Fu­ture is elec­tric

The sleeker styling of bat­tery pow­ered cars will take over from long­stand­ing three-box de­signs

The Courier-Mail - Motoring - - News - PAUL GOVER CHIEF RE­PORTER paul.gover@cars­guide.com.au

ELEC­TRIC cars will change the face of mo­tor­ing in less than a decade. Re­mov­ing the chunky com­bus­tion en­gine and trans­mis­sion pack­age will al­low de­sign­ers and en­gi­neers far more free­dom, al­low­ing them to move away from three-box de­signs of me­chan­i­cals in one pack­age, peo­ple in the sec­ond and lug­gage in the third.

Bat­tery packs shaped like gi­ant skate­boards will al­low the body to sit on top, open­ing up new styling op­porut­ni­ties, ac­cord­ing to three of the world’s’s lead­ing de­sign­ers.

“There will be more change in the next 10 years than there has been in the past 50,” says Jaguar’s Ian Cal­lum.

“I be­lieve the time­line of change will con­tinue to be very ag­gres­sive, per­haps more than Ian has sug­gested,” says Aus­tralian Mike Sim­coe, the head of GM global de­sign.

And Mazda chief de­signer Ikuo Maeda says, “The pow­er­train gets small. This is the rea­son why we have more free­dom from a de­sign per­spec­tive.”

BMW has al­ready given the world its odd-look­ing i3 city car and the smooth i8 su­per­car at its elec­tric i-car di­vi­sion and VW is go­ing big with a range of fu­tur­is­tic elec­tric mod­els — in­clud­ing a born-again Kombi con­cept — us­ing green power in part to re­build its tat­tered image fol­low­ing the global “Diesel­gate” emis­sions scan­dal.

An­other big sign of the de­sign revo­lu­tion is the Jaguar I-Pace, an all-elec­tric SUV that was un­veiled at the Los An­ge­les mo­tor show and shat­ters the pic­ture of boxy fam­ily wag­ons.

GM has also de­vel­oped its baby bat­tery-pow­ered Bolt into an award-win­ner and Mazda is mov­ing on a new gen­er­a­tion of hy­brids and elec­tric cars.

Jaguar’s Cal­lum says, “We are mov­ing to the next gen­er­a­tion of de­sign. I be­lieve a car can be more than a mass of metal. I want to turn it into a liv­ing thing.” He is help­ing to drive the II-Pace project to­wards con­firmed sales be­fore the end of 2018 and be­lieves de­sign will be vi­talit for dif­fer­en­ti­at­ing nextgen­er­a­tion cars and com­pa­nies. “It sur­prises me that some de­sign­ers have not seen this op­por­tu­nity. I see elec­tric cars that look like in­ter­nal com­bus­tion cars and I don’t un­der­stand,” Cal­lum says. “I do be­lieve it’s go­ing to change be­cause the whole struc­ture of the car is chang­ing. There are go­ing to be au­ton­o­mous cars, new in­fo­tain­ment and con­nec­tiv­ity. It will hap­pen in the space of the next 10 years, and it will hap­pen dra­mat­i­cally.”

Cal­lum can even joke about the one thing that’s def­i­nitely not go­ing to change.

“Un­til we have eyes in our feet the win­dows will still till be at the top,” he laughs.

For Sim­coe, who left Aus­tralia last year to take on th the big­gest de­sign job at GM in Detroit, the changes in cars are a huge op­por­tu­nity.

“The big change is not com­ing, it is here now. Elec­tri­fi­ca­tion, as well as other propul­sion sys­tems, new ma­te­ri­als and au­ton­o­mous ca­pa­bil­ity, mean there will be even greater op­por­tu­nity for de­sign­ers,” he says.

“A sim­ple ex­am­ple: if some of our cus­tomers no longer ac­tively drive the ve­hi­cle, their ex­pe­ri­ence and in­ter­ac­tion with it will be com­pletely dif­fer­ent.

“De­sign­ers will have to cre­ate to­tally dif­fer­ent types of ex­pe­ri­ences to en­gage peo­ple and still com­mu­ni­cate the char­ac­ter for each of our brands.

“Even be­fore we started to em­brace these new op­por­tu­ni­ties the mar­ket has been chang­ing. The move from tra­di­tional cars to SUVs and now crossovers has demon­strated how quickly this can hap­pen.”

For Maeda, au­ton­o­mous cars are a to­tal un­known be­cause en­gi­neers at com­pa­nies such as Google and Ap­ple do not have an au­to­mo­tive back­ground.

“They have com­pletely dif­fer­ent think­ing to the car com­pa­nies. So we might see com­pletely dif­fer­ent things,” he says.

“I think all the brands are look­ing at elec­tric ve­hi­cles. I think all the car brands have to ex­plore.”

But the Ja­panese de­signer says cars will still have to look good: “We re­ally care about authen­tic beauty. We hope this will stay as we change to elec­tric cars.

“SUV is the trend leader. I think it’s dif­fi­cult to make a beau­ti­ful SUV.

“You al­ways end up with sim­i­lar ve­hi­cles if you want to de­velop an SUV.

“But still we want to show our char­ac­ter­is­tics so we have a lot of chal­lenges.”

Maeda is crit­i­cal of what he de­scribes as the “car­toon” styling emerg­ing at some brands but Sim­coe is happy to see new trends emerge.

“Of course there will be new ve­hi­cle types based on the new de­signs we cre­ate,” he says.

“That same de­signer prob­a­bly com­plained that in the past things were bor­ing be­cause no one was dar­ing enough to dif­fer­ent.

“My re­sponse is, ‘Grow up, worry about the de­signs you own.’ I do find some of what is be­ing cre­ated now is laugh­able but why would it up­set me?

“To each his own, and frankly ev­ery de­sign group has a skele­ton or two in their past.”

Next-gen­er­a­tion: Jaguar I-Pace, main and above, and chief de­signer Ian Cal­lum, be­low; cen­tre, Chevro­let Bolt and GM de­sign boss Mike Sim­coe; bot­tom, BMW i3 and i8

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