For the last ten years, Michelin North America has challenged designers from around the world to create innovative vehicle concepts. The company put those concepts before some judges, and then displayed a chosen few at the North American International Auto Show (NAIAS). The 2011 "Plus 10: The Best is Yet to Come" challenge was to come up with a vehicle that could be enjoyed by people local to the designers in 2021. From the record number of entries received, Michelin's judges chose 34 works to go on display. Let's take a quick look at some of them ...
You may be already familiar with some of the chosen 2011 Michelin Challenge Design concepts. We've already featured the ATNMBL passenger vehicle from the USA's Mike Simonian, Maaike Evers and Laure Garreau, and the Strand Craft 122 luxury yacht and car designed by Eduard Gray of Sweden.
David Cardoso Loureiro's Manta amphibious three-wheeler would certainly be welcome where I live. The 2:1 Industrial Design Team reckoned that its OU Choose Your Way road or rail vehicle would help solve many of Brazil's traffic congestion problems, and we hoped that Mohamad Sadegh Samakoush Darounkolayi's Supple self-balancing ball chair wouldn't result in the kind of overweight, lethargic, technology-dependent drones depicted in the Disney/Pixar film WALL-E.
Although we simply don't have the room to look at all of the other designs, here's a few choice morsels to be going on with. In no particular order of preference, we start with the UBICO modular trucking system designed by Spain's Hugo Carlos Fernández. The system is made up of three parts – the driver cabin, an electric drivetrain and a goods trailer with solar panels on top – which interconnect to become a whole cargo carrier. The designer says that when in the delivery or storage area, the drivetrain could be guided to the appropriate trailer automatically using satellite technology. It would, of course, be just a small technological leap to make the concept a completely driverless, GPS-guided transport system.
Okay, admittedly we're being slaves to the fine curves and pleasing lines of the Supersonic two-seater electric transport by Serbia's Marko Lukovic. The designer reckons that the vehicle's aerodynamics and advanced battery technology would give it a 190-km (118-mile) range at higher speeds or 300 km (186 miles) if the driver took it easy. Each of the rear wheels would be driven by its own electric motor and there'd be an automatic pilot mode as standard, while its GPS navigation system would also usefully connect to the local City Traffic & Security Center.
From the front, Misha by Andrey Alekseev from Russia looks somewhat like a huge, angry Star Wars Stormtrooper on wheels. As this one has been designed for tough Siberian conditions, it would be equipped with huge off-road wheels, each with its own electric motor. It is also meant to be a family car, however, so also has a large entertainment window on the right for the kids.
China's Zhi Min Lin took the trouble to make a model of his Uwall Lizard concept, as well as graphic renderings. Each wheel is given its own electric motor for intelligently-controlled, independent four-wheel drive and they all have strange expanding, shape-changing qualities which adjust according to the terrain, with tread that's said to be modeled on the foot of a lizard – hence the name.
Antti Eskeli from Finland has incorporated Michelin's Active Wheel concept in the intriguing Maininki concept. The vehicle features a variable chassis length that can transform it from a small hatchback for shopping trips to a sporty hatchback for cruising.
Also featuring the Active Wheel concept – which has two electric motors housed within each wheel, one taking care of the drive and the other handling the active suspension – is the frankly bizarre Saddle from Hungary's Attila Tari. This three-wheeled, rough terrain electric motorbike has an extremely tight turning circle and sports a strange-looking navigation control and interactive display.
Proving yet again that the Segway is still providing inspiration to young designers, MBOLIC by China's Colin Pan consists of a main body and detachable two-wheel drive units called M. The M units are gyro-balanced personal transporters that can slot into the main body to become a three-seater micro car. The designer expects that customers will be able to choose M units of different power capability depending on individual needs.