LA Design Challenge: Green Cars of the Future


Doc Brown would have been proud. Nine automakers have submitted entries in the upcoming Los Angeles Auto Show’s Design Challenge, a competition aimed at conceiving a futuristic car that’s environmentally friendly, by both design and fuel source, and can be recycled after five years on the road. It’s the third such competition sponsored by the auto show, and all entries are strictly two-dimensional. Judges choose a winner based on originality, environmentalism, safety and how well it reflects Southern California’s “green” lifestyle.

For details on the winner, stay tuned for our full L.A. Auto Show coverage coming at the end of November. For now, here’s a sneak peek.


Acura FCX 2020 Le Mans: Try saying it six times fast. The Le Mans looks like the Batmobile, but uses lightweight, recyclable materials. A hydrogen fuel-cell drivetrain propels it to take on a future 24 Hours of Le Mans, while molecular nanotechnology allows lightweight construction.

Thumbs up: Motors in each wheel assist the hydrogen powertrain, effectively creating AWD.

Thumbs down: Drivers must lie flat on their stomachs.


Audi Dynamic Space Frame: The Space Frame has built-in channels to facilitate an elaborate drive-by-fluid system. That’s right: Instead of a traditional mechanical linkage between the steering and the wheels, there’s a fluid coupling. The car’s suspension also features liquid portions that are electrically charged to alter the car’s ride.

Thumbs up: The minimal overhangs and gigantic wheels project an athletic stance.

Thumbs down: The suspension concept exists today, but the fluid driveshaft seems like a giant torque converter – hardly the stuff of efficiency.


Hummer O2: GM’s California design studios say the O2 has a net positive effect on the environment thanks to its algae-filled panels, which turn carbon dioxide into oxygen. Other features include a fuel cell drivetrain and parts made from post-consumer recycled materials.

Thumbs up: Hydraulic motors power all four wheels, and carbon dioxide from each motor is routed toward the algae.

Thumbs down: The algae need to be changed annually. We doubt Jiffy Lube will offer a $29.99 special.


Honda Extreme: Honda’s Extreme can take on different forms – from a pickup truck to a low-slung sports car – thanks to interchangeable body panels. After five years, the polycarbonate chassis can be recycled.

Thumbs up: Evolving body styles on the same car? Sign us up.

Thumbs down: Sheet-metal makeovers come courtesy of Honda Sustainability Centers, which look like miniature airport terminals with hokey status readouts like “transforming” and “transformation complete.”


Mercedes-Benz RECY: The RECY, an open-air roadster that looks like it took a few cues from the 1980s SL, offers wood, alloy, glass and rubber materials said to be 100 percent recyclable. A BlueTec diesel engine provides power. Design inspiration came from wooden yachts and sunglasses, Mercedes says.

Thumbs up: Unlike many objects of automotive inspiration, these things actually show up in the concept. The two-frame windshield looks like a pair of Oakleys, and the body has a nautical profile.

Thumbs down: A long aluminum brace splits the two seats. Seems like it could put a crunch on shoulder room.


MINI Biomoke: The Biomoke sports biodegradable paneling infused with palm tree seeds. When the car expires, the panels compost and the seeds sprout. There are no windows – Mini says the open-air cockpit is best for Southern California’s temperate climate. And like Mini’s real cars, the Biomoke’s exterior can be customized to fit its owner’s tastes.

Thumbs up: We’re still chuckling about the palm tree seeds.

Thumbs down: Temperate climate notwithstanding, a mile on the 405 without a windshield could bury drivers in grit.


Kia Sandstorm: Kia says its two-seat runabout can hit the beach or navigate through highway traffic. Its aluminum safety cage protects occupants, while cargo space can accommodate a barbecue. Power comes from a biodiesel hybrid engine with plug-in electric capability and recyclable batteries.

Thumbs up: It looks like a genuine dune buggy, so it’s sure to be a hit at the beach.

Thumbs down: We’re all for minimizing waste, but having detachable recycling bins inside the cabin seems a bit overboard.


Toyota RLV: The Renewable Lifestyle Vehicle seats two, one behind the other. Power comes from an electric powertrain or bicycle-style pedals, the latter for situations like bumper-to-bumper traffic. A pop-up roll cage and active headrests aim to protect occupants during a rollover, and the floorboard is made from bamboo and aluminum.

Thumbs up: Pedaling recharges the battery, and the wheels telescope outward for better high-speed stability.

Thumbs down: Since you’re giving him a lift, there ought to be an extra set of pedals for the passenger.


Volkswagen Nanospyder: The Nanospyder uses billions of spore-like nanobots – complete with eyeballs, mouths and tiny VW logos – that bind together to create the vehicle. Impending collisions can be picked up by the lead bots, and the information can be sent elsewhere to bolster certain sections of the vehicle.

Thumbs up: Hands down, Nanospyder is the coolest name here.

Thumbs down: Stability depends on these little critters getting along. What happens when you’re doing 65 on an overpass and the bots holding the wheels together decide to mutiny?


Wow, I cant wait to see some of these cars cruising the roads in the near future. I do hope that the designs take shape become a reality.

The Audi dynamic and the Honda extreme are sure winners for me. Most of the other designs are convertibles or are not enclosed. Thinking of the future, I would say that cars in the coming years should be more enclosed if the rate at which we are polluting our air continues. A UV filtering windshield would also be a bonus. The auto parts for these cars presumably has all changed as well. In that regards, I don't think renovation will be that fast. For design though, I think the visions these designers had are amazing.

Wait till Hollywood sees these. heh heh.


I see only two fully enclosed cars. What do we do if it rains? Collect the water and use it for washing our clothes?

UGH! Style (?) over substance. Most of these vehicles are extremely aerodynamically dirty, which would take a serious toll on range and mileage. None appear practical by any means. I'm glad to hear that none of these have come close to being built, as it makes it easier to say BACK TO THE DRAWING BOARD. The competition itself seems questionable-- for a car to require recycling after only five years sounds terribly absurd.

now that was funny.

Barry C at UCSB

The concepts here are not as far off as most may think. UCLA and UCSB are jointly hosting the California Nanoscience school, perfecting existing materials theory into actual products. LEDs developed at UCSB will continue to revolutionize lighting - in all areas not just automotive. Appliances, lighting, autos, computers, medical instruments, etc, will all become exponentially more energy efficient in the very near future. So efficient in fact, that utility bill savings will be incentive enough to change out complete systems immediately. Nanoscience enhanced products will be a boom that will make the dotcom-ers look juvenile... just you wait and see.


these cars are fuking nails, wot you u duin ye twat! make em look fukin normal!! now!

You missed the best real full electrics.
the Tesla EV and AC Propulsions eBox Scion EV.

Lithium batties 200+ miles per charge, predicted 100,000 mile battery life.

AC Propulsions even has V2G vehicle to grid

rj laurie

check this ride out its rad yo

working carguy

Hey you ney saying freaks!
Go for it, if its so easy for you.

Environmental friendly luxury cars...


great cars

**pimpin 612**

the cars are pimpin like me all day make me that ohnda extreme now that is pimipn i got because im a billionare so get me it soon

Perhaps an interesting automotive development to you that proves that things can be different, and that slowly gets noticed. The Space Efficient Vehicle's basic motto is: Save Space. (By doing so:) Save Fuel. Save the Environment.

It is expected to be more fuel-efficient, more practical, comfortable and safer than the little Smart ForTwo. Arguably better looking too, we think. A next-generation BMW Isetta? We would appreciate it if you would consider paying attention to this. At least it will make people rethink the whole concept of eco-friendly and space-efficient personal transport.


Ilove your ideas i love the yellow car i want the car. me and my friend love the idea too.:)

Wisdom appears in contradiction to itself, which is a trick life plays on philosophy of life.

Love begins with a smile,grows with a kiss,ends with a tear. When you were born,you were crying and everyone around you was smiling. Live your life so that when you die,you're the one smiling and everyone around you is crying.

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