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LA Auto Show Design Challenge: The 1,000 Pound Car

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On: Fri, Oct 22, 2010 at 9:29AM | By: Chris Weiss


LA Auto Show Design Challenge: The 1,000 Pound Car

At the Paris Motor Show, Lamborghini made a big splash when it cut hundreds of pounds off a concept that it called the Sesto Elemento. Using all kinds of  stripping and composite construction, Lamborghini created a V10-powered concept that weighed just 2,200 lbs.

Now that the LA Auto Show is on the way, some automakers will be making an even bigger splash by showing designs that weigh less than half Lamborghini's Sesto Elemento. This year's Design Challenge at the show involves creating four-seat vehicles weighing no more than 1,000 lbs.

While not generally as flashy as fancy, wheel-mounted electric-motor-based powertrains, shaving weight off of vehicles is one of the key ways toward making them more fuel efficient. And cutting weight all the way down to half a ton will definitely improve those ever-important fuel economy and emissions figures. The purpose of the Design Challenge is to create four-passenger vehicles that are not only light, but also safe, comfortable, and performance-oriented. That's no small task.

Usually reserved for Southern California design firms, this year's Challenge marks the first time it has been opened internationally. Japan- and Germany-based Mercedes design firms will participate in the challenge. So far, there are nine concepts displayed on the auto show's website, including models from GM, Honda, Mazda, and Volvo. While each company has a unique take on the 1,000-lber, they all share otherworldly designs that look like they came straight out of a future thriller cut in Hollywood. They also feature all kinds of wild tech like "turbo vacuums," "spider silk composite," "vegetable polymer body panels," "3D lattice, mono-formed frame," and even a rickshaw-inspired design seen in the Maybach Den-Riki-Shaw.

Since it's a competition in which weight is of the essence, we looked to see which design offers the lightest weight. So far, among design teams that detailed a weight, that honor goes to the Honda Air, which comes in a full 200 pounds under max at just under 800 lbs. Inspired by roller coasters, the Air saves weight by using a hubless wheel system and compressed air and pneumatic regulator powertrain.

With so many distinct vehicles, it's hard to pick a favorite in the looks department, but if pressed, I'd have to go with the Nissan iV electric vehicle. I love the natural design with glass cockpit and skeletal side panels. This is also the model that uses spider silk polymer, which just sounds awesome. Fact is, though, all these cars are worth a look.

All the entrants will be on display in LA and a winner will be chosen on November 18. If you won't make it to the show, or can't wait to see these crazy vehicles, take a look at the Design Challenge's Web page for more pictures and full details.


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