Onyx concept showcases innovative materials

  • 08-Oct-2012 01:29 EDT
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Peugeot Onyx supercar concept uses materials from copper to compressed paper to produce a lightweight, strong construction. (Newspress)

Job losses and plant closures mean tough times for PSA Peugeot Citroën at the moment. So what better place than the French national motor show to demonstrate that design flair and engineering are alive and well in the company?

The 2012 Paris Motor Show Peugeot booth included new models such as the new RCZ and 208 XY, GTi, and Type R5 rally car. Concepts of near-ready production cars included the 301 for emerging markets and 2008 crossover, while the 260-hp (194-kW) RCZ R concept will become reality in 2013 as the most powerful production Peugeot ever built.

Creative use of materials in the RCZ R concept was something shared with the Onyx concept “family” of supercar, concept pedal bike, and concept scooter. Color and Materials Designer Sophie Gazeau guided the media around the two-seat Onyx supercar concept. Like the concept bike, it uses carbon fiber for its strong, lightweight properties: “We also used it for its appearance,” explained Gazeau. “We used a specific kind of carbon—linear carbon, a nonwoven material—which gives the appearance of brushed anodized aluminum.”

The carbon framework of the car, consisting of just 12 parts, has a mass of just 100 kg (220 lb). “It’s not only a frame, but also a sculpture,” continued Gazeau. "It’s designed as much for appearance as structural integrity. We also worked with copper.” Hand shaped copper panels are used in the doors and body, she said: “It’s an original material and one already used in in components and wiring, so we wanted to not only use copper, but exhibit it, because this is a really remarkable evolving material. It’s going to age, it’s going to become green and it’s going to have a patina. It has been made by a traditional craftsman.

“The interior is white and welcoming and protecting. That’s what we wanted, because the original concept material was the egg box. I had to find the right materials to express an egg box, but I couldn’t use paper because it was fragile. I called a company that makes egg boxes, but they couldn’t help because the technique is really precise and dedicated to making egg boxes.

“So we used felt, which is also used in car interiors as a thermal and noise insulator. We used it on the seats and the roof to create a huge cocoon. That was the idea—to protect passengers in this really aggressive car. The felt had to have no cuts and no stitches. Everything is applied to the surface.” This includes, the center console, roof, and seats. The material is made damp; then it can be worked like the felt used for making a hat.

“We still wanted to work with paper,” explained Gazeau, so we used newspaper. The eggbox has a responsible and ecological approach, and we wanted that for this car. We used newspaper glued and pressed together to create a brand new material.” Once dry the material can be cut into thin slices and is used to make the Onyx dashboard. Newsprint can still be seen in the material. It can be recycled at the end of the car’s life and has flame-retardant properties.

Powered by a 600-hp (447-kW) HDi 3.7-L V8 diesel, the car has a mass of just 1100 kg (2425 lb). Peugeot’s Hybrid4 drive system is used to recover energy, stored in lithium-ion batteries and then used to deliver an additional 60 kW.

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