Thursday, November 13, 2008

Race Cars of the Future -- What Will They Look Like?

Today’s race cars have ground-breaking technology to improve speed, power, performance and safety. Many features we rely on today -- ABS, traction control, even lightweight aluminim engines -- were developed and tested on the racetrack and then trickling down to the automobiles we mere mortals drive. So, it's a good idea to peek into the future and see what designers and engineers are planning now, for the future.

Nine of Southern California’s automotive design studios have been busy predicting how auto racing will change by the year 2025. Their designs are part of the fifth annual Los Angeles Auto Show’s Design Challenge. Here's what the designers and engineers have come up with -- in alphabetical order --

Audi -- (photo right) The Audi R25 incorporates innovative features such as high-velocity banks and tunnels, which allow cars to race “inverted” and the opportunity to pass anywhere with aerodynamic racecars.

BMW -- The BMW Hydrogen Powered Salt Flat Racer reuses existing, ordinary materials such as old oil barrels and BBQ lids, and 'employs' goldfish as “co-pilots” to ensure that the vehicle is running clean emissions. This is a sustainable vehicle -- how it's built, and the fuel that propels it.

General Motors -- The GM Chaparral Volt collects and generates its own energy from three different clean, renewable and abundant California resources: Earth, Wind and Fire. The futuristic Volt creates what GM is describing as entirely new category of racing - the eco-triathlon.

Honda -- The Great Race 2025’s sonar/echolocation sensors can detect changes in speed, terrain, and altitude. That allows the vehicle to switch to any configuration to circumnavigate the globe in 24 hours on land, by sea or by air. Another triathlon -- it drives, it sails, it flies.

Mazda -- The MAZDA KAAN is an electric race car with a patented electronic tire system to reach 250 mph with no harmful emissions.

Mitsubishi -- The MMR25 is a multi-terrain vehicle with omni-directional wheels with eight independently-controlled motors. This allows for what Mitsu is calling “8 x 4” wheel drive, and it means you can drive the car forwards even while it's pointed backwards or sideways. Now, if they could design something that can get me sideways while pointed forwards, I could get in and out of a tight NYC parking space a lot easier.

Mercedes-Benz -- (photo middle) The Formula Zero Racer incorporates Formula One speed with the track dynamics of the bobsled or luge, and the grace and efficiency of yacht racing. So there.

Toyota -- The Le Mans Racer is the ultimate race car that never needs to stop. It is powered by highly efficient hydrogen fuel cell electric motors, and each of its body panels is embedded with photovoltaic panels that supply electricity when extra energy is needed. The world's first hydrogen-solar vehicle! It doesn't get more green. Even the Prius needs gas occasionally. This could solve the world's energy crisis.

Volkswagen -- (photo left) In the Bio Runner, the driver is positioned inside a protective cage on a motorcycle-like saddle, with controls attached to the hands and feet. The controls manipulate all wheels via synthetic muscle-based suspension which offers unparalleled control and traction. Sounds like fun to drive.

And which of these futuristic designs is the best? The competition winner is being announced at the LA Auto Show on Nov. 20, 2008. I'll be there.

No comments: