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First look: Basalt-bodied EV to wow Geneva

Out there: German-designed electric hatch is wrapped in basalt fibre.

Two new technologies to debut on EDAG’s latest concept at Swiss show

23 Jan 2009

RECYCLABLE basalt fibre made from rocks, and (O)LED lighting are among the latest breakthrough technologies to emerge on German design and engineering firm EDAG’s latest concept car, to be unveiled at the Geneva motor show on March 3.

Announced this week, the uninspiringly-named Light Car – Open Source concept is claimed to represent the first automotive application of basalt fibre, which forms the car’s five-door hatchback bodyshell.

Its innovative, industrialised basalt fibre body is produced from an almost infinitely available raw material and is claimed by its maker, ASA-TEC, to be lighter and less costly to make than aluminium or carbon-fibre yet “has practically the same strength properties as conventional materials”.

 center image According to EDAG, the new material, which will be employed in the construction of rotors for large-scale wind power generators, can now be put to systematic use in the automotive industry.

“This type of basalt fibre therefore has the potential for becoming a main structural element and thus being used as a future lightweight material in cars for the high volume market,” it says.

Of course, EDAG’s latest creation is also a fully electric vehicle (EV), which in this case is motivated by four in-wheel electric motors that give it a driving range of up to 150km via a lithium-ion battery pack.

EDAG says the elimination of a conventional engine and transmission allows the Light Car concept’s wheelbase to stretch to 2.9 metres – about the same as that of BMW’s 5 Series luxury sedan – while its exterior dimensions remain compact with an overall length of four metres and a width of 1.7 metres.

Claimed to seat five passengers in comfort, EDAG says its new car’s rolling chassis is “a genuine, universal platform to which the modules for various bodies can be added”, allowing vehicle derivatives to be developed more quickly and at lower cost.

The “open source” part of its title refers to the fact the Light Car features technologies that are in the early stages of development, which are expected to attract development and production input from a range of fields, including car-makers.

“For this reason, EDAG regards this as an open source project, and approaches other companies with which it can then work on the development of the EDAG Light Car. The company has made a deliberate decision to address itself to a wide circle, thus enabling new notions to be absorbed in the car of the future.” With Light Car – Open Source, the EDAG Group intends not only to substantiate its claims to being an innovative engineering partner to the automotive industry, but also to stimulate the discussion of ways and means of satisfying future consumer demands – ecological and economical – on the next generation of cars.” Of course, its basalt body is not the only new technology to be featured by the latest invention from the same company that has brought us everything from the Pontiac Solstice station wagon to amphibious rescue vehicles since 1999.

Creating the automotive equivalent of a computer desktop that can be altered to suit personal tastes, the Light Car features LED lamps that mark out the outlines of the headlights and rear lights that can be modified to give the car a unique appearance.

Thus, EDAG says the car is among the first to employ (O)LED technology as an individually adaptable design and communication function.

Beyond the fact the body illuminates to reveal its full shape upon start-up, drivers can select what shape headlights or tail-lights they wish to “wear” on any given day.

The same technology is also used within the Light Car’s cockpit, where the instrument panel can be varied according to personal preference, allowing the size, style and location of its gauges to be mixed and matched.

In effect, the EDAG’s Light Car uses (O)LED technology to use its transparent tailgate, which in this case is glass but in future is expected to be made from materials such as Makrolon, as a projection screen to allow car-to-car communication even if following vehicles do not employ such systems.

For example, the Light Car features an illuminated scale on its rear window to display braking force, taking BMW’s two-mode system to more useful heights.

“We have transferred today's multimedia and lighting technology standards to the car, and in future want to offer the customer scope for free configuration, as the entire surface of the vehicle functions like the display of a multimedia installation, and can be used intelligently and individually,” said EDAG Design Studio head Johannes Barckmann.

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