Weekly Feature

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Toyota's 2007 1/x

Modern Car Design

September 04, 2008
by Liz Colville
Modern car design—whether it’s defying, ignoring or working in concert with the latest technology and environmental concerns—is evolving in a variety of futuristic, practical and elegant ways, offering a variety of cool looks in addition to keeping gas prices low.

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Hybrids

Hybrids, and the promise of even more environmentally friendly cars, have taken over the auto industry, much to the chagrin of diehard car enthusiasts, who yearn for a modern-day equivalent of the aesthetic excitement of the 1950s. Edmunds Inside Line reported on a 2010 Honda Hybrid Sedan, capturing footage of the car being test-driven in Death Valley. The car looks shockingly similar to the Toyota Prius, and indeed, is clearly intended to compete with it. Both of these cars are eco-friendly, but while Prius models have gotten longer to provide more interior space, the new Honda promises to be lighter—and cheaper. But some feel that hybrids are somewhat lacking in the looks department; as one Inside Line blogger put it, the Prius is the “soy milk of the car world,” in comparison to classic, more desirable-seeming gas guzzlers.
The General’s Concepts

General Motors’ Skateboard, which is just the chassis, or frame and inner workings, of a car, demonstrates how this normally invisible part of a vehicle can hold fascination. The blog AutoBlogGreen discusses the Skateboard, recently featured on the Discovery Channel’s program “FutureCar.” The Skateboard uses fuel cell technology, has wired controls, and essentially, does look just like a skateboard; it’s flat, engineless and could adapt to a variety of car bodies. A clip from “FutureCar” explains the hydrogen fuel cell propulsion system and showcases some car designs inspired by the Skateboard.

Another General Motors creation, the Hummer HX Concept, aims to revolutionize the tank of a car that’s popular with celebrities and anyone who can stand—or rather, afford—the low miles per gallon. Taking its cues from the Jeep Wrangler and science fiction, the HX is shorter than the Hummer H3 and is more “compact and lightweight,” according to Motor Trend magazine.

The interior is a “minimalist take” on previous Hummer interiors. Motor Trend speculates that the HX presages the Hummer H4, expected in 2010. Automobile magazine says that the Hummer must downsize while maintaining its impressive owner retention rate—“the brand captures and retains owners better than most”—and a smaller vehicle is only going to help the Hummer’s off-road performance.
Toyota’s Tricks

Considered one of the American auto industry’s biggest rivals, Toyota is known for innovative hybrids, efficient, fuel-based passenger cars and some outrageous concept cars straight out of “Star Wars.” The 2007 1/x concept car is just one example. Designed to be twice as efficient as the Prius and featuring large window panels intended to allow passengers to feel more a part of their surroundings, the car is “ultra-lightweight,” says Automobile magazine, and uses the same carbon-reinforced plastic in the body as Toyota’s Formula One racing car.

More of Toyota’s high-concept creations can be found at Diseno Art, which also catalogues dozens of other brands’ concept cars, strange vehicles, sports cars and other types of vehicles.
Electric Cars

The Lightning electric car, a British creation that has helped breathe life into the aesthetic appeal of this car category, takes its design cues “from quintessential British sports cars like the Aston Martin or TVR,” says Gizmag. It was born of a design and engineering team with past experience at companies including McLaren, Lola, Ronart and Vanwall, and features an elegantly curved body with subtle references to Porsche. Its technology features a fast battery charge that yields about 250 miles. But all this innovation comes at a price: approximately $295,000 (and it’s not yet available Stateside).

Check out images of the Lightning on its official Web site.

For those on this side of the pond, there’s the hotly anticipated Tesla Roadster, a California-made electric car that can go from 0–60 in 4 seconds and costs $98,000. The company is engaged in a legal battle regarding alleged design theft by a former employee, and its two-speed transmission has caused some delays, according to the blog Gas 2.0. Nonetheless, the car is a neatly designed vehicle from a promising new company; Gas 2.0 reports that Tesla also hopes to release a five-door sedan in 2010.

See pictures of the Tesla Roadster on Tesla’s site and read more about the resuscitation of the electric car industry in our Beyond the Headlines section.
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