Often, technology is at its best when it mimics the natural world. Survival of the fittest essentially boils down to tens of millions of years of trial-and-error, whereby the optimal way to do a job wins out over all others. Only the best make the cut. Thus, anyone who can successfully decipher biological design will essentially get straight to the heart of a mechanical ideal.

When it comes to making a vehicle, whether it’s a spaceship, airplane, or a car, saving weight is paramount. If the task at hand is to make something move, weight makes everything more difficult. As such, we have all sorts of innovative materials to shed the pounds. The composite known as carbon fiber is one example. Carbon is known to be extremely lightweight, but also quite rigid, a combo that is perfect for vehicle applications. Aluminum and titanium are also common where every ounce saved is critical, such as in the 2014 McLaren P1.

But beyond materials, what can we do to save weight? What if we instead looked at clever design as well?

That’s what German engineering firm EDAG set out to do with its Light Cocoon concept. “The EDAG designers took a leaf as their inspiration for the ultimate, lightweight outer skin,” EDAG states in a press release. “Just as with a leaf, which has the ideal structure with a lightweight outer skin stretched over it, a textile skin covers the ‘EDAG Light Cocoon’.”

If the idea is to create a shell to encapsulate passengers, then the leaf, which is basically configured to collect as much sunlight as possible with as little heft as possible, should make for some wonderful design pointers.

This car might look strange, but the idea it represents is groundbreaking. Using additive manufacturing, or 3D printing technology, EDAG proposes creating this “compact, dynamic sports car” as an optimized platform for future vehicles. Look for it at the 2015 Geneva Motor Show.

Click past the jump to read more about the EDAG Light Cocoon.

  • 2015 EDAG Light Cocoon
  • Year:
    2015
  • Make:
  • 0-60 time:
    7 sec. (Est.)
  • Top Speed:
    155 mph (Est.)
  • Price:
    100000 (Est.)
  • Price:
  • car segment:
  • body style:

Exterior

2015 EDAG Light Cocoon Computer Renderings and Photoshop Wallpaper quality
- image 585702

At this point, the Light Cocoon is basically just an exterior, and only a rendered one at that. However, it is rather well thought out. The biologically inspired hard structure is combined with a “Texapore Softshell” skin fabric, which is stretched over the underlying skeleton to protect against the elements. As expected, the skin is also exceptionally lightweight: “this extremely strong material is four times lighter than standard copier paper,” states EDAG CTO Jörg Ohlsen in a press release.

While it may appear complex, the design is based on supreme efficiency. EDAG has cut out everything extraneous in the quest for absolute minimalism: “We are pursuing the vision of sustainability – as demonstrated by nature: lightweight, efficient, and without any waste,” says EDAG’s head designer, Johannes Barkmann, in a press release. “The result: the ‘EDAG Light Cocoon’ presents a stable, branch-like load bearing structure from the 3D printer, which only uses material where it is absolutely necessary.”

Interior

While no interior has been outlined, we can imagine the Light Cocoon would come with ample cabin room due to the space-saving outer shell. Reinforcements and pillars would either be at a minimum or completely nonexistent, and with a singular, holistic design, passengers would be able to stretch out with ease. In the interest of saved weight, creature comforts like climate control and sound deadening might be tossed, but those are unnecessary on a sports car anyway.

Drivetrain

With minimal weight, performance should come easily, no matter what drivetrain you drop in. Relatively low power would still pay big dividends. We would imagine an electric motor and battery would be ideal for this application, as it reduces the number of moving parts and continues the theme of minimalism. Of course, you could also put in a hybrid, petrol, diesel, or even hydrogen fuel cell power source, but each of these would significantly clutter the overall design.

Prices

Conceivably, this concept would be quite cheap to produce. Additive manufacturing and a minimal amount of material means actually creating the shell would be easy and efficient, and with only a little power needed to make it move, you could spring for whatever powerplant was most convenient. The hard part is in the design, which is pretty much already done.

Competition

2014 Local Motors Strati

2014 Local Motors Strati Exterior
- image 568626
Meet the Local Motors Strati, the world’s first 3D-printed car.

With its world debut set for the 2015 Geneva Motor Show, the Light Cocoon is still just a rendered idea. The Strati, however, is currently an actual product, which means it gets the nod in my book. Created during a 44-hour stint at the International Manufacturing Technology Show in September 2014, the Strati is a showpiece from Local Motors to demonstrate the power of additive manufacturing in the automotive industry. While the suspension, wiring, battery, and motor that powered it were created via normal manufacturing techniques, everything else was made and assembled on site with a 3D printer and a small team of engineers.

Conclusion

While just a concept, the Light Cocoon is the kind of idea that has the potential to turn the car industry on its head, especially for race applications. Straight-line performance, cornering, braking, and fuel mileage all benefit from saved weight. Less material means cost savings as well. And in a world where ounces and dollars matter, the Light Cocoon might just be onto something.

  • Leave it
    • Only a concept
    • No real details
    • Probably not very crash-worthy

Press Release

The "EDAG Light Cocoon" is not just a concept study of a compact, dynamic sports car, but also an unprecedented projection of the ultimate in future lightweight construction: a complete, bionically optimised vehicle structure combined with a weatherproof textile outer skin panel, which marks a new dimension for lightweight construction and automobile aesthetics: backlight technology illuminates the skeleton-like, organic structure, and brings the "EDAG Light Cocoon" to life.

2015 EDAG Light Cocoon Computer Renderings and Photoshop Wallpaper quality
- image 585702

Also involved in this extraordinary and visionary concept are outdoor specialists Jack Wolfskin. Their outdoor textile "Texapore Softshell" provides ideal weather protection for the "EDAG Light Cocoon".

Following the success of the EDAG GENESIS this spring, engineering specialists EDAG have expanded their vision of a bionically inspired body structure. In order to be able to implement bionic construction principles and natural strategies, additive manufacturing potential has also been put to use in the "EDAG Light Cocoon".

"We are pursuing the vision of sustainability – as demonstrated by nature: lightweight, efficient, and without any waste," explains EDAG’s head designer, Johannes Barckmann. "The result: the ’EDAG Light Cocoon’ presents a stable, branch-like load bearing structure from the 3D printer, which only uses material where it is absolutely necessary."

Instead of treating the body as a closed surface here, any material not actually needed for the special load cases was removed. EDAG’s simulation experts carried out static and dynamic calculations for the basics of this topologically optimised ideal structure, and in this way helped to confirm its suitability as a potential lightweight concept.

The EDAG designers took a leaf as their inspiration for the ultimate, lightweight outer skin. Just as with a leaf, which has an ideal structure with a lightweight outer skin stretched over it, a textile skin covers the "EDAG Light Cocoon". In Jack Wolfskin, outdoor specialists, the ideal project partner was found to supply a tried and tested stretch fabric that is also extremely weatherproof, to serve as the new outer body skin. "Even if it sounds futuristic to begin with, this approach has a its own special appeal: weighing no more than 19 g/m², the Jack Wolfskin material supports maximum lightweight design requirements with minimum weight.
To give you a comparison: this extremely strong material is four times lighter than standard copier paper," points out EDAG CTO Jörg Ohlsen. "Combined with the topologically optimised, additively manufactured structure, it offers enormous potential and stimulus for the ultimate lightweight construction of the future."

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