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RCA Citroen/Exa Double Challenge project

Fri, 11 Feb 2011 00:00:00 -0800

Second year students at the Royal College of Art in London revealed a series of projects at their interim degree show last week.

Developed in collaboration with French automaker Citroen and the Exa Corporation, a leading supplier of aerodynamic software, the Double Challenge project asked students to design an ultra-compact model that could establish a unique Citroën e-vehicle aesthetic for the future, all while adhering to certain aerodynamic criteria that would not only reduce energy consumption and ensure stability at speed, but also visually communicate efficiency through its design.

The project, which kicked off in October last year, was closely followed by representatives from Citroen and Exa, who examined each of the projects and chose a winner, Heikki Juvonen, at the event last week. Car Design News was invited to attend the awards ceremony and view all 16 projects on show.

E-3POD Antistatic
Heikki Juvonen
This ultralight, micro segment, single seat vehicle is "not meant to replace cars, but to be an addition to the family transportation fleet, positioned between bikes and cars," Juvonen told Car Design News. The vehicle's distinctive, aerodynamic styling features two smaller wheels at the front with the driver sitting inside a larger third wheel with an innovative hub-less design. "The goal was to stop the design as been seen as different to cars, but to be seen as its own electric product," said Juvonen, who was awarded a six month contract at PSA's Design Centre in Paris for his efforts. Devoid of complex architecture, the E-3POD is able to bring manufacturing costs down, ensuring affordability.

The Ugly Duckling
James Harness
Harness' Ugly Duckling concept was created as a response to the current vanguard of automotive design, which he says "expresses clichéd proportions" and "subversively distributes the idea of personal superiority and dominance." Instead of creating an aggressive aesthetic, Harness – obviously influenced by past Citroen products – combined two form languages: 80s flat brutalism and more modern organic surfacing. Compact dimensions (2627mm long, 1490mm tall, 1400mm wide) and narrow doors optimize it for use in the city, while its anthropometric proportions also created an aerodynamic ideal, which is further enhanced by narrow, low rolling resistance tires. Inside, the car features a three-seat package where the driver sits centrally at the front with each passenger slightly behind and to either side. As one of the first projects to develop an aero-improved shape whilst keeping the design intent, Harness was commended by Exa for his achievements.

Citroen C-Voile
Elizabeth Pinder
The C-Voile concept is a compact single passenger vehicle that features two modes of operation: a luge mode – where the driver lays down to improve aerodynamics when out of town – and a surf mode, which pivots the glass canopy upwards like a sail. Measuring in at 2150mm long and 1875mm high (when the canopy is fully extended), the concept is devoid of pedals; the rider instead rolls and pitches the deck with his/her feet, as on a surf- or snowboard. The concept also includes a seat what tilts up when in traffic to enhance driver visibility, and a support strut that houses a structural battery cell, which is encased in a soft skin to avoid scratching other vehicles as it overtakes them in traffic. 

Memory Piece
Julliana Cho

Philippe Holland, Responsable Style Graphique at Citroën, described Cho's concept as the car Citroen Design Director Thierry Metroz would most like to see in a "1-1 scale and put in our studio". The concept was commended for being a beautiful 'styling object' that was in-line with the Citroen brand. The chiseled exterior form is efficient, aerodynamic and speaks to a historic Citroen aesthetic – particularly at the rear – while the cabin features a relaxing seating position. Intended for daily commuting – but also fast and fun to drive – the vehicle aims to change the perception of electric cars and couple the driving experience with an approachable recycling system. Cho's aim was to design a vehicle that would create a new history by using parts that have been reformed, offering the possibility to make car parts, furniture, bike parts, accessories and other things from the same materials. 

Citroen C-Flex
Fernando Ocana
With 40 percent of gasoline used in urban areas coming from cars searching for a parking space, Ocana proposes a flexible car that can adapt to different conditions and environments. Aerodynamics would also benefit from this flexibility. Inspired by the French concept of Parkour – specifically the way traceurs use their body to adapt to each different obstacle – Ocana translated this concept of flexibility to the function of mobility. Thanks to an exterior skin made from electro-active memory polymers, the vehicle can change shape depending on how many occupants are in the cabin, thereby improving aerodynamic efficiency. It features in hub electric motors, structural batteries and expansive structures modeled after the Hoberman Sphere. The vehicle is capable of flexing to achieve a better footprint without the perceived concerns about driving a small car (safety, space, lack of exterior presence), exploring new architectures whilst taking advantage of the EV powertrain and layout.

Citroen Egoiste
Ian Kettle
Kettle set out to create a deliberately extreme proportion to draw attention to EVs. Citroen's brand values are communicated through the marque's distinctive chevrons, which are projected behind the vehicle as the it drives past, but also integrated into the bodywork, forming an immediately recognizable link to the French brand when seen in profile. Form development looked at communicating an uncompromising aesthetic, which is unabashedly indulgent and attention seeking. Kettle has achieved this by creating an EV-specific DRG which is not only appealing but also functional, directing air flow to cool the floor-mounted batteries. The vehicle challenges the current paradigm and maximizes the potential of EV architecture.

Citroen Cyto
Ido Baruchin
The Cyto concept is a vehicle that bridges the trust gap caused by intangibility of electricity between user and electric car, Baruchin says. According to its creator, the Cyto visualizes energy flow in an intuitive way to help the driver acquire more efficient driving habits. The concept takes into consideration the unique properties of electricity towards a new honest electric aesthetic and self generates its own electricity via wind turbines. Baruchin optimized the EV's battery cooling by employing Exa's tools to breathe cold air through the carbon fiber structure, while the concept also features regenerative braking for improved efficiency. Users are also able to visualize the energy flow through a digital interface on the instrument panel.

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By Eric Gallina