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Design Development: Kumho Epoch concept

Mon, 19 Nov 2007 00:00:00 -0800

The Epoch project is a concept you wouldn't normally expect from a tire manufacturer. Inspired by the company's success in this year's Le Mans 24 hour race, Kumho decided to employ its conceptual abilities to create their version of an environmentally-friendly Le Mans car of the future.

Designed around innovative tire technology, the 'blue sky' Epoch eco-friendly racing car is the first in a series of concept vehicles set to be developed by Kumho over the next few years. Built as a showcase for the company's engineering ability and creative resources, the Epoch concept "illustrates the creative technological ability we have as a company," Kumho's in-house designer Rob Dolton told Car Design News in an exclusive interview.

"Our main goal was to explain what we think about current issues in the auto industry as a whole," said Dolton, a Coventry University graduate who worked for Fiat Advanced Design in Turin before joining Kumho in 2005. He is now the only vehicle designer to be employed within the tire industry and has been specifically retained by Kumho's European Technical Centre in Birmingham to explore future technologies for road and track vehicles and the tires they run on.

"Tier 1 suppliers will become essential in creating greener vehicles in the future," said Dolton. "It's up to us to come up with interesting ideas for the future to show customers creatively and technologically what we think."

The revolutionary single-seater looks 20 to 30 years ahead into the future and is brimming with green credentials. Its chassis is grown from bamboo, thereby providing an immediate carbon offset, while its lightweight body panels are formed from recycled tire tread rubber. At all four corners are exposed wheels powered by magnetic levitation (Maglev) units positioned within the wheel hubs. And, as you'd expect from a tire manufacturer, the Epoch also features EAP (Electro Active Polymer) tire technology, which allows the tread and even the shape of the tires to be altered by simply passing an electric current through the rubber. Magnets have been strategically placed on the hubs and within the wheel rims to alter the characteristics of the tire to suit different tastes and conditions. Even the car's interior benefits from Kumho's scented 'aroma' rubber available for certain cars and SUVs.

The exterior design of the vehicle is a simple in surface form and detailing and will be used as a calling card for Kumho's new design-focused product development, conveying the enjoyable experience that the vehicle offers the user. "I was very keen to move away from overpowered, heavyweight sports cars and embody the spirit of vehicles such as the Lotus Elise and in many ways the original Fiat 500 Abarth," said Dolton.

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By Eric Gallina