Geneva Motor Show 2009

With economies suffering from hit after hit of bad news Geneva Motor Show 2009 was expected to be all doom and gloom...and less than green. However, eventhough the concept car menu was dramatically reduced it was a satisfying, even refreshing show. It clear that despite any drawbacks most companies are still dedicated to their environmental responsibilities which translated into a few good concepts.

Concept MDI AiRPod

MDI says: AIRPod is the culmination of MDI studies on pollution and urban mobility. This concept will be the first to leave the production line in spring 2009.

Specsheet: Runs on air, zero CO2 emissions.

MDI, Motor Development International, was founded by Guy Negre in 1991 to develop zero pollution engines with the protection of the planet in mind. With a background in mechanical engineering and some ‘un-confirmed’ experience in the automotive world his company seems to be finally taken seriously. Since Tata, India’s top car manufacturer, committed to the production of MDI’s OneFlowAir (formerly named OneCAT) and development of compressed air technology, the potential that this company’s products will actually come to market after is renewed. Frankly the designs of all of their products, and execution, leave any consumer disillusioned. The quality is basic, the designs childish, and with competitors such as Aixam Mega just a few hours away its good to see that some degree of design has been taken into account in the production of their latest addition, the AirPod. A joystick maneuvers this 3+1 urban pod, costs about 1 euro per 200km, can be recharged at a station in 2 minutes, emits zero CO2 emissions with a maximum speed of 60km/hr, and has a range of 200km in urban areas. The thing that sells the design is the ‘cute’ factor. A characteristic mastered by the Japanese, it is a great way to introduce new technologies to consumers because it removes the fear that comes with change. With references to futuristic images we have seen before, a video game-like cockpit, and front and rear access doors/windows the AirPod feels like a toy (and a crash test nightmare). The sides are dotted with circular ‘bubble’ windows that only add to the quirky wheelbase that is made up of two wheels at the back and two joined smaller ones hidden under the front casing. Vistors were bumping their cameras to get a picture of this 2-metre curiosity as much as they were bumping their heads to get in and out of the vehicle. Guy Negre and his son Cyril Negre were struggling with interest from the press about how a car can run on air…its top secret apparently! But for a little more technological insight check our their new website at

Concept Dacia Duster

Dacia Says: Duster is an adaptable, modular concept car.

Specsheet: Engine type dCi 105, CO2 emissions 139g/km, Cd 0.30.

When opportunity knocks…open the door! And so finally a little recognised part of Renault, design-wise that is, had a chance to shine a little at the Geneva Motor Show 2009 with their ‘image-building’ crossover the Dacia Duster. This is the first concept car that Dacia has launched in collaboration between Renault Design Central Europe in Bucharest, Romania, and Renault Design Technocentre in Guyancourt, France. The proportions are easily identifiable with Renault’s show cars in recent year such as the Mégane Coupé Concept and Renault Ondelios , yet significantly reflects the Dacia’s brand in its robust and solid forms. This is highly intentional, said Aurélien Subsol, Renault’s Attaché de Presse, “as we did not want to alienate our existing customers who come to our brand for our key values: reliability and good price point”. It is pretty obvious that customers never really expected much in the way of design from Dacia but is seems that the mother company feels its time to change that. The Duster adds to Dacia qualities, such as dependable and robust, and adds an ‘X’ factor - ‘Quirkiness’. On the driver side of the vehicle there is one door opening for the driver who is then cocooned into a cockpit seat while the passenger side of the car features clamshell doors that allows for a trials bike to be loaded once the passenger seat has been tucked behind the driver’s one. The driving wheel is particularly special as the airbag has been moved to just under the centre allowing the screen to be positioned centrally and increase stowage space below. On the outside the design is maximised to allow for aerodynamics that achieve a drag coefficient of approximately Cd 0.30. Headlamps and grill are integrated and wrap around the front to the A pillar then the side view converges into a triangular meeting point where the tail-lights begin and create the same integral shape on the rear of the Duster. Compared to a lot of concept cars we see today the Duster is clunky and brutal in some instances but we get the feeling this is intentional…and refreshingly naïve. 

Concept Hyundai ix-onic

Hyundai says: The ix-onic introduces a whole new look for Hyundai's compact SUVs and is packed with technology which make it more fuel efficient than some superminis.

Spectsheet: 170PS, 1.6-litre GDi turbocharged, four-cylinder petrol engine, with ISG (Idle Stop & Go) technology and a double-clutch six-speed transmission. The next-generation, eco-friendly engine emits just 149 g/km of CO2.

The economic crisis has put the brakes on many projects but Hyundai’s ix-onic has been approved as today’s Tucson replacement as well as production go ahead. We spoke to the designers from the Rüsselsheim studio, Thomas Sälzle, head of exterior design, and Joerg Maluschka, head of interior design, about the concept. Sälzle told us that the ix-onic is the precursor to Hyundai’s pre-production version of the car that will be featured towards the end of this year at the Frankfurt Motor Show. A compact SUV it featured all the key design features of a sporty and dynamic car - ‘jumping power’ describes it best, he says. A wedge pushing itself into place, between a coupé styled glasshouse and the black/chrome rocker panel, inspired the design of the ix-onic, but what really blows you away is the bling interior. You have never seen a Hyundai quite like it…but perhaps it tough times its good to lighten up and take a chance. So after we admired the life-like LED headlights that physically move down when the lights are dimmed, we adventured inside to see what all the hype was. Bling! Blue lights, metallic white leather, chrome X-themed trimmings, and ‘luxury’ stitching all over the house. The bio inspired grill featured on the exterior influenced by more fluid and refined organic forms were echoed on the interior speakers, but both these features will probably be lost in translation in the pre-production version. Because Blue is Hyundai’s new Green, with a new company policy is place called “Blue Drive”, the ix-onic not only was splashed in blue on the outside but also was illuminated in blue from within. And if beauty is really in the details then the little bit of natural cashmere that embellished the blue carpets was a gentle nod to their eco-future. The trend continues with more aerodynamic concepts coming to Seoul’s Motor Show on April 2nd in the form of Hyundai Blue-Will plug-in-hybrid. 

Concept Mitsubishi iMiev Sport Air

Mitsubishi Says: The iMiev Sport Air is a pocket rocket!

Specsheet: 60kW (up from the i MiEV's 40) and 170lb-ft of torque, good for 200kph and a range between recharges of up to 200km.

The iMiev Sport Air is 'pointing to the direction a realistic Mitsubishi sports EV may take in the future', says the company, and much of its technology is shared with the i MiEV already on sale in Japan and sprouting up around Europe. GCD sat down with Masaki Matsuhara, General Manager of Design at Mitsubishi’s Trebur Design Studio in Germany, to find out what the Sport Air adds to the iMiev line-up. Notably the power has been increased to 60kW from the current production version thus increasing its sporty feel. The teardrop shape accentuates the feeling of speed and makes the prototype more aerodynamic. The floor mounted battery pack lowers its centre of gravity to increase dynamic performance adding to the overall feeling of freedom on the road. Matsuhara brushes his hand over his head when asked about the ‘air’ part of the design, “we want people to look up and feel open to the elements, its more human and natural”. The Sport Air is by no means a convertible in the technical sense, the sunroof is removed manually, but it reconnects the driver to the vehicle…involving us instead of relying on electronics for everything. There are other details that make the iMiev Sport Air approachable, like the solar panels on the bonnet and grill, round and friendly retro-future interior, and droplet headlamps, and ambiguous direction. The front and rear seem like familiar faces to the point that you would be forgiven to think that this car can drive in either direction. The side-view feels as if a VW Beetle and Audo TT have made a baby, giving this zero emissions city run around a more chiseled look that the iMiev shown at the Tokyo Motor Show in 2007. Its more in line with Mitsubishi heritage and with the times as the company turns away from heavy SUV range to develop smaller, lighter, and more eco-conscious cars.

Concept Pininfarina Bluecar

Pininfarina Says: The Pininfarina genetic code emerges in the dynamism of volumes and the balance of proportions.

Specsheet: LMP (Lythium Metal Polymere) batteries can achieve a range of 250km with Zero Emissions or Particle Pollutants.

We first brought you news of Pininfarina’s Bluecar back in 2008 at the Paris Mondiale de L’Automobile 2008 when she was still called B0 (B Zero). With a name change and a few tweaks, but visually the same, Pininfarina seals its commitment to an electric future as an independent manufacturer. Well, independent in the sense that they will be making and selling cars under their own name and with Bolloré technology incorporated. By focusing on the electric vehicle market Pininfarina has already created a niche for itself, which they can manage very well with their production facilities and reach an estimated production of 60,000 units by 2015. It is a courageous departure from the past but a necessary one to allow the company to move forward in these tough economic times. For the consumers it is exciting! With the Bluecar everyone will be able to have a bit of the legendary Pininfarina heritage. The car is imbued with Pininfarina DNA and it’s befitting that they should once again lead with innovation. Our design review of the car still stands strong, yet upon having a second chance and more space to enjoy the Bluecar it became evident that what this EV has that so many others is staying power. The balance of proportions, the elegant contrast between an agile exterior and a tailored interior, the future of technology, and the simplicity of its package will put this design up there with Pininfarina’s top classics. One would be totally comfortable and proud to drive up to La Scala in Milan in this electric chariot.

Concept NLV Quant

NLV Solar AG and Koenigsegg say: The NLV Quant is proof that cutting-edge supercars can combine speed, comfort and enjoyment with environmental integrity.

Specsheet: Range of up to 500 km thanks to the new FAES technology, with rapid charging and unlimited charging cycles…zero emissions.

The Quant, a concept car designed by Joachim Nordwall for Koenigsegg and NVL, was the only car at the Geneva Motor Show to show off ground breaking technology in the form of a photovoltaic skin! A technology invented and patented by Nunzio La Vecchia, owner of NVL, the company that commissioned Koenigsegg to develop the Quant, is called the Pyradian solar cell (based on a modified iron-sulphur composite semiconductor). This film can be applied to almost any surface by chemical vapour deposition (CVD) and is almost transparent. This would enable NVL to cover the entire surface of any car with the solar cell, increasing enourmously the surface area that can absorb energy from the sun. This alone could not power the Quant but the engineers at Koenigsegg, an environmentally aware Swedish supercar manufacturer, developed the FAES (Flow Accumulator Energy Storage) batteries that can be charged to full capacity in 15-20 minutes and gives the vehicle a range of 500 km. Given that the car only needs one propulsion system the drive-train layout and package car be simplified and space maximized. The Quant is a four-setter, luxury performance car accessible via gull-wing doors, well, on paper that is. It seemed the team wasn’t able to develop the interior model in time for the motor show, which is a shame because for all the technology on paper the car was just a heavy looking mass. A crossover between supercar and sedan was not perhaps the best show off the magnificent and futuristic applications of a technology that has only been fantasized about is design schools. The design completely negates the environmental ramifications of the PV skin covering and the ultra light bodywork carbon-fibre monotube that allows the car to weigh in only at a mere 1780 kg and deliver 0-100km/h in 5.2 seconds! The wheels were solid, the glasshouse was solid, the proportions heavy, however, the aerodynamic shape reportedly achieved a drag coefficient of Cd 0.27. An un-flattering dress for such a sophisticated fabric!

Concept Opel Ampera

Opel says: With the Ampera, Opel will be the first European automobile manufacturer to provide customers several hundred kilometers of non-stop electric driving.

Specsheet: Trips up to 60 km will run only on lithium-ion battery power charged via a standard 230v outlet with no CO2 emissions. For longer distances, the car will continue to drive on electricity that is generated by a small internal combustion engine with emissions at about CO2 40g/km.

Keep it simple could have been the design directive on this project. There is nothing superficial or unnecessarily designed, neither on the outside nor inside, of the Ampera, it is pure and simple. The white colour reflects this, the energy used proves it, and the shapes define it. Enveloped in a modern vocabulary of ‘form follows function’ the Ampera was conceived to propel Opel into a new era of electric drive in the company powered by GM’s signature Voltec electric propulsion. A four-person hatchback with plenty of trunk space and all the amenities of a ‘regular’ car, the range extender electric beauty was a pleasant surprise in terms of design - it is as easy on the eyes as it is on the environment. A gentle face with boomerang headlights carried over from the Opel Flextreme concept, smooth and tight body lines from front to back, and a Insignia inspired posterior the Ampera is sculpted by the wind…a gentle precise wind! It is back to school for most designers nowadays as aerodynamics once again is the key issue in design, a trend not seen since the 80’s. Zak shows us the trajectory of air as it travels over Ampera’s surfaces from the small grill in the front, round past the partially covered wheels (the clear plastic inserts create a larger surface area without adding visual volume and physical weight), up around the side view mirrors that are offset from the car to reduce drag, parallel to flush body sections, and finally back off the tail. It is ironic that when we chose to go against nature, and the environment, car design can get so ugly, but if we follow and respect it we can achieve true beauty – Ampera is an example of the latter! Read More

Concept Rinspeed iChange

Rinspeed Says: The iChange is a signal for the coming global changes to individual mobility. We need to be ready to meet these challenges with new ideas.

Specsheet: Lithium-Ionen LiFePO4, range app. 90 km, charging time approx. 3 h.

For Geneva Motor Show regulars it would be hard to imagine a show without the antics of Frank M. Rinderknecht and his Rinspeed brand, and that's because he has been attending the show for 30 years now. Some call him a visionary others an eccentric and perhaps he is a bit of both, and his cars reflect this without a doubt. With 30 years experience under his belt though his mission and design goals are becoming less about a spectacle and more about a message to carmakers and consumers. This year he introduced iChange. The name is meant to provoke thought about our future and our responsibility towards our planet and ourselves…ultimately “can I change?”. iChange is an aerodynamic dream, as most of us drive alone, specially in sports cars, the vehicle is designed to be configurable from a one seater to a three seater sports car. The change comes compliment of electric trickery but the aim is that when you are driving the car alone it is super eco as weight is low and aerodynamics optimized. However, we live complex and flexible lives so our cars should reflect this and the car interior expands to seat one or two more passengers, but at a lower efficiency cost. By partnering with the best in their business iChange benefits from other eco-saving gadgets such as Harman/Kardon high-efficiency audio system, light and energy efficient, and high-tech pure wool by Schoeller, manufactured to the highest eco standards. Its this flexibility to change and adapt that Rinderknecht is preaching to the big dogs…and the louder the message, it seems, the better. The exterior and interior are treated as negative and positive spaces as there are no doors, only an electric canopy that gently covers the passengers. To complement this open lifestyle there are no keys, you would necessitate an Apple iPhone to turn your iChange on and control all the internal amenities that are powered by solar panels spread around the vehicle.