It’s a covered bike that you can’t push over, on account of it having Segway-style balancing smarts… though personally, I think I’d have just added another wheel, so a) there’s more room and b) it won’t fall over when the battery dies.
I’d make it a full Aptera in other words.
Looks pretty cool though – not quite a teapot car… though possibly a teapot-car designed by Apple, cut in half.
Looks like they’re semi-crowdfunding as well… or at least there’s an option to pre-order… though from the look of the glossy pics, they’ve got a fair bit of money behind them already.
They’ve also got Amory Lovins on the board… so there’s a pretty good chance this one could go off. If they take my advice though (and they won’t, no one ever does), they should pilot it somewhere like Niue…
… because innovation on this scale in first-world countries happens in spite of our governments, not because of them – and to launch something like this you’ll need about a billion dollars to get through the red tape. Launch in a Favela somewhere (not that Niue is that exactly… it’s a low-crime-zone) and your biggest problem is slowness of supply-chain. What you won’t have though, are regulations set up so only massive corporations can play.
So that’s my advice. Similar to tax-havens, I’m 1/2-expecting the emergence of innovation-havens, where govt/corporate sclerosis, and the mental-illness known as “IP” is deliberately held at bay.
Someone, somewhere else said that a possible future pattern is a drift away from “nations” (which are a relatively new phenomena in any case) back to City States… so I’m kindof imagining a city-state on an island.
It’s hard to imagine this ending well actually… though maybe islands of sanity will catalyse sanity elsewhere.
Now these may look like Messerschmitts from back in the day, but apparently (when they finally get them going) you’ll be able to upload your own images which will be utterly brilliant because I’ll be able to put my face on them, to match my wallpaper.
Or maybe I’ll use the same design philosophy that I used for my custom swearbot from last year.
God I can’t wait for the future. It’s going to be so great that I’m going to have to spend the whole time having a nice quiet lie down to recover. I’ll have to wear shades.
… which is like taking the scenic route to staying exactly where you are. Waste of time… but not a waste of petrol.
I quite like this because although the solar thing on the back is pretty massive… it does keep the thing going (with some help with the windmill) all day. And most of us don’t drive all day… so it isn’t entirely inconceivable that with twice as many solar panels (the price of which are going through the floor) that we could drive about for free. Give or take a parking ticket or two (note that this design has been craftily tweaked to make it impossible to wheel-clamp)
True, the speed is probably about 2 miles an hour, and you’re practically sitting in the other guy’s pocket… but… in an urban context, the 2 miles an hour is how fast cars go anyway, and besides, maybe if cars were lighter and slower, they wouldn’t kill as many people. They’d also be a hell of a lot cheaper, which would mean you could afford them without an utterly unsustainable western cost of living.
although it IS a concept, and concepts annoy me, is that it looks like it’s made out of the same stuff that bike-frames are made out of… and it’s done in such a transparent way, that people can fix/adapt it themselves without having to spend a billion dollars on R&D.
If you took this one, tipped the props into the vertical so they became wheels, then put a shell over it like the Swedish car at the beginning, then you’d have the beginnings of a winner I think. You’d probably need a bigger power/pack and a hell of a lot more motor-gubbins, but you get the idea.
I’m not that interested in cars that are pitched at 20th Century markets. The imagination for that one has been stagnant for the last 30 years, and the whole thing has been an exercise in sustaining (the unsustainable) status-quo with incremental innovations. It’s all so Microsoft. What we need is Linux. We need to rewrite the kernal, starting with the business model.
See… if a load of… “enthusiasts” get together to design a car, the last thing they come up with is a teapot. What they produce instead is something specifically designed to fight other cars… and they call it The Rally Fighter.
Local Motors, who crowd-source (to an extent) the designs of their output have put together something… and for about $2 million dollars (which is peanuts apparently) made a machine that people will actually want… although by “people” they mean the American Off-Road Rally Market… who can afford $50,000.
These days… undecided… but it’s probably a good thing, because I’m gradually coming to the very definite conclusion that the biggest problem that humanity has is top-down control… and while 2 million/50,000 still looks pretty expensive to me, it does mean that you don’t need to be a corporation the size of GM to do it… and it’s companies like GM and their deliberate sabotage of renewables that have created a large number of the problems we face today – whether they be wars in oily countries, or a sky gone so oily that the ice-caps are melting
Someone pointed out recently that the only types of electric vehicles that seem to get designed are teapots, or supercars. I wonder… if cars are evolving into two different sexes? Not that women necessarily only like teapot cars mind… but… I have noticed that they quite like cars that look like bugs or little (big) animals.
Anyway. The car above is definitely a bloke car… a 15 year-old bloke car – which is to say, it’s designed to impress other boys, rather than women.
Here’s an interesting look into the thinking that creates the innumerable number of electric teapot cars that designers seem hell-bent on designing.
You know what’s coming almost immediately… as soon as you read “we set out to design a concept car in search of an optimistic new future”, you know… “Oh great. It’s going to look like a teapot”.
There are so many of these that I’ve made an entire category for them – but it’s interesting to see the work… the thinking that goes into designing something that more or less misses the entire point of cars – designed by people who really don’t understand what they’re about. They don’t understand sex. They don’t understand romance… and they don’t understand that cars are really all about both, even though the reality is 1000 miles away.
And it’s not about looking out the side, it’s about looking out the front.
Leaving aside the general principle, “If a headline ends with a question-mark, the answer is always ‘No’”, it’s kindof an irrelevant question anyway. It’s about as relevant as asking “Is the Model-T the Brewster of Cars”.
No… because the (demographic) market for carriages was rendered irrelevant by the market for cars… and the same thing will apply (I suspect) in turn, for the horseless-carriages we now know and love.
It isn’t about Western consumers. Western consumers are irrelevant… it’s about the massively growing middle class of countries like India, China and possibly various parts of South America. If you’re still designing vehicles for people who can afford $40,000 then you belong to the past.
As an aside, when I was looking for names of famous carriage-makers, I came across this:
Studebaker, who started out making carriages, actually made an electric car slightly over 100 years ago… and while it is a bit teapotty, it isn’t that much more teapotty than the timid offerings that are turning up today.
So. Main-stream car-designers have lost it. Do any of them even drive?
Here are a couple of fundamental truths that they all seem to miss with a studious vengeance:
1) Cars don’t (just) solve a transport problem, they solve a privacy problem.
2) Cars also solve an identity problem – generally where sex meets territoriality.
A car is a piece of territory… and (similarly to the way single people in the west all now sleep in double beds) it is a piece of territory that says “I am big and strong enough to share with a mate”. To sleep in a single bed is infantalising… to drive in a one-seater car? People aren’t going to do it… and that is why the new offering from VW probably isn’t going to catch on:
Not just because it looks like a death-trap which has considerately been designed to double as a coffin, but because your imaginary girlfriend will have to sit behind you (carrying a pot on her head). They hate that. I know.
Go stand at the side of a motorway… preferably one of those ones where there’s a special lane for people who have more than one person in the car… how many of those cars look like teapots? How many cars aren’t using the fast lane because there is only one person in the car?
Think that’s an accident?
It’s not… it’s a deliberate behaviour. Being in the car is the only time an awful lot of people get to be themselves… get to be on their own. They can sing, they can talk to themselves… and so on. Go sit on a London tube in the commute-time (assuming you can sit, which you can’t). What’s the worst thing about being there? It’s being too close to too many other people… and it’s etched into the lines of every single face you see.
So anyway… this is how I see this going. This:
Crossed with this:
ie: favela-chic meets 21st Century design, with echos of the 1920s… but with a radically different business-model because Americans are no longer the market.
Something that says “Sex”. Something that says “21st Century”.
It needs to be
1) Car as Platform. It’s not a finished product, it’s a set of techniques, materials, designs, philosophies that people can adapt to local conditions, using local materials. For this to happen…
2) The individual subsystems need to be de-coupled. It needs to be electric-capable. Pedal-capable. “burning stuff” capable. Increased efficiency means the ability to eliminate entire subsystems… and the ability to do so without rebuilding every single part of the machine is crucial
3) Detachable brain. ie: Your iPhone is the dashboard.
Or your netbook, or whatever. The point is to create a possibility for turning as many problems as possible into software problems… because we’re pretty good at software, and the barriers to entry are very low.
4) It will probably need to be a 3 wheeler to get around laws that favour big corporations.
5) Easily sourceable, swappable parts. I’m talking bicycle wheels. Crap is better. The line of fastest propagation… a bit like the reprap approach – minimum vitamin parts.
There have been some tantalizingly close passes at this… nearly. Almost. We’re gradually inching towards it, but no one that I’m aware of has approached this with anything like direct-intent. Here are a bunch of random examples etc.
Pros: Complete elimination of various subsystems, eg: gears, brakes, axels
Cons: looks like a teapot. Also bigger than the doors of the building that it was built inside. Engineering students as well. Bless. I imagine they’ll probably teach that in the second year.
Dutch Recumbent bicycle with electric assist variant.
Pros: Looks pretty cool. Made of bike parts. Electric capable, pedalable
Cons: Single-seater so there’s no room for your imaginary girlfriend, Big invisible sign saying “EAT ME” to trucks etc.
Closer though. The company website has all the hallmarks of a company that’s like, died though. Notices saying “coming soon” from last year don’t bode well.
So there you go. I’ve got to cut this short now because someone’s shouting at me… there are various other examples in varying states of repair. I’m going on about Bamboo Apteras again though, because it’s getting quite close to Lottery Winning Day etc… so I think I’ll take the proceeds of that, and put it into this.. Someone’s got to.
Ok, I know I go on about how much I hate electric cars that look like teapots AND speculative stuff, which is all could/may/might… and go on about it and on and on etc, so obviously I’ve got some sort of issue…
… but I actually quite like this, even though it’s speculative, AND it’s an electric car that looks like a teapot, because it’s kindof way out on the edge.
It’s a car concept that has 360 degree immersive, augmented reality, so when you drive through traffic, it can look like you’re underwater surrounded by sharks, or on the planes surrounded by wilderbeast etc. Not only does it look like a pod from The Matrix, but it kindof behaves like one as well.
Like a surround-sound/sensory-deprivation version of the personal-cars from Wall-E.
I know it’s only concept, that’s highly unlikely to actually happen etc – but it’s not yet another incremental innovation. It’s transformative. It’s like De-Bono’s Square wheel concept where thinking of something impossible opens doors and makes connections that you wouldn’t normally consider.
The genius of this I think… is that while everybody (yea, well. Kindof) is thinking about making cars that are skinnable the way that wordpress is skinnable, this thing turns that idea inside out, and skins the whole of external reality. Brilliant.
This one’s solved the problem of “getting out of the car” by making the entire thing rotate and then the whole dashboard area open up using some sort of motorised, automatic door opener. The whole opening process takes about 10 seconds, so if it’s raining, bring an umbrella.
They’ve also taken that whole “make the front of the car look like a face” thing a little bit further by having an actual little robot head that looks about the place in front of the steering wheel.
Are Japanese Teenage Girls the saviors of the Auto Industry? Someone’s obviously putting money on it… and to be honest, this one’s just about loopy enough for me to actually like it – although I do think it would be a bit embarrassing to drive.
Looks like the doomed auto-makers have been reading Hugh Macleod’s Gaping Void blog, which is really rather good, and has an interesting perspective on “social objects” which are something to do with “conversation pieces” which were all the rage in the 70s.
In fact I can remember a cartoon in which a middle class suburban couple were explaining the monstrous “thing” on their coffee table: “That’s our conversation piece” they said, “We don’t like to talk about it”.
So marketing in the Attention Economy revolves around conversation pieces. God help you if you sell heamoeroid cream. It’s impossible to spell in any case. Serves you right for choosing something you can’t spell, and that hasn’t the potential to be “remarkable” enough to be talked about a great deal. The 21st century is going to be The Golden Age of Piles. I can feel it coming etc.
So speaking of piles, Nissan has released this little gem
Which has it’s own social web-site apparently, though I must confess I haven’t joined or even looked at the page because I’m beginning to find the whole social thing to be a bore… but the car? It looks like a satire – on using social-apps to sell ridiculous shite to the breathlessly gullible herds (the meaning of who’s lives is gauged primarily according to the number of pixelly 80×80 faces to the right of their “personal profile” (yea, yea, I don’t “get it”)). I mean FFS, look at the state of it. Is that really the best the auto-industry can do? after 1/2 a century of massively (and I do mean massively) funded innovation, endlessly refined in the mythically infallible crucible of the market?
Sorry, are you taking the piss?
Someone recently said to me something like “there hasn’t been any serious innovation in the car market since the Citroen DS”… and from a rank-amatuers POV, he’s kindof right. The design classics all happened at least 30 or 40 years ago – since then it’s been microscopic incremental “improvements” which are every inch an indication that the players have become too big to seriously innovate – and they’re now just milking it. Or maybe the market itself sucks?
Maybe the answer to the Car-Buying Punter’s wildest dreams is a thing that looks like, not just a teapot, but an avant-garde teapot from the 50s. I mean teapots are social objects aren’t they? Especially avante-garde ones from the 50s.
Maybe it’s just me… maybe radical innovation isn’t what people want… I mean this review of another hybrid that looks exactly like every other car on the road… ie: a compromise, is (it says) “significantly cheaper” at $18,500 to $20,000 rather than $22,000 to $26,672. Sorry? I’d describe that as being “basically the fucking same”. Business as usual in other words.
Fuck business as usual.
These on the other hand are cool.
What the world needs now is something that has that level of design aesthetic (and the safety and efficiency), but which costs about as much as this:
(from – which also has building instructions and thoughts on how to improve it)
What’s needed is an open-source chassis that allows the easy swapping in and out of engines, “looks and feels” and other bits of tech as they arise. The whole model of having to buy a $20,000 (or whatever it is) conglomeration of steel and glass, about 1% of the energy from which is actually expended on it’s given task (to transport a human), and the rest is spent on itself… and which will be kindof out of date in 5 years, is wrong.
We don’t need an exciting change in how cars are marketed, we need a radical change (ie: breaking up) of the entire business that produces them. The entire philosophy around “what they are”
And the big flashing neon sign that’s six inches from my nose, so close and familiar that I can’t see it?
“NICK YOU TEDIOUS ARSE, STOP COMPLAINING AND DO IT YOURSELF”.
That is the magic bullet. That is the catalyst that allows a transition from the industrial age to whatever’s next with a minimum of blood on the carpet. To stop waiting for our institutions to innovate, and to do it ourselves.
Ohhh!!!.. Gorgeous Darling, and it will never ever be made alas.
Unless someone other than Peaugot decides to nick the design. Our traditional car industry simply doesn’t have the imagination. It’s become too big to do anything interesting.
What I find interesting about this isn’t the design so much, pretty though it is, rather the complete bollocks that’s written about it, and repeated across the web. eg: “Small in size just enough for one the Peugeot clear is a classy model that creates a divine beauty and permeates an aroma of excellent design in its features. Suitable for incredible speed it has an electric motor that heightens the electrical systems to work fluidly and almost effortlessly. The hydrogen and oxygen cylinders are well placed to improve the engine function on a car that uses little fuel. Heat in the sleek car is a thing of the past with the tunnel cooling radiators owned by the concerted elements of fuel. Peugeot clear is the newest sensation of affordable individual designed car.”
I mean fair play to you if English isn’t your first language etc – but right at the beginning it says “Small in size just enough for one”, even though the picture has two seats… and this one-seater idea is repeated in innumerable blogs across the web. Don’t they look at the pictures? It’s weird. It’s like this massive beautifully designed spam-bot. Is there actually a Turing-Capable human behind this propagation?
Anyway… that wasn’t supposed to be the point. What was, is the way that our traditional hierarchically organised institutions are more and more often being simply routed around by individuals – for a fraction of the cost, in a fraction of the time. There have been a bunch of these in car-ville recently. Here’s an example from VW:
Looks like a cross between a teapot and a coffin, possibly apt given then wittily personalised numberplate “Wobli” and the fact that driving one of these as pictured (in the rain, on some sort of motorway) would be utterly terrifying.
No more terrifying than this though, which is a foam version (it floats) which some people have made themselves. It is half as efficient to drive, but I’m guessing, far more efficient to make.
And they won’t have to wait (breathless with excitement) for VW who say “a limited production car could be offered by 2010″. Could=Won’t. Might=Won’t. For every headline that ends with a question mark, the answer is “no”…. no. They won’t have to wait, because they can just make one themselves.
I’m not entirely convinced by this one-seater idea. The side-by-side two seater (at least) thing has possibly evolved for a reason… and there have been a lot (a LOT) of attempts at teapot-cars over the years. There’s a massive (and quite wonderful) site full of them here.
And some of these are truly great etc… but they didn’t really catch on… the idea has never gone away though. There’s this latest one for example:
where someone’s retrofitted a Postman Pat’s van so it goes.
What I find interesting though it people doing it for themselves… “going round the side” of institutional obstacles and building their own. I’m not sure how this will play out legally… and I hope that big corporations become so weakened that it doesn’t matter… but this for example, where someone’s made a $65,000 car for $8000 – when he’s only seen photographs of it. Is that even legal?
Because if decentralised rapid-fabbing gets underway in a big way, we’re going to see this sort of thing a lot. Someone once described a Reprap as “China on your desktop”. I’m sure that wholesale brand-nicking wasn’t what he had in mind, but it’s hard to imagine that it won’t happen.
Combining two of my favourite mis-directed-technology preoccupations : Segways: Solutions in desperate search for problems, and the fastidious compulsion that electric vehicle designers have for making their cars look like teapots, thus fucking themselves in the eyes of the motoring-otaku, upon who they depend for mainstream acceptance.
Looks as though they’ve cottoned onto the idea of getting them to talk to each other so they can form little trains etc… and they’re also fondly imagining that they’ll have their own little roads… we’ve tried that with bikes. It will never ever ever happen.
Still, kudos for trying.
Although this one also looks a bit like a military-issue wheelchair from some parallel universe where the Nazis won. Like a cross between a wheel-chair and the nose-cone of a Heinkel 111… and before you go all scoffy and indignant… recall that Heinkel went from making warplanes to these things in the 50s: