Maverick Designer Tackles China’s Traffic Problem With An EV Concept

Maverick Designer Tackles China’s Traffic Problem With An EV Concept
Automotive

The REDS prototype is designed to be a customizable personal space on wheels

Dave Pinter, PSFK
  • 30 november 2017

Unlike in architecture where ‘starchitects’ become celebrities and household names, car designers aren’t as well recognized—with one notable exception. In 1992, BMW hired Chris Bangle as its head of design. He was the first American to hold the position and charged with reviving BMW’s design and styling, which had grown stagnant.

Over the next decade and half, Bangle and his design team used BMW as an experimental auto design laboratory. What came out of his time leading the effort was the minimalist BMW Z21 Just 4/2, the fabric covered Gina concept and ‘flame surfacing’ (a term actually coined by the motoring press). Most controversial however was the rear of the fourth generation of the BMW 7 Series, produced from 2001-2008, a.k.a. the Bangle butt.

In early 2009, Bangle announced he was resigning from BMW and exiting the auto industry all together to branch out and work on other design and art-related projects. For almost a decade, he’s done just that through his consulting company, Chris Bangle Associates. Ahead of the 2017 Los Angeles Auto Show, rumors started to circulate that Bangle was working on another mysterious car project, and it was to debut at the show. The Verge was the first to post pictures of the car and details provided by Bangle. The project is called REDSPACE and the car, dubbed REDS, shows Bangle hasn’t lost any of his experimental nature.

At first glance, REDS looks chaotic, oddly proportioned and incomparable to any other vehicle on the road today. Bangle is quoted as citing cartoon characters Calvin & Hobbes as a reference. The boxy aesthetics are a hint that REDS is trying to solve a problem different from contemporary vehicles. Which is, how can REDS be more of a benefit to someone’s time? Bangle referenced a 90/10 philosophy, seeing as most cars owned today are only in use 10% of the time. REDS was developed to prioritize the 90% idle time to become more useful in different ways. REDS was specifically targeted at the traffic congested cities in China, where people often sit at a standstill for long periods.

The design began with figuring out the interior. In dense urban Chinese cities, personal space is at a premium or nonexistent. Bangle adopted the idea of creating a ‘fourth space,’ one beyond home, work and social places. The REDS interior is a fourth space that can be configured and used as an individual desires. REDS is a four-seater in driving mode and can accommodate five people when parked. The front seats can swivel and fold to change between a traditional driving orientation and lounge-like seating. A wraparound love seat in the back can be divided and folded away to make room for luggage or groceries.

Digital displays are nothing new to vehicle dashboards, but REDS adds a unique twist. The 17-inch screen articulates between two positions. In driving mode, half of the screen is visible showing vehicle and navigation information. When a panel is slid across a lower information display, the screen extends into entertainment mode for watching movies or playing games. Tired passengers can enjoy a foot massage in an alcove underneath the dashboard on the passenger side.

There are a lot of ideas combined into the exterior—maybe too many for such a small car. The large roof is fitted with a solar panel on top to assist in charging the batteries. The front and rear glass tapers at a reverse angle to shield the sun from the interior and keep it cool. The doors slide open sideways and reveal a lip on the roof that serves as a canopy for protection from rain when entering or exiting.

The exterior was designed using a series of layered shapes. This facilitates a wide range of color and material customization. The video below shows a preview at the end of a custom color selector that could offer hundreds of different combinations.

Chris Bangle Associates partnered with China Hi-Tech Group Corporation, currently an industrial equipment manufacturer, to build the car. The alpha prototype shown in The Verge article is intended to be the first model for the new brand REDSPACE. At the time of writing, no specific production dates were announced, but Bangle said that this is a real project with production targets in mind.

Chris Bangle Associates

Unlike in architecture where ‘starchitects’ become celebrities and household names, car designers aren’t as well recognized—with one notable exception. In 1992, BMW hired Chris Bangle as its head of design. He was the first American to hold the position and charged with reviving BMW’s design and styling, which had grown stagnant.

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