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Design Contest: LA Design Challenge 2008

Wed, 22 Oct 2008

The entrants for the fifth annual Design Challenge, part of the Design Los Angeles automobile designers' conference, have now been announced. Nine Southern California automotive design studios - including Audi, BMW, GM, Honda, Mazda, Mitsubishi, Mercedes-Benz, Toyota and Volkswagen - have been pitted against one another and asked to develop a concept which best answers a brief entitled 'Motorsports in 2025'.

"Automotive designers have always been fascinated with motorsports and this year's Design Challenge has provided them with the opportunity to use their creative talent to look at these cars with new eyes, using innovative technologies and approaches," said Chuck Pelly, director of Design Los Angeles and partner in The Design Academy, Inc. "This adds to the excitement, interest and personal involvement in the sport that has thrilled people of all ages for many years...and many more years to come." 

This year's Motorsports 2025 Design Challenge entries include:

Audi R25
Produced at Audi of America Design Center California, the Audi R25 was developed for the high-velocity banks and tunnels of the ALMS 2025. It incorporates innovative aerodynamic features micro-control surfaces which optimize airflow during the race. A Man-Machine Interface inputs all vehicle data output into the driver's helmet visor and all-around dynamic sensors and integrated real-time data cameras allow for spectator interaction.

BMW Salt Flat Racer
Conceived at BMW Group DesignworksUSA, this hydrogen-powered concept reuses existing, ordinary and mundane materials such as old oil barrels and BBQ lids as main components for the body and wheel discs. The concept's wheels are gel-nylon for necessary flex, allowing tires to be airless and re-vulcanized or re-treaded. Goldfish 'co-pilots' ensure that the vehicle is running clean emissions.

GM Chaparral Volt
Created by General Motors' Advanced Design team, the Chaparral Volt collects and generates its own energy from three different clean, renewable and abundant California resources: Earth, Wind and Fire. Designed for the 2025 revival of the LA Times Grand Prix, the concept creates an entirely new category of racing - the eco-triathlon.

Honda Great Race 2025
The team at Honda's R&D North America developed this concept to compete in a race around the world, first initiated in 1908. Though the 17 pioneers took six months to complete the 22,000 mile race, this concept's sonar/echolocation sensors (which enable the car to detect changes in speed, terrain, and altitude) allow it to switch to any configuration and circumnavigate the globe in 24 hours.

Mazda Kaan
Mazda R&D of North America created this electric E1 race car with a patented electronic tire system, which sources power through California's electro-conductive polymer-surfaced freeways. Inspiration for the Kaan came from electric fields and textures seen in nature, particularly those in a lightning bolt. The entire car is designed around these electric wheels, while the cockpit acts as a capsule to safely house the driver, allowing for tighter peloton formations. 

Mercedes-Benz Formula Zero Racer
Mercedes-Benz Advanced Design of North America devised their own take on luxury racing with the Formula Zero Racer. Incorporating the thrill of F1 racing, the track dynamics of the bobsled or luge, and the grace and efficiency of yacht racing, the concept is loaded with technology designed to extract the maximum thrust from the electric hub motors,  and includes an aero-efficient solar skin and high-tech rigid sail.

Mitsubishi MMR25
Jon Hull at Mitsubishi's R&D of North America developed this multi-terrain concept with omnidirectional wheels.  It consists of eight independently-controlled motors, allowing for '8 x 4-wheel drive' so that the car can be driven forward while pointing in any direction. The MMR25 also uses special Oblique Aerodynamics to give the vehicle aero advantages.

Toyota LeMans Racer
Designers at the Japanese automaker's Calty Design Research facility created the ultimate race car that never needs to stop. Powered by highly efficient hydrogen fuel cell electric motors, each of its body panels is embedded with photovoltaic panels to supply electricity when extra energy is needed. The cockpit is a completely digital environment with a display enhanced by virtual reality, computer trajectory plotting, collision avoidance assistance and a robot co-pilot.

Volkswagen BioRunner
The work of designers at Volkswagen of America Design Center, the BioRunner features a motorcycle-like saddle inside a protective cage from which the rider operates controls attached to the hands and feet. These controls manipulate all wheels via synthetic muscle-based suspension, which offers unparalleled control and traction. The vehicle also boasts an Arial Reconnaissance Drone (AR-D) which feeds video to the driver when visibility is limited.

Entries will be judged by Tom Matano of San Francisco's Academy of Art University, Imre Molner of Detroit's College for Creative Studies and Stewart Reed of Pasadena's Art Center College of Design. Daniel Simon, an established car designer and founder of Cosmic Motors, is the special guest judge this year. Visit the link below to read our review of Simon's first book: Cosmic Motors - Spaceships, Cars and Pilots of Another Galaxy.

The winning design will be announced at the Design Los Angeles conference Nov. 20 at the Los Angeles Auto Show. Be sure to check back with us then for the results.

By Eric Gallina