LA Auto Show Design Challenge Showcases 1,000 Pound Concepts

Colum Wood
by Colum Wood

It’s amazing to see what a design team can do when they don’t have their arms tied by accountants. For the 2010 LA Auto Show‘s annual Design Challenge, automakers were invited to create a vehicle that is good for the environment, attractive and exciting to drive, but it also much be safe, seat four and weigh less than 1,000 lbs.

Looking like they belong in anything from Tron to Avatar, nine automakers decided to take up the challenge presenting some seriously impressive concepts. The list of automakers includes: General Motors, Honda, Mazda, Maybach, Mercedes-Benz, Nissan, Smart, Toyota and Volvo.

The reason for the extensive list of entries is that for the first time, the 2010 Design Challenge includes design studios outside of California, meaning several entries came from Germany and Japan.

A panel of judges will pick the top design, based on criteria such as “artistic beauty, comfort, uniqueness of design, roadworthiness, sustainability, performance and user-friendliness. Oh, and the winner will have to meet the 1,000 lb mark as well. The winner will be announced November 18th, during the Design Los Angeles Conference at the LA Auto Show.

AutoGuide’s 2010 LA Auto Show coverage starts November 17th. Until then, see our LA Auto Show Preview here.

GALLERY: 2010 LA Auto Show Design Challenge

Official release after the jump:


Automotive Design Studios Envision the 1,000 lb. Car
Winner of the 7th Annual LA Auto Show Design Challenge to be announced Nov 18.

LOS ANGELES – Oct. 20, 2010 – With consumers seeking to minimize consumption of the earth’s resources, auto manufacturers and designers are challenged to meet these growing socio- and economic trends with style, while adhering to government and safety regulations.

This year’s Los Angeles Auto Show Design Challenge asks design studios to envision a 1,000 lb., four-passenger vehicle that is both comfortable and safe, while delivering satisfactory driving performance without sacrificing the styling consumers demand. The entries range from vehicles made from organic materials and powered by compressed air, to futuristic models relying on the latest high-tech advancements.

For the last six years, the Design Challenge has been focused on the Southern California automotive design community. For the first time, Mercedes-Benz studios from Germany and Japan will join the competition to add an international perspective. The winning design will be announced Nov. 18 during the Design Los Angeles Conference at the Los Angeles Auto Show.

Judging criteria is based upon not only meeting the weight constraint (1,500 pounds maximum with occupants), but also for the artistic beauty, comfort, uniqueness of design, roadworthiness, sustainability, performance and user-friendliness of the vehicle.

2010 Design Challenge entries include:

General Motors Advanced Design California – The Cadillac Aera (Aero + Era) takes an innovative and stylistic approach to ultra-light weight vehicle design. A 1,000 lb., 2+2 touring coupe, with a range of 1,000 miles utilizing alternative fuel. Aera’s highly advanced body structure utilizes a polyhedral, 3D lattice, mono-formed frame with a flexible pressurized polymer skin for body panels and glass, optimizing weight, aerodynamics and safety.

Honda Advanced Design Studio, Pasadena, CA – The Honda Air concept is a vision of the future of lightweight and alternative fuel performance vehicles. Inspired by the modern roller coaster, as well as skydiving wing-suits, the Air is powered by a compressed air and pneumatic regulator system. At just under 800 lbs., the powerful anthem of pneumatic propulsion exemplifies Honda’s concept of fun to drive. The pow[air] of dreams.

Mercedes-Benz Research and Development Japan: Advanced Design Center Japan – Leveraging values of the classic “Jin-Riki-Sha” (human powered rickshaw), the MAYBACH DRS “Den-Riki-Sha” (electric powered rickshaw) embodies the attributes of a radically new car culture in the near future. The result: A futuristic composition of ultra light construction with a unique luxurious exterior and interior expression. Powered by a self balancing electric drive unit and controlled by an onboard computer plugged into a mega city’s transport infrastructure, the MAYBACH DRS delivers a smooth, luxurious journey cross town.

MAZDA Design Americas – With each component in the MX-0 redesigned to carry out the functions of several MX-5 components, a multitude of parts have been replaced with fewer, simplified ones, using innovative lightweight materials. With its ultra-light mass pushed by high-torque electric motors, the MX-0 delivers impossible acceleration and instant cornering. It’s more like flying than driving.

Mercedes-Benz Research & Development North America, Inc.: Advanced Design Center California – The Mercedes-Benz Biome utilizes technologies from nature to achieve ultimate light weight and seamless integration into the ecosystem. Grown in the ecologically sustainable Mercedes-Benz Nursery, 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 vehicles exterior. Both seeds grow together and are genetically engineered into customer’s specifications.

Nissan Design America – The Nissan iV is a super-lightweight sports tourer that showcases “organic synthetics,” a revolutionary and sustainable manufacturing technique in which automotive parts are cultivated like agriculture. Every detail of the Nissan iV is engineered toward renewable, lightweight strength. Derived from fast-growing ivy and re-enforced with spider silk composite, the biopolymer frame is flexible and ultra-light, yet extremely robust.

Mercedes-Benz Advanced Design Germany – The Smart 454 is manufactured by incredibly high tech robots that look as friendly and cuddly as our grandmothers. The Tridion-frame (chassis), knit by “Smart Granny Robots” (otherwise know as SGRs), creates complex shapes and forms out of carbon fibre, enabling the geometry to be optimized in strength and weight.

Calty Design Research, Inc. – The NORI concept presents the idea that the body and chassis are one as a PODULAR form; that is designed to be strong, light and beautiful. Created using “nori,” (the Japanese word for seaweed) combined with a carbon fiber weave for strength, the NORI not only reduces weight and the number of parts while capturing and generating energy, but minimizes the impact on the ecosystem.

Volvo Car Corporation: Monitoring and Concept Center VMCC – Minimizing weight and complexity, while maximizing driving enjoyment, is the philosophy behind the Volvo Air Motion Concept. Thousands fewer components are employed than in a traditional car thanks to the powerful, yet simple, compressed air motors. The Volvo Air Motion demonstrates the beauty and purity of Scandinavian design and delivers a guilt free, raw driving experience.

Entries will be judged by Tom Matano, director of Industrial Design at San Francisco’s Academy of Art University; Imre Molnar, dean of Detroit’s College for Creative Studies; Stewart Reed, chairman of Transportation Design, Pasadena’s Art Center College of Design and Clive Hawkins, president of Aria Product Development.

Join the conversation
 1 comment
  • Chad Chad on Oct 21, 2010

    I like the Volvo Air Motion design. It has the free-wheeling look of a sandy-buggy and a roadster in one. Give me a 5-pt seat harness and a roll bar and I'll buy one!