of Taoism, farming and the making and selling of traditional handicrafts, Zhang’s concept features wheels that can be used for agriculture, locally sourced wood as a functional element of the design (the shards can expand or retract to increase the cargo capacity of the load bed) and employs batik fabric on the exterior and interior of the car, which can be changed to reflect seasonal changes of color and temperature. As traditional roads cannot access the Taoist region, a cable model of the vehicle can venture suspended into the hills.
Yu concept – Norbert Hadju
Norbert Hadju’s Yu concept takes the idea of car culture and individual vehicle personalization into the future by offering users an opportunity to extensively modify their vehicle based on their desires and requirements. The user buys the base car, which includes a digital app that brings the car into a virtual setting where it is customized. The semi-autonomous 2+2-seat vehicle then drives itself to a shop where 3D parts are printed and the changes are made. The car can also be upgraded with aerodynamic and performance parts. Following a utilitarian approach, Hadju also created swing arms in the chassis to lengthen and shorten the wheelbase as well as raise and lower the car’s ride height. The wheels and fenders are connected to the swing arms, but could also be separated or removed for off-road use. Unlike today’s car culture scene, the concept adds in social media so users can meet, exchange ideas and interchange parts of their vehicles.
Airtech concept – Chao Cui
While solar technology is currently being adopted as a means of decreasing pollution, Cui instead opted to research another possible solution: The Airtech concept is a single passenger urban vehicle propelled by air. Inspired by the dragonfly and Dyson fans, he envisioned a concept that would combine wind power for a vehicle designed for urban environments. Running on a wireless charging road charged by wind energy pillars, the vehicle would park atop the pillar when not in use. The car can also recharge the network thanks to regenerative energy when in motion. The concept’s two front wheels have a balance system based on the same principles as a Segway while fans in the rear wing can change angle to direct airflow behind it and propel the vehicle forwards, or below to lift the rear off the ground in traffic congested areas.
Future Car Sharing Vehicle – Pao Hsein Chui
On-demand car ownership and car sharing were Pao-Hsein Chui’s main research areas. The concept aims to promote wellbeing inside through its use of customized self-folding material, that can adapt to different scenarios: users can choose from a business environment or a relaxing space in which to sip coffee. As an added bonus, the roof can detach from the vehicle and float above thanks to inboard propellers, allowing passengers to stand up. But while the main focal point for these types of cars is the interior space, Chui also focused on the exterior design, creating a vehicle that could also be useful after the journey. Solar panels in the roof can be used to generate electricity for nearby dwellings and the rear wheels – inspired by mecanum mechanism and gyroscope technology – can detach from the car and used as Segways.
Silent concept – Bumsik (Sean) Woo
Autonomy and vehicle to vehicle communication mean the next generation of vehicles will look decidedly different than their contemporary counterparts: the won’t need crash structures, bumpers or headlamps; they’ll use glass in different ways. Sean Woo researched how telematics will influence vehicle design and created his own brand on which to depict his vision for the future: the Silent concept. Roughly the size of a current Mercedes-Benz C-Class, Silent rides on a skateboard chassis (aka ‘mobility module’) with its wheels integrated into the fenders. The module is paired with a bullet-shaped passenger cabin above, providing seating for 4-5 passengers. The interior is accessed via asymmetrical doors; one scissor door that opens upward and one that slides rearward to provide easier access to the interior for multiple passengers.
EOS Future Timelessness – Jaeri Seong
Seong examined Greek architecture and focused on the keyword ‘nostalgia’ in the creation of the EOS concept, a racecar for the future. Her research determined that geometry – such as that in the Mona Lisa painting and current company logos – all employed the ‘golden ratio’ rule, so she sought to apply this to her design. She concentrated on this principle as she worked on the initial development of the concept before ultimately choosing the design direction and evolving it through various stages. The vehicle’s wheels extend far out from the main volume, while the front wheels are comprised of a tire and magnetic field, allowing them to float within space. The concept’s entire canopy tilts forward as in a fighter jet to enable access to the single passenger cabin.
Future SUV for 2040 – Kainan Gao
The main premise for the Future SUV concept was to create a vehicle that would grow with the user, extending and contracting based on their needs. Gao concedes that this would have been hard to achieve given the vehicle’s glazed areas, even with future technologies. Instead, he opted to develop a reconfigurable seven-passenger vehicle interior with seats made from memory materials. When needed, the seats expand to welcome the additional passengers, but when not in use they remain compact to allow more storage areas within the cabin. The semi-autonomous vehicle’s steering wheel can retract into the IP when not in use, and in-wheel electric motor free up even more space on board to create a practical vehicle. Jaguar’s soft surfacing and proportions inspired the exterior design.
Tieria concept – Daniel Azmir
Daniel Azmir’s Tieria concept sought to answer the question: ‘How can biomimicry influence vehicle design?’ While this has been investigated and famously achieved by engineers who looked at the Kingfisher whilst creating the Shinkansen (Japanese Bullet Train), Azmir contends that this was only Level 1 – reduction. He therefore looked at the next stage of biomimicry to come up with his concept.
Level 2 biomimicry looks at what can be done during the production process to benefit the environment. As such, the Tieria features and artificial photosynthesis system that powers a fuel cell with a supercapacitor, which in turn powers the vehicle through clean hydrogen. The car can also generate additional energy to power the grid.
The semi-autonomous vehicle’s exterior is made of optical graphene, a biodegradable material that’s reactive to electricity, water and thermal changes, and its suspension systems are artificial muscles.
The 2+1 seat interior (users sit abreast as in the McLaren F1) features programmable materials, which can add an additional passenger seat or subtract it to create a more spacious cabin.
Vehicle for Aging Population – Mengjie Zhang
This was the only interior design proposal on show. Created by Mengjie Zhang, the concept is aimed at giving China’s aging population the ability to continue their daily routine and participate in activities they would otherwise not be able to on their own. The interior, intended to fit within a lightweight autonomous vehicle comprises of a main seating area at the rear, with storage solutions and an additional small foldaway seat at the front. Whilst researching seniors’ lifestyles, Zhang also decided to make the concept interactive and added artificial intelligence as well as augmented reality technology to provide an immersive travel experience.
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