12:grn:hrs - design a green car in a day! Morning Session

Design is becoming more social.  Co-creation is disrupting the traditional design process and relationships between designer and manufacturer are changing as a result.  In this time of movement there is one industry that still finds it difficult to adapt and react to social changes - the automotive industry.  Partly due to consumer’s conservative demands and expectations on one side and the industry’s insular status quo on the other car design often finds itself stuck in the middle.  The recent Frankfurt Motor Show was a clear example, designs were erratic and concepts were incoherent; you just need to take one look at the Mercedes F125 concept to get whats going on! 

In light of this lack of direction and in order to encourage ecologically motivated design Green Car Design, the online eco-design car magazine, held a 12-hour workshop, 12:grn:hrs – design a green car in a day! where the consumer and the industry met to design a truly unique green car design concept.  The event coincided with the ever growing and influential London Design Festival 2011 to highlight the need to look outside the automotive design box.  The Covent Garden location of the Design Council offered participants immediate access to one of London’s best social and artistic hubs with Soho and Neil’s Yard minutes away plus the added benefit of London Design Festival events. 

Eco Motivators

The morning started off with an open Morning Session of speakers from different industries with a focus on green materials and services.  Kenny Schachter, writer, curator, and art dealer, set the tone with his keynote speech.  Clearly not from the automotive industry yet passionate about cars his words ideally opened the door for creativity. “Facebook changed the way we communicate and the Prius changed the way we consider cars; the sky is the limit as to what’s next so better we try and keep it less polluted” he surmised “…Personally, I don’t differentiate between a painting, sculpture, chair, spoon or a 70’s Porsche; whether a van Gogh, Picasso, or a vehicle, it’s a holistic notion of a lifestyle. We all want to live longer, cleaner and more efficiently and cars are a good place to start to clean things up. There is a lot of making up to do, [but] cars are the most ubiquitous form of design in society; as my friend Sam Livingstone, a consultant and tutor at Royal College where I lecture on occasion, said, we see more than 2,000 of them a day. So I say, why not make them nice, or at least nicer. Cars will be more and more efficient not only because they have to be but also because they can.  And not just in the near future but now.” (you can view full speech here).

Dr. Siavash Mahdavi from Within Lab

Schachter’s speech was then followed by Dr. Siavash Mahdavi from Within Lab, 3D Printing experts and manufacturers.  To say that the audience was blown away with this technology is an understatement, everyone in the room sensed that our futures will change dramatically due to 3D Printing.  Not only does it solve huge issues about waste because it can reduce the use of material by over 80% but also because it makes transporting masses of material, namely metals, from location to location redundant.  Dr. Mahdavi explained different uses for the process, amongst them porous finger implants made out of cobalt chrome or titanium that encourage bone in-growth (osseointegration) and a lightweight load bearing engine block built with a liquid lattice design where the software removed any excess material by building it inside out and maintaining function and performance with a lattice structure.  In passing samples around the room brains were already warming up for the task ahead…imagine reducing the weight of your car by 80%!

Iain Taylor from Sage Automotive Interiors

Next up was Iain Taylor, Design and Development Director for Sage Automotive Interiors.  Not only does his company strive to be sustainable but he has also personally taken to lightening his own carbon footprint where he can…and loving his Prius!  The main idea that Taylor resounded was that design should Design for Disassembly.  This means that when considering the design of a vehicle the designer and company should not only think about materials in terms of recycled and recyclable but also how those materials are disassembled at the end of use.  Currently the metal and glass components in cars can be recycled at the end of life but there always remains a huge amount of ‘fluff’ from seating and other interior parts.  If seats could be designed with zipped on covers or foam could ‘unglue’ itself from fabric after use then he feels this could help our environment immensely...simple.

Mike Hardcastle from Light Tape UK

The topic of light and lightness was essential to the next speaker Mike Hardcastle’s work as Managing Director of Light Tape UK.  Despite its many uses Light Tape is probably most widely known from its extensive use in the recent movie Tron LegacyHardcastle says that one of his most popular selling items is the Tron costume pack which they will be upgrading with a smaller battery pack!  But entertainment aside this product has serious applications in the automotive industry, specially in eco cars that are looking to economise on weight and energy use.  With a profile of less than 0.7mm thick, consumption rate of 1watt/1meter/1 inch of material, and recyclable qualities Light Tape is set to become a viable lighting alternative for the automotive industry.  Where LEDs drain the battery Light Tape can be powered by the simplest of solar panels with energy to spare.  The portability of the material was an instantaneous hit with the audience as brains were flexing about its possible use in the upcoming design challenge.

Sue Connelly from Camira Fabrics

Camira Fabrics was invited to show their wonderful fabrics made from mother nature itself, and presenting was Sue Connelly, Corporate Sales Manager.  Nettles seem like a strange plant from which to harvest fabric but in fact they can be harvested locally, in Camira’s case in Leicestershire, and the bast fibre that is contained within the stem can be blended with wool into yarn.  The resulting fabric has been appropriately called Sting, Sustainable Technology in Nettle Growing.  Another fabric Connelly showed is known as Hemp, Higher Environmental Manufacturing Protocol, and whilst the name is a mouthful the fabric is simply manufactured in the same way as Sting but from Hemp plants.  Their revolutionary fabric derived from recycling Starbuck’s jute bags and re-purposed with wool to create WoJo, the fabric that now covers many seats in Starbuck’s coffee shops, exemplifies Camira’s commitment to style with substance.

Micol Costi and Claudia Reder from Material ConneXion

Material ConneXion is an enviable fountain of information in a one-stop format, a library of materials sourced worldwide.  Micol Costi, Director of Library and Materials Reasearch, and Claudia Reder, Senior Materials Specialist, both opened up a window of possibilities on a number of uses from their stock of innovative and sustainable materials.  Materials ranged from the exotic like rotten carrots in the form of CURRAN® that offers properties close or better than those found in carbon fibre composites to the natural like AGRIPLAST®, an injection moulding granulate made from slightly less than 50% field grass.  With growing concern about the use of food crops being used as building materials or alternative fuels it was very interesting to learn of pebax® Rnew, a high-performance, bio-based elastomer.  It is made from up to 95% plant-based Castor oil, a non-food based oil usually used as an engineering oil.  It is one of the lightest elastomers, is durable, recyclable, and can be injection-moulded, overmoulded, extruded into films and sheets as well as being pigmented in any colour.  Used in consumer products, sports equipment, and footwear the Castor bean never looked so good!

Sebastien Stassin from Kiska

Last to speak in the Morning Session was Sebastien Stassin, Partner at KiskaKiska is a unique design consultancy in Austria that most recently were asked by Opel to design a unqiue 3-wheeled concept for the Frankfurt Motor Show 2011 called Rak-e.  The Rak-e highlights one of Kiska’s trump cards in the development and design of eco-vehicles.  Whilst the automotive industry battles and stagnates with safety and legislation issues about 4-wheeled passenger cars Kiska looked at the problem in another way.  What if we considered vehicles that only had 3 wheels?  And sure enough the law and restrictions that inhibit change and development in the 4-wheeled arena do not exist for the 3-wheeled.  With today’s technologies and materials it is entirely possible to develop light, safe, and awesome looking vehicles that respect the environment now instead of waiting for bureaucratic minds to change...brilliant!

Lunch beckoned at this point but before then teams needed to be created for the task of designing a green car in what was left of the day.  Teams led by car designers Sebastien Stassin (Kiska), David Wilkie (Mia-Electric), Hugo Spowers (Riversimple), and Giovanni Piccardo we asked to blindly pick out team-mate names from out of a box.  Each team member was then asked to in turn blindly chose one word out of a box of automotive cliché design words that had been mixed in with cliché green words.  From these each team had to chose at least 3 words by which their design would be guided…surprise, laughs, and delight filled everyone’s faces.  After a lunch session getting to know each other and finding a team name the clock started on their mission to design a green car in a day!

Story continues in Part 2 of 12:grn:hrs – design a green car in a day!