One of the important events that happens at the LA Auto Show that we are all excited about is the Los Angeles Design Challenge, an annual competition at the LA Auto Show that provides up-and-coming designers with the opportunity to collaborate with an automaker to design a futuristic concept vehicle using a few set requirements. This year, the theme of the challenge is to build a safe and comfortable 2+2 compact car that comes with excellent handling and cutting-edge design and weighs in at no more than 1,000 lbs.
This concept comes from Mercedes-Benz, which, incidentally, was built not far from Los Angeles at the company’s US design headquarters in Carlsbad, California. The vehicle is called the Biome Concept and is described as a vehicle that “grows in a completely organic environment from seeds sown in a nursery”. In layman’s terms, the Biome Concept is pretty much an organic hybrid that was created in complete symbiosis with nature, producing its own oxygen and contributing to the improvement of air quality.
UPDATE 11/26/2010: When the designs for the Los Angeles Design Challenge were entered, no one really expected any of them to see production, but, according to Autocar, Mercedes is looking into using the BIOME Concept as the inspiration for their mid-engined supercar. Mercedes is planning on revealing the concept vehicle in 2015 as a competitor to BMW’s Vision EfficientDynamics’ eco-supercar.
Now, we don’t expect the production version to follow the same path as the concept’s creation – nobody’s silly enough to believe that Mercedes can grow the production version from “seeds” as how the concept is supposedly born – but according to Hubert Lee, the man heading Mercedes’ California design studio where the BIOME was conceptualized, certain elements of the concept could be translated to the production version. “We were conscious during its development to ensure it wasn’t too limited or edgy,” he said.
“It had to be do-able without any significant changes.”
Mercedes chose to bring the CLS 63 AMG to the 2010 Los Angeles Auto Show where they also chose to announce some other plans currently cooking in the Mercedes kitchen.
Ola Kallenius, head of AMG at Mercedes-Benz, announced that the company plans to develop new models that will be placed under the current C-Class. However, they are not talking about models like the A- and B-Class because these models do not exactly fit in the AMG portfolio. One thing is for sure, Mercedes is bringing in a smaller model, and it will be coming in three to four years and will be powered by a smaller engine than the current 5.5 liter V8.
Kallenius didn’t stop there either as the AMG top dog also revealed that the company is planning to incorporate hybrid technology into its product mix. There will also be two Black Series model set to be revealed in the near future, one of which will probably be the Black Series version of the C-Class that was recently caught testing.
Wait, there’s more. Kallenius also confirmed that there will be several SLS AMG versions launched in the next years. These guys really can’t keep any secrets, can they?
Honda has unveiled the Fit EV Concept at the Los Angeles Auto Show. The concept features an all-new plug-in hybrid platform that will be used in Honda’s next-generation, two-motor hybrid technology set to debut in 2012.
The new Fit EV concept is powered by a high-density motor that combines a lithium-ion battery and coaxial electric motor, derived from the FCX Clarity fuel cell electric vehicle. This powertrain uses an innovative 3-mode electric drive system which allows the driver to select between Econ, Normal, and Sport to instantly and seamlessly change the driving experience to maximize efficiency or improve acceleration.
The new Honda Fit EV provides an autonomy of 100 miles when fully charged. Battery recharging can be accomplished in less than 12 hours when using a conventional 120-volt outlet, and less than six hours when using a 240-volt outlet.
The EV version is distinguished by unique LED headlights, a chrome front fascia, aerodynamic bumper, clear LED taillights and EV decals. And of course an exclusive Deep Clear Blue Pearl exterior color.
The LA Design Challenge is one of the unquestioned highlights of the LA Auto Show with different automakers showing off their newly-designed concepts that are made based on a “theme” set by the organizers.
This year, the theme was “addressing society’s shift toward minimizing consumption of the earth’s resources by envisioning an efficient, light-weight, four passenger vehicle with a weight limit of 1,000 lbs that is both comfortable and safe, while delivering satisfactory driving performance without sacrificing the styling consumers demand."
Turns out, when it came time to decide on a winner, the judges had such a hard time picking between the Cadillac Aera Concept and the Smart 454 WWT Concept that they just decided to award the top prize to the two cars.
According to the judges, picking a winner was about as hard as it has been in recent years considering the quality of work that was entered. "Deciding this year’s Design Challenge winner was a tremendously difficult decision as the quality of entries has increased throughout the years," the Design Los Angeles judges said. "This year’s winners – the Cadillac Aera and the smart 454 WWT – offer two very different visions of the 1,000 lb. Car, yet are equally as amazing. They are both very expressive of their brand; GM is art and science and smart is playful and fun."
Two winners, huh? Can’t say we saw that coming. While we did think that the Aera was a front-runner, we didn’t expect the smart 454 WWT to actually go home with equal-billing in the top step of the podium.
For what it’s worth, the Smart 454 by Weight Watch Technologies is probably the cutest yet most perplexing entry to the 2010 LA Design Challenge. The billing alone pretty much describes what to expect from the concept vehicle: “West coast fun and innovation meets German technology, design and grannies’ hand knit socks.”
Never though we’d live to see the phrases “West coast fun” and “grannies’ hand knit socks” in the same sentence. In any case, the Smart 454 by Weight Watch Technologies is smart’s official entry to the 2010 LA Design Challenge.
Keeping line with this year’s theme of envisioning an efficient, lightweight 2+2 car that takes into account the growing shift in building vehicles while minimizing consumption of the earth’s resources, the smart 454 uses a Tridion-frame chassis that’s apparently knitted out of carbon fiber by what the company is calling “Smart Granny Robots”. Go figure. Each individual part of the car uses a different material to give each piece a unique set of properties like weight and function. For the windows, fenders, and bumpers, Smart opted to use recyclable plastics while touching them up with ingrained colors. Meanwhile, the 454’s roof uses a thin, but extremely durable textile that boasts of its own different prints and weavings. Probably the work of the granny robots, we think.
The wheels of the 454 WWT are likewise made from carbon fiber with an integrated suspension and with the help of SGR technology, the wheels come equipped with some snazzy and lightweight rims.
Then there’s the matter of assembling and dissembling the car without breaking any sweat. Thanks to a modular “clip-on” construction principal, materials like the doors, the roof, the engine, and even the drive train, become extremely easy to remove or exchange, making the 454 WWT a car that can be customized for any occasion, including granny’s knitting session.
We’ve saved the best for last as the Cadillac Aera has won the 2010 LA Design Challenge! You only need to take one look at this concept car and it becomes painfully obvious that Batman would have scooped one up to add to his list of Bat rides. This is the Cadillac Aera, an amalgamation of Cadillac’s philosophy of “Art and Science” that dives into a whole new world of innovative and ultra lightweight vehicles. Realistically speaking, the chances of ever seeing a car like this at your local Starbucks are as probable as winning 100 lotteries in a single year. Unfortunate, we know.
As General Motors’ entry to the 2010 LA Design Challenge, the Cadillac Aera is a ridiculously lightweight – it weighs 1,000 lbs - 2+2 coupe that takes the boundaries of automotive design and pushes it to levels that are reserved for sci-fi movies.
Taking into consideration the Design Challenge’s requirements of building an efficient, lightweight 2+2 vehicle - weighing no more than 1,000 lbs - that minimizes consumer dependence on natural resources, the Aera’s body is made from a highly advanced structure that uses a 3D lattice, mono-formed frame, a structure that’s eerily similar to configurations found in nature like in the grouping of bubbles. The structure is formed through an alloy utilizing, semi-solid freeform manufacturing that creates a strong yet lightweight frame that’s grown into a single part lattice structure.
Subaru came to the Los Angeles Auto Show packed with a concept version of the next generation Impreza. The concept looks to be leaner and meaner than the current Impreza and rides along with Subaru’s Symmetrical All Wheel Drive.
The exterior features a hexagonal grille with spread wings in the center and hawk eye-style headlights. The hood, grille, and headlights were designed to project three-dimensional character. The rear gets a garnish that radiates outward from the center, sharp-edged rear lights, and new taillamp.
The interior is defined by a theme of "Dynamic, Enticing, Secure." The smooth integration of the instrument panel with the door trim and armrests suggests sporty yet comfortable driving. The roomy platinum-leather four-seat layout envelops occupants. Dark blue piping and double stitching accent the leather. A "layered" approach to color, with the upper part light platinum and the lower part a shade darker, gives the interior a feeling of spaciousness and sophistication.
The concept is powered by a 2.0-liter naturally aspirated Boxer engine mated to a Lineartronic™ Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT).
Updated 11/19/2010: Subaru has just unveiled a pretty cool video of their Impreza Concept, as well as a new series of images. Check them out in our picture gallery. Enjoy!
Toyota has always prided itself on being an industry leader when it comes to building eco-friendly vehicles that not only look past the current norms of today’s industry, but challenge them to address the growing need of building economical and efficient yet technologically advanced vehicles. This year, the LA Design Challenge, an annual fixture at the LA Auto Show, is looking for the best concept that addresses these specific needs; to build a lightweight car while minimizing the dependence on using natural resources.
You could say that Toyota is right at their element with this year’s competition and they’re bringing a concept vehicle that answers all of the event’s requirements.
Calling it the NORI Concept, Toyota envisioned its concept as a car that infuses cutting-edge technology with the emissions and fuel economy standards set up by the contest’s guidelines. To prove its point, Toyota built the NORI concept with a unique podular feature wherein the car’s body and its chassis are built as one instead of two separate parts, making it stronger, lighter, and aesthetically more appealing. As a supplemental energy, the NORI concept harnesses solar technology that’s captured through solar cells woven into the concept’s PODULAR, serving as energy back-up should the situation call for it. The podular body is also strengthened using ‘nori’ to create bioplastics technology while combining it with carbon fiber weave to create a sturdy body that can withstand the environment. The specific use of ‘nori’ – in Japanese, it means “seaweed” – reduces the vehicle’s weight.
Described as a super-lightweight sports tourer that showcases organic synthesis, the Nissan iV is an innovative zero-emissions vehicle that fits into Nissan’s vision of seeing a world where green energy infrastructures have matured and become their own self-sustaining system.
As Nissan’s official entry into the LA Design Challenge, the iV is the offspring of both nature’s intelligent beauty and the minds and hands of human ingenuity. Contrary to how cars are currently built, the iV’s parts are cultivated similar to how it’s done today in agriculture using a sustainable, carbon-neutral process.
Nissan is keeping line with the requirements of this year’s LA Design Challenge – an emphasis on building lightweight vehicles while minimizing the consumption of our planet’s resources – building the iV Concept using an interwoven organic frame with the chassis material – a fast-growing ivy and re-enforced with spider silk composite - being synthetically grown and formed to turn into a piece of strong yet extremely lightweight aerodynamic body. The vehicle’s interior, which seats four people, is made from photovoltaic material that remarkably weighs 99% less than standard glass.
The iV Concept also has a slim bio-battery that provides the car with tremendous stability and driving range that works through a regenerative super-capacitor technology, recouping as much as 60% of kinetic energy used by the vehicle.
Nissan also outfitted the iV Concept with state-of-the-art safety features, including the brand’s Safety Shield program that prevents collisions from happening and greatly reduces the weight of the vehicle by taking out a number of parts standard in today’s cars, including bumpers, airbags, and even beams.
Using the age-old adage that ‘less is more’ Nissan’s iV concept is the perfect example of a vehicle that inspires a future where cars are known less for their gas-guzzling ways but more for their unbridled efficiency, both in aesthetics and in performance.