Concept cars don’t have to be practical. They only have to challenge our imagination about the future of cars—and look really cool. And these days, cool means green. This year produced more wild and wacky green concepts than ever. Technology themes include:
- Small lightweight and aerodynamic designs
- Greater use of natural and recyclable materials
- Gas-free electric drivetrains often powered by rooftop solar panels
Enjoy our list of the top 10 coolest and wackiest green concept cars from 2008.
1The Helios Lizard Car
Kim Gu-Han of Universitat Dulsburg-Essen, Germany, wants to build a solar-powered car that can charge itself entirely from the sun. The problem is the limited space for photovoltaic panels on a car’s roof. The Helios overcomes that limitation by acting like a frill-neck lizard. When stationary, the off-road vehicle can unfurl a large set of photovoltaic cells to produce enough energy to run the car, with excess energy for home power. The Helios won Best Use of Technology category at the Interior Motives Design Awards 2008.
2BamGoo Electric Bamboo Car
The body of the BamGoo is made out of bamboo. Designers from Kyoto University, and the City of Kyoto (home to the famous environmental protocols), demonstrated how organic material like bamboo—which is light, very strong and grows very fast—might be incorporated into car design. The single-seat all-electric car weighs on 130 pounds and can travel 30 miles on a charge.
3Lotus Motors Hemp Eco-Elise
In July, Lotus unveiled its “Eco Elise” at British International Motor Show. The primary innovation is the use of hemp and other ethically farmed renewable crops for body panels, seats, and carpets. Paints are all water-based. For body components, the hemp material is used with a polyester resin to form a hybrid composite. The hemp hard top on the Eco Elise has two flexible solar panels neatly embedded in the roof, contributing power to the electrical systems and saving energy that would otherwise be drained from the engine.
Antro Solo Tribrid (with Pedal Power)
The Antro Solo is a tribrid using gasoline, electricity, and human power. Like other new green concepts, the Antro Solo uses lightweight composite materials, slick aerodynamics and a rooftop solar panel. But the designers also give foot pedals to all three passengers. The pedals provide the opportunity to recharge batteries like a crank flashlight—and to get a workout on your way to work. The carmaker, Antro of Hungary, appears serious about putting the 150-mpg Solo into production.
5Hinterland Aeronautic EcoVan
At highway speeds, drag resistance can account for 75 percent of fuel consumption. Therefore, designers in Canada put better aerodynamics on the top of their list in the design of a long-range electric vehicle. They aimed for a drag coefficient of less than 0.25, which would beat out the Toyota Prius and the original Honda Insight. Designers want to see the design—something like an aeronautical fuselage on wheels—turned into the ultimate eco-friendly six-seater carpooling machine.
The Peugeot Omni gets its name from the uncanny omnidirectional abilities of the car’s wheels. But it’s the electric motors in each of those four wheels that give the Omni its green credentials. Those are powered by lithium ion batteries charged, in part, by solar cells on the roof. The amount of energy required is reduced due to the lightweight carbon fiber body, the teardrop-shaped aerodynamic design, structural elements made of aluminum and titanium, and super efficient organic light-emitting diode (OLED) lighting.
6M-112 Mini Eco-Racer
Size matters, and the smaller the better according to Spanish designer Ignacio Garcia. He designed the M-112 for the Shell EcoMarathon race, a competition held to spur innovation. Garcia’s idea is to make a lightweight single-person urban vehicle as fun and sporty as possible.
7MDI Air-Powered AirPod
The folks from MDI are holding firm to their ideas for an air-powered car—using electricity to compress huge amounts of air in small tanks, and then slowly releasing that air to drive pistons. The latest iteration from MDI is the AirPod, which seats three passengers, one facing backward. The AirPod uses a pair of wheels mounted side by side in the front to turn the vehicle—operated by the driver with a joystick—while the rear wheels provide power to the ground. The Airpod delivers about six horsepower of performance.
8Capca Electric Dome Mobile
The Capca concept was created for “Peugeot Design Contest 2008: Imagine the Peugeot in the Worldwide Megalopolis of Tomorrow,” but was rejected in the competition. The Capca is more of an electrical mobility appliance than a car. It has electric motors in the back wheels, transparent solar batteries built into the glass dome, a transparent monitor built into the windscreen, and sensors and cameras capable of automatic parking. Ten hours of charging yields two hours of use, with a maximum speed of 55 miles per hour.
Another entry from the Peugeot Design Competition is the Stylight, a 3-seater city hybrid car with a small 1.6-liter engine and an electric motor placed above the rear wheels. Ognyan Bozhilov, the designer, said that this arrangement “improves weight distribution, gets rid of the complex, heavy mechanics for power transmission and makes the unique, aerodynamic body possible.” The Stylelight also offers unique safety features: an expansive windscreen for maximum visibility, and LED tail lights designed so the harder you press, the more lights turn on.
The Citroën Hypnos was named ‘Concept Car of the Year 2008’ by Autocar Magazine. The bold interior features four seats arranged in a DNA double helix-inspired configuration with pivotal blades housing features like air-conditioning. But the most outrageous feature of this diesel-electric vehicle is a ceiling-mounted camera that monitors the driver’s facial expressions and adjusts the lighting and smell of the car according to the mood.