Lean, green and quirky: is this the shape of cars to come?

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The Independent Online
It may not be everyone's idea of motoring, but designers claim this is the shape of cars to come, writes Randeep Ramesh

Devised for the RAC by students on the Royal College of Art's "vehicle design course", the new car will be a cleaner, greener alternative to today's roadsters.

According to the students' short jaunt into the future, these beasts would be hailed by passing pedestrians on city streets which would then take them to their required destination. They could also be driven into workplaces by one employee and taken home by another.

Professor Ken Greenley, the course director, said: "We will design a vehicle that will perform a new role in London where most travel is concerned - with short runs at relatively low speed."

"Currently there is a lot of waste on the roads in terms of fuel used and the amount of space taken up. A car is efficient when it is running along a motorway carrying four people. However, most of its life is spent parked outside the home or office, taking up space."

With such a radical re-design, much of the accepted wisdom regarding cars would need to be junked.

The materials used in the car's construction would have to be light enough to improve fuel efficiency but tough enough to withstand car crashes.

The RAC believes that if a host of modern technologies were incorporated in one new "supermodel", fuel consumption improvements of more than 200 per cent could be achieved without any loss of comfort, safety or performance.

"Our vision for new improvements include `slippery' composite cars with low air resistance, hybrid engines combining petrol or diesel and electric power, and a fast-acting catalyst to scrub out emissions," said Richard Woods, the organisation's campaigns manager.

"The car we come up with may not become a reality for another 10 to 20 years, but we have to start somewhere.

"We already know that people are less wedded to the idea of a car than they once were."