Did you marvel at the impressive cornering and maneuverability of the Dyson Ball when it first raced around the floor in TV ads? If such a ball design can take a vacuum cleaner to places no others would dare to go, what could such a thing could do for a car? Graphic designer Santosh Chawla has incorporated a similar principle into his hydrogen powered Circulus concept car design.
Like the Phoenix Concept we looked at last week, Chawla's design is part of the 2009 Michelin Challenge Design, a project that encourages creative thinking and innovation in vehicle design and gives designers the chance to show the North American International Auto Show each January.
In addition to its incredibly small turning circle, the Concept would be made using recycled materials and feature a high visibility, panoramic windshield to give the occupants all-round visibility.
Power would be provided by hydrogen fuel cells.
Here's how Chawla puts it: "Versatility combined with the vehicle's overt cool factor and the ability to use it in different environments is this vehicle's strong points. Either as an explorer of sandy beaches, snowy backroads, winding mountain passes, or simply commuting in the city, the Circulus occupies an automotive niche like no other."
The key to both its name and my earlier reference to vacuum cleaners is revealed in the designer's choice of an omnidirectional sphere at the front which is controlled by an "intelligent system that recognizes and responds to every movement."
According to Chawla: "If the driver wants, it can turn 360º on a dime."
Stability and braking are taken care of by the two wheels at the rear which would also provide the drive. It's not quite clear how the steering mechanism from the front wheel would operate, but the designs (see gallery) show suspension arms connected to a hood over the top part of the sphere, with small intermediary ball bearings between the spherical tire and the hood. Would it work? Feel free to drop us a comment below.
The design is sporty, eye-catching and looks like it would be fun to drive. The renderings show a low rider which puts me in mind of another (very) diminutive three-wheeler invented in the mid-1980s by Sir Clive Sinclair. The electric Sinclair C5 failed to live up to its promise of revolutionizing personal transport - it's driving position was so close to the ground it was relatively invisible to other drivers. And it hasn't been seen since. Let's hope the Circulus fairs better should it proceed to prototype and beyond.