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U.A.S Graz-BMW partnership project

Mon, 19 Jul 2010 00:00:00 -0700

The University of Applied Sciences in Graz, Austria (U.A.S Graz) has collaborated with BMW, Munich on a project to design ‘the new SUV'.

"Today's SUVs are very heavy, have an aggressive appearance and use too much fuel", says Prof. Gerhard Heufler, head of Industrial Design department at U.A.S Graz. The prospect of developing innovative solutions to this issue caught the interest of BMW Group Design director, Adrian van Hooydonk.

Five groups consisting of three students in their sixth term worked with BMW designers, Jürgen Haussmann and Gerhard Friedrich on their designs over this year's spring term.

The groups each developed their own meaning of the term SUV, which very quickly changed from Sport Utility Vehicle to Sustainable, Smart or Safety Utility Vehicle during the analysis workshop run by Gerald Steiner.

In order to address the issue of environmental harm, the team of students behind AIRE looked to a clean compressed air propulsion system for their proposal. The SAV (Sustainable Air Vehicle) shows how a vehicle with this technology could look in future. Low weight and efficiency as well as powerful and dynamic forms are key features of the design. AIRE aims to maintain the advantages of a conventional SAV such as its high H-point and ruggedness and placing them in a new context.

The group of students responsible for Authis Gene wanted to create a genuine BMW, with the ability to make every journey a pleasure for the driver in scenarios as diverse as freeway cruising and exploring remote off-road tracks. The reconfigurable car morphs its stance and appearance by adjusting its ride height and articulating its streamlined body fairings over its roof to reveal a rugged substructure.

BMW Smart Unique Versatile modern performance concept
The most striking feature of this project is its retractable tonneau cover, which offers a fully open driving experience when retracted and an unusual, sculptural aesthetic when closed thanks to its lack of bodywork above the shoulder line. Its mobile panels are a visual representation of what the team describe as "the versatile character of BMW", while its unique appearance places emphasis on exclusivity.

The BMW Nexus adapts to its driver's individual character over time to create a strong connection between the user and the product itself. The aim is to give its owner genuine exclusivity and encourage more responsible use through this personal connection. The design team identified that consumption is an end in itself and a clear differentiation of premium products has become increasingly difficult. Their project questions and reinterprets general ideas such as luxury. The Nexus is a translucent and lightweight construction, whose product-like appearance clearly disassociates it from conventional SUVs and communicates a new, sustainable lifestyle.

Three junior designers took a close look at the issue of safety and worked out a new car concept with special attention to pedestrian protection. The open bodywork is made of three layers that can contract like a flower and allow better aerodynamics. The flower analogy gives the car a kind and trustworthy expression as well as referencing the stratified surfacing of the BMW Vision EfficientDynamics concept car.

Students at U.A.S Graz currently study for four years, making this the equivalent of a Masters-level project. The Masters project begins this year and will change to a five year system in 2011, which will include three years of undergraduate study and two years at Masters level.

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