Chinese hypercar startup Techrules showed two different concept cars at last year's Geneva Motor Show. For this year's show, it totally shattered the mold and pulled the silken cloth off a car that looks dramatically different than either member of last year's duo. It's called the Ren, and it represents the final design for Techrules' first production car. Still powered by a super-virile combination of electric motors and micro-turbines, the Ren touches down as a spacecraft-like vessel complete with triple-bubble canopy, laser lights and rear fin.
As interesting as the Ren's six-motor, dual-micro-turbine powertrain is, it's impossible to dive below the car's skin without first assessing what the hell is going on with the shape of that skin. Techrules has pretty much abandoned every hint of the vanilla-baked supercars we saw last year in favor of what will undoubtedly go down as one of the most radical car designs of 2017.
With the world of aerospace as their inspiration, famed designers Fabrizio and Giorgetto Giugiaro burned Techrules' old styling book to ash and worked from the ground up. Their creation looks quite unlike other sports cars due to the complete abandonment of the usual pillared greenhouse, replaced by a triple-dome, polycarbonate canopy inspired by jet fighters. The larger, forward-set central dome betrays the 1+2 seating arrangement below, a small trend at Geneva also incorporated into the new Artega Scalo Superelletra. A steel, motorsport-grade roll bar provides structural protection below the polycarbonate.
While the debut show car features the triple-dome canopy, Techrules makes it clear that owners can also opt for a singe-dome, single-person track car configuration or a double-bubble, two-seat car. The underlying structure of the car doesn't change in those alternative configurations, only the canopy, so drivers are left with an empty passenger pod or two. This modular design allows owners to switch canopies on a whim, transforming from track-day single-seater to Sunday afternoon three-person tourer. Techrules mentions the possibility of using an empty passenger pod to store luggage, augmenting the tiny 2.1-cu ft (60 L) trunk, good only for a set of golf clubs or comparable.
The triple-dome canopy is the first thing to wrestle the eye, but it certainly isn't without a few tag team partners. Next up: the red-and-black shark fin connecting the canopy with the rear-end. In an indication of how unconventional this design really is, Techrules doesn't even discuss this feature at any length, leaving us to deduct that it was borrowed from racing and assigned to optimizing airflow.
The Ren's white bodywork is split around a transparent center that runs the car's length. Each side of that bodywork converges sharply around the rear like a pair of pincers, wrapping the taillights and turbine exhaust vents. The long, thin taillights stretch the length of the rear fascia before dropping sharply downward, eventually disappearing in the bumper. A huge diffuser serves as a sturdy base for the rear-end design.
The transparent polycarbonate central strip serves as a visual portal into the working and structural components below, showing the trunk space, turbine(s), suspension and roll cage in back before widening out around the cockpit canopy only to merge back into a neat hood strip running straight into the nose. The front portion highlights structural and suspension components. Meanwhile, the white bodywork at the sides closes completely around the front intakes and sharp LED/laser headlights.
If you spotted the Ren when walking the Geneva show floor, you'd swear it was one of the concept cars with no chance whatsoever of production, but Techrules says it represents the "final production design." It's a flashy suit that's clearly meant to get attention, but form also follows function. The heavy aerospace influence extends to adding advanced aerodynamics throughout, including the large front and rear vents and individually operated active rear spoilers that are hydraulically actuated based on ECU data about speed, acceleration, steering angle, braking force and other parameters.
We guess low-volume hypercars have never exactly followed traditional styling rules, anyway, and the Ren is, after all, a rather unique product even in a market segment full of unique products. Turbine-backed electric powertrains have been used in concept cars and prototypes, but assuming Techrules does indeed make it to production (always a question mark with supercar startups), it'll have the first production sports car with such a powertrain, offering an ultra-powerful, torque-heavy zero-emissions electric drive with a much longer driving range than any traditional all-electric car, supercar or otherwise.
The Ren's primary motivation comes from a set of electric motors spread around the wheels and wired to a lithium-ion battery pack. That powertrain provides a healthy range of around 124 miles (200 km), but we're betting that many a Ren driver won't make it that far and will yearn for more time and miles behind the centralized wheel.
That's where the single or dual micro-turbines of Techrules' "Turbine-Recharging Electric Vehicle" (TREV) system come in. The turbines kick in after the initial battery charge is depleted. Relying on either liquid or gaseous fuel, they spin viciously to power a generator and feed electricity back to the battery, extending range up to an estimated 1,243 miles (2,000 km) on 80 liters of fuel. The company says that diesel has provided the best overall performance in testing, but it believes that liquified natural gas or hydrogen will prove the better environmental choices in the future.
The Ren's powertrain is modular and can accommodate two, four or six Yasa liquid-cooled electric motors. The dual-motor layout puts a motor at each rear wheel; the four-motor layout spreads them to all four wheels; and the six motor layout drops two motors at each rear wheel and one at each front wheel.
Each "pancake" motor is mounted flat against the carbon tub and drives the wheel through a 1:3.3 reduction gear. A single motor puts out up to 215 hp and 288 lb-ft, so the two-motor powertrain has a listed total of 429 hp and 575 lb-ft, the four-motor layout 858 hp and 1,150 lb-ft, and the six-motor layout 1,287 hp and 1,725 lb-ft.
The 1,287-hp, six-motor configuration is obviously what gives the Ren it's out-and-out hypercar credibility and the performance to match. Techrules estimates a 0-62 mph (100 km/h) of 2.5 seconds and a top speed of 199 mph (320 km/h) while also listing a 31.5 mpg/7.5 L/100 km consumption figure – quite an impressive set of numbers.
If it isn't clear yet, Techrules is all about modularity and plans to offer multiple turbine and battery options, as well as multiple motor configurations. Buyers will choose between a single or double high-efficiency 30-kW turbine layout or a double high-powered 80-kW turbine setup. The lithium-ion battery will come in 14-, 25- or 32-kWh size and be mounted at the rear of the carbon tub behind the driver.
Helping to round out a properly lively ride, Techrules brought in the expertise of Italian motorsport specialist L.M. Gianetti in developing the chassis, which relies on a carbon fiber tub with aluminum and steel structural components. L.M. Gianetti also developed the front and rear double wishbone suspensions with KW three-way adjustable coilover shocks and anti-roll bars.
To board the Ren, the driver hits a button on his or her key fob, and the car's triple-bubble canopy – or, we suppose, the double- or single-bubble canopy – electrically lifts up and back. The side door panels slide back right along with it, providing space for comfortable entry and exit. As the canopy opens, the side wings of the dashboard retract, the steering column lifts and the passenger pod footrests move forward to accommodate the driver as he climbs in and swings a leg over one of the side pod walls to get seated in the central cockpit. Upon canopy closing, all elements revert back to original driving position.
Each occupant is treated to a sort of personal seating cocoon, trimmed in Italian leather and a grippy denim seat cushion covering supplied by clothier Pantaloni Torino. Following the 1+2 curvature of the seating, the dashboard extends out at the edges like a boomerang. This design brings the climate control vents out to each of the two passengers and positions the two side-view digital displays more naturally at the driver's sides. A central display shows the feed from the 180-degree rear-view camera, while instrument readings are moved to a digital display at the center of the steering wheel. Self-leveling technology keeps the latter screen steady as the driver turns the wheel. This layout seems a little video game-ish, perhaps implemented more for style than substance, but it certainly looks cool on an auto show floor.
The driver controls the Ren's ride through seven different driving modes, and Techrules has even managed to stuff some radar- and camera-based driver assistance technologies in. We wouldn't expect to find features like blind spot detection or emergency braking on a supercar this vicious, but they have their place on the Ren's spec sheet. Electric power-assisted steering and carbon ceramic disc brakes round out the versatile, high-performance package.
While the driver is switching through modes and attempting to make heads or tails of all those digital displays, the two passengers are sitting back in semi-prone position, each one's legs resting atop one of the 40-liter FIA-certified safety fuel bladders feeding the turbine system from below the carbon fiber floor. Fold-out touchscreens keep them entertained – just in case racing forward inside a claustrophobic supercar sidecar doesn't keep their attention piqued on its own.
Since the triple-pod layout doesn't exactly foster clear communications between occupants, Techrules has integrated a speaker and microphone system into each wraparound headrest. The driver can also speak to those outside of the car using an external mic/speaker system integrated into the exterior badging. We reckon fast food drive-thrus and drive-up ATMs are out of the question with that canopy and central seating position, though.
Boiling it all down to hard numbers, the Ren measures 184.8 in x 80.6 in (4,694 x 2,048 mm, L x W) and stands just under 4 feet (1,200 mm) off the ground. It rides on a 107.2-in (2,724-mm) wheelbase and 71.6-in (1,818-mm) front and 71.2 (1,808-mm) rear tracks. Techrules estimates dry weight at 3,594 lb (1,630 kg), but that will vary depending upon all those modular selections discussed earlier.
Techrules gave the Ren a shakedown at Monza a couple of weeks before debuting it at the Geneva Motor Show, and it has more testing and development planned in the coming months. The firm hopes to begin production sometime in 2018. Looking beyond the Ren, the company also plans to use its TREV platform for a family of vehicles, with possible members to include a sedan, SUV and city car.