Swiss automotive design and engineering company Rinspeed can be relied upon to reveal a quirky concept at any Geneva Motor Show, and this year was no exception.
It has come up with the iChange, claimed to be the world’s first car with a body that adapts to the number of passengers on board. Rinspeed boss Frank M. Rinderknecht believes the adaptive body is right for a changing auto industry: "It is clear that only those companies will survive that have innovative answers for the demands of a new automotive era."
The ZEV electric iChange is certainly innovative and can morph from single-seater (driver in a central position) to three-seater (two rear passenger seats), said the ebullient Rinderknecht: "At the push of a button, the rear end of the teardrop-shaped car magically pops up."
In fact, the rear of the passenger "bubble" rises by about 150 mm (5.9 in) driven by an electromechanical system and supported by a pair of gas struts. Two cables are used to close it. The idea behind this nifty trick is to take every opportunity to achieve improved aerodynamics, allowing an optimum Cd when only the driver is on board. Rinderknecht says the comparative Cd figures have not been measured: "It is more important for the thought and the vision than the absolute figures."
The entire adaptive roof section tilts forward to allow passenger entry to the car.
Built by engineering services company Esoro, the concept has a curb weight of some 1050 kg (2315 lb). Its electric motor produces 153 kW (205 hp) and is powered by lithium-ion batteries available in two stack configurations, for short- or long-haul driving.
Performance figures include a claimed top speed in single occupant aerodynamic mode of 220 km/h (137 mph) with 0-100 km/h (0-62 mph) acceleration in just over 4 s. Power is transmitted via a six-speed preselector gearbox adapted from the Subaru WRX.
Siemens’ central research department supplied integration technology for the motor, electronics, and battery interface. Eberspächer developed an iChange specific heating system suitable for a ZEV. Solar panels on the top and sides of the concept’s roof provide HVAC power when required.
Weight savings was a design target from the outset, and the car has custom-made forged alloy wheels by AEZ, shod with Pirelli P Zero tires with aerodynamic shrouds.
The car’s navigation system includes an energy-saving route guidance system.
The Swiss Federal Ministry of Energy (Bundesamt für Energie) is supporting the iChange project.
Esoro develops fiber-reinforced components from initial conception to preproduction levels. Nonlinear, strong orthotropic FEA (finite element analysis) and crash simulation are part of its work, which includes its E-LFT production technology for Weber Automotive. It is described by the company as making large-scale production of high-strength and lightweight composite parts affordable.
E-LFT composite parts weigh more than 30% less than comparable steel parts, stated Esoro. The tailgate of the production Smart ForTwo represents the first series production application of E-LFT.
The company is now developing a new process called Melt Embossing for the production of high-end thermoplastic component parts with low initial investment for structural and semi-structural applications.