The modular car is a radical concept: a vehicle that changes its form as you change your needs

The modern car is like a cautious man who carries an umbrella every day in case it rains. What is the point of under-using a twin- cam 16-valve 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine around town every working day when it is only once a month that you need the power it delivers? Why lug around an empty rear seat every weekday on the off-chance that you may have passengers at the weekend?

The main reason that the car is such a glaringly inefficient beast is because, for most of the time, we use a tiny portion of its potential. Most cars can seat five, do more than l00mph, accelerate from 0-60 in about 10 seconds, can easily break 40mpg, work happily at more than 50C and yet warm their passengers and their engines at -30. They also have absurdly big boots.

Few of these facilities - some legislative, some buyer expectation - are ever put to use. Until the car stops being a world machine (developed for all international markets, from the high-speed German autobahn to the deserts of Dubai) and resumes its role as a machine designed to satisfy the peculiarities of particular countries, these inefficiencies will continue. Being all things to all people is usually a recipe for wastefulness.

None the less, car makers can see the need for more flexibility. They talk about more "niche" cars: small-volume machines which can be made economically thanks to the wonders of modern mass-production. If Europe wants a baby car, but no one else does, let Europe have it. If the Americans want to continue with their dinosaurs, fine. As mass-production becomes more flexible, it is even possible to contemplate some cars being engineered and manufactured solely for individual countries once again.

The modular car is a more radical concept. A car that changes its form as you change your needs would clearly be the most efficient way of getting about. What is the point of lugging a 100-litre steel container (the boot) behind you all the time, when you use its capacity only for the summer holidays? Better to fit a boot when you need it.

The most sensible and practicable modular car proposal I have seen is the Opel MAXX. Opel (Vauxhall's equivalent in Germany) has designed a small city car using an aluminium frame, to which can be mated a variety of bodies - a conventional five-door hatch, a two-door coupe, a convertible, a pick-up, off-roader, van and even a taxi.

You order the basic car and the appropriate body style. If you want to change the body, or the interior, you can, while keeping the chassis and mechanicals. The new body simply clips on to the frame.

The MAXX is still in prototype form. Opel says it may go into production, although it must be at least five years away. It is confident, though, that the "tailor-made" concept shows great promise, and says one of the benefits of this "mix and match" approach is that cars can be made much more individual.

Mercedes foresees a time when you may simply rent body styles to attach to your car. Audi has even spoken of changing engines, as well as body styles, further improving flexibility. The only unchangeable would be the chassis.

Car makers know the modular car will happen. Demands for greater efficiency, and the simple fact that buyers now want more individuality from their cars, will see to it.

News
Susan Sarandon described David Bowie as
peopleSusan Sarandon reveals more on her David Bowie romance
Sport
sportDidier Drogba returns to Chelsea on one-year deal
Arts and Entertainment
The Secret Cinema performance of Back to the Future has been cancelled again
film
News
people
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Christian Grey cradles Ana in the Fifty Shades of Grey film
filmFifty Shades of Grey trailer provokes moral outrage in US
Sport
Louis van Gaal would have been impressed with Darren Fletcher’s performance against LA Galaxy during Manchester United’s 7-0 victory
football
Voices
The new dawn heralded by George Osborne has yet to rise
voicesJames Moore: As the Tories rub their hands together, the average voter will be asking why they're not getting a piece of the action
Sport
Dejan Lovren celebrates scoring for Southampton although the goal was later credited to Adam Lallana
sport
News
newsComedy club forced to apologise as maggots eating a dead pigeon fall out of air-conditioning
Arts and Entertainment
Jo Brand says she's mellowed a lot
tvJo Brand says shows encourage people to laugh at the vulnerable
Life and Style
People may feel that they're procrastinating by watching TV in the evening
life
Sport
Rhys Williams
commonwealth games
News
Isis fighters travel in a vehicle as they take part in a military parade along the streets of Syria's northern Raqqa province
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Southern charm: Nicolas Cage and Tye Sheridan in ‘Joe’
filmReview: Actor delivers astonishing performance in low budget drama
Life and Style
fashionLatex dresses hit the catwalk to raise awareness for HIV and Aids
Travel
travel
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Senior Risk Manager - Banking - London - £650

    £600 - £650 per day: Orgtel: Conduct Risk Liaison Manager - Banking - London -...

    Commercial Litigation Associate

    Highly Attractive Package: Austen Lloyd: CITY - COMMERCIAL LITIGATION - GLOBAL...

    Systems Manager - Dynamics AX

    £65000 - £75000 per annum + Benefits: Progressive Recruitment: The client is a...

    Service Delivery Manager (Software Development, Testing)

    £40000 - £45000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A well-established software house ba...

    Day In a Page

    Finding the names for America’s shame: What happens to the immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert?

    Finding the names for America’s shame

    The immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert
    Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

    Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

    The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
    Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

    Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

    Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
    German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

    Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

    Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
    BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

    BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

    The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
    Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

    Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

    Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
    How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

    Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

    Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
    Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

    Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

    Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
    10 best reed diffusers

    Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

    Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
    Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

    Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

    There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
    Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

    Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

    It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little
    Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

    Screwing your way to the top?

    Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
    Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

    Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

    Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
    Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter, the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

    Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter

    The wartime poster girl became the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment
    The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones: Are custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?

    The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones

    Earphones don't fit properly, offer mediocre audio quality and can even be painful. So the quest to design the perfect pair is music to Seth Stevenson's ears