I have written about concept cars twice before. First up was GM, whose car concepts sucked in a kind of general way, but weren’t really inherently impossible.
Then there was the list of concept cars on Walyou, which were picked solely (as far as I can tell) because the person who wrote the article is eleven years old and thought they were cool, despite having literally no filter for what reality is and how it applies to things like the whole entire world and also cars.
This time, it’s Inhabitat. Inhabitat is a website that claims that “green design will change the world,” and as such they all get massive collective boners over anything that claims to be remotely earth-conscious, even if it isn’t actually green or is, you know, physically impossible.
Anyway, Inhabitat was at the LA Auto Show in October, where car manufacturers were challenged to make cars that would be “comfortable, stylish, and safe,” weigh no more than 1,500 pounds, and run on renewable fuels. Here are their favorites.
1. The Honda Air
Up first is the contender from Honda, the Air.
Now, the Air is supposed to be cool because it’s designed to run on compressed air rather than gasoline. It is therefore completely clean, zero-emissions, and renewable. But already we run into problems. First, you have to compress the air. That takes electricity, and unless the electricity comes from renewable sources, you’re defeating the point of taking the gas out. Second, the compressed air in the car has to be at absurdly high pressures. For that you’ll need heavy-duty tanks and hoses, and those are heavy. And when you release compressed air, it’ll make a devilish hissing noise like you’re being chased by a billion snakes. Seriously. But it gets worse.
Imagine you crash.
This car only weighs 800 pounds. It doesn’t say anything about what it’s made of, but you can imagine it doesn’t have a lot of superfluous material. Carbon fiber, titanium, and plastic. And a compressed air explosion is ferociously powerful. If you want a demonstration, here’s a video of a dry ice bomb blowing the living shit out of a water cooler. That’s compressed carbon dioxide technically, but the effect will be the same, and that was just enough pressure to break a soda bottle. Imagine the kind of tank that would be in this car getting ruptured in a collision. The explosion would be fucking cataclysmic. And it’s not like you can hide the tank in a safe place like they do with car gas tanks, because THE CAR’S TINY AND WEIGHS 800 POUNDS. There is nowhere to hide . . .
2. The Nissan iV
Let me share with you a quote from the Inhabitat article about the Nissan iV.
This stunning vehicle from Nissan is designed to be manufactured from a unique biopolymer frame.
That’s great, and it is very cool-looking, but it does beg the question of what in the name of all that is holy you are talking about. Biopolymer? Like plastic made from plants? I suppose rubber is a biopolymer, but surely you’re not proposing to make the bodywork of a car out of rubber, right?
The frame will be constructed from a form of fast-growing ivy and a spider silk composite.
Oh that’s much better. Vines and spiderwebs. I was going to make a joke about how it’s held together with spit and prayers, but honestly that’s so close to the actual design that it wouldn’t be funny. Here’s a rendering of the unpainted design.
That’s clearly wood, not ivy and silk, so I’m not sure who fucked that up. But still, we have the same problem.
There’s a term in the auto industry known as “model bloat,” describing how a given car gets bigger over time, as it gets more and more features and stuff. Some of it’s superfluous, like seat motors and GPS, but most of it is safety related. Better crumple zones, room for airbags, stiffer construction, etc. That’s why the current VW Golf is twenty inches longer, seven inches wider, four inches taller, and twelve hundred pounds heavier than its 1974 counterpart. Now granted, there’s been a lot of innovation in materials in the last 35 years, but people still die in today’s cars. You can’t make a safe car in such a spartan fashion, and even if you can, it sure as shit won’t be with fucking ivy.
3. The Volvo Air Motion
This seems reasonable, as Volvo is bound to be. Reasonable, that is, for a tiny race car. It’s supposed to be powered by compressed air, just like the Honda (you can tell by their shared originality in naming them), which I don’t think will ever be a viable means of car propulsion, but on the other hand, look at it. It seems pretty structurally solid, given the right materials. It even holds four people, although the two in the back are facing backwards and therefore not welcome to participate in conversations with the front seat people. It doesn’t have a windshield, so you’ll need helmets, and it doesn’t have much room for stuff, but it could be a fun weekend driver. It is not, however, big enough to drive the kids to school in, or get groceries, or anything like that. And there’s the issue of power, which no one seems to bring up with these hyperlight cars. If my car weighs 4300 pounds and four people get in it, it’s 14% heavier. If the car weighs 800 pounds and we all pile in, it’s 75% heavier. That’s going to seriously fuck up your performance. But all in all, not a bad contender.
4. The Cadillac Aera
Continuing the trend of cars that might make sense in some context maybe is the Aera (they are really hammering the whole “air” thing). Now, I was going to put up a picture, but there are two in the same article and they are definitely not the same car. Observe.
It’s feasible for all the same reasons as the Volvo, and I almost wanted to like it. Hell, Cadillac even managed to keep it within their design language. But then this popped up.
Its advanced body structure uses “a polyhedral, 3D lattice, mono-formed frame with a flexible pressurized polymer skin for body panels and glass.”
Pause for a second to absorb that. All of those words are made up. “Polyhedral” means bounded by sides, which is meaningless, “3D lattice” means nothing in that context, and “pressurized polymer skin” is clearly fancy concept car speak for “we have no idea what the fuck we’d make this out of, so we’ll invent words.” Also it’s supposed to have a range of 1,000 miles, but I don’t even care because they obviously just threw that number out there in the press conference.
5. The Mercedes Biome
This is where shit gets crazy. That picture above is just a drawing because Mercedes is clearly not taking this seriously and just wants to be in the news, so they hired someone’s teenage daughter to spit out something typically concept-y. Looking at it, it’s no more ridiculous than any of the others, but just you wait.
One of the most innovative designs of the whole auto show, the Mercedes-Benz Biome would be ‘grown’ instead of manufactured.
I don’t think these people actually hear themselves when they talk. I really don’t. You’re going to grow a car? Ignoring the impossibility of making them uniform, A CAR MADE OF WOOD WON’T FUCKING WORK. Even the fastest growing woods would take years to churn out one of those, and hardwoods (like ones strong enough not to be pulverized into toothpicks in a collision) would take hundreds. HUNDREDS. And they’re heavy as shit. Plus, no creature has ever grown glass or wheels naturally ever, how exactly are you going to do that?
The car company have envisioned a world where “each vehicle is grown from two seeds.” One seed, the front star, grows the interior of the vehicle from Mercedes-Benz DNA, while the seed capsule creates the vehicle’s exterior.
THEN THE CAR COMPANY IS ON EVERY DRUG KNOWN TO MAN. That makes even less sense than the previous stuff.
How are you going to get a seed capsule to go from the size of a seed to the size and shape of a car? How are you going to make a plant grow in the shape of comfortable seating? How are you going to power it, is it just going to grow its own engine too?
Not just that, but the organic material from which it is made would absorb solar energy like a plant does.
Now you’re just fucking with me. It’s going to photosynthesize? And then rather than just sprouting more growth like every other plant ever, it’ll turn the wheels it somehow has, based on how hard you’re pushing the naturally grown throttle? WE DON’T KNOW HOW TO CREATE ARTIFICIAL PHOTOSYNTHESIS. WE AS A SPECIES DON’T KNOW HOW TO DO ANYTHING LIKE THIS AT ALL. This is so fundamentally insane and impossible (note the sci-fi buildings in the picture) that I don’t even know where to start. I honestly think that these pictures were the entirety of the effort that Mercedes put into this contest. They just don’t care. I think I need to move on to the next car. Maybe it’ll help.
6. The Maybach Den-Riki-Sha
Or maybe not. But hold on, at least it’s in an enclosed space. The wheels look a little fragile, but it’s powered by an electric motor, which is a real thing, so that puts it a step ahead of everyone else already. I assume it’s assembled like any other car?
Maybach’s egg-shaped vehicle is been designed to be the world’s first naturally manufactured vehicle (NMV), as it would be born from a coded DNA cocoon.