The Swiss autohouse Rinspeed presents the iChange, the world's first car whose body adapts to the number of passengers on board.
For Rinspeed boss, Rinderknecht, the vehicle is more than just a clever concept. "The iChange is a symbol for the fundamental changes the auto industry undergoes worldwide. And it is clear that only those companies will survive that have innovative answers for the demands of a new automotive era." The visionary Rinderknecht is convinced that the days of gas-guzzling behemoths are coming to an end: "The iChange is a signal for the coming global changes to individual mobility. We need to be ready to meet these challenges with new ideas."
In seconds a streamlined one-seater sportscar transforms into a comfortable car with ample room for three. The trick: At the push of a button the rear end of the teardrop-shaped car magically pops up. "We have designed and built an extremely flexible vehicle. In it we have brought the themes of versatility and continually changing energy demands to their logical conclusions." The result is a streamlined, lightweight zero-emission car with dramatically reduced energy consumption.
The basic idea behind the iChange is that the energy demand of a vehicle depends mostly on its weight, the type of engine it uses, and its aerodynamic properties. The engineering-services company Esoro that traditionally builds Rinspeed concept cars has built an extremely lightweight car weighing in at only 2300 lb. To power the car, the Swiss specialists chose an electric motor. The idea of the pop-up rear end was conceived to account for the sizeable effect aerodynamics play in fuel consumption.
While other cars always have to ferry around their puffed-up exteriors that can accommodate up to seven passengers, even if they're just transporting a single soul, the iChange features an adaptive body. The sole driver is conveyed in a teardrop-shaped car that offers optimal aerodynamic properties and thus minimized energy consumption. If more than one person needs to be transported, the expanding rear provides room for two passengers. As a result of the increased weight and no longer optimal aerodynamics the energy consumption increases, but only for the time passengers are actually on board.
The energy for the electric motor comes from lithium-ion batteries that are available in two different stack configurations for short- and long-distance driving. The electric motor of the iChange produces 150kW, capable of propelling the car to a top speed of 130mph. The sprint from rest to 62mph takes just slightly over 4sec.
This impressive performance is made possible with the help of a six-speed pre-selector transmission from the Subaru WRX car. The central research department of Siemens AG supplied the integration technology for engine/generator, electronics and battery connection interface. Custom-made lightweight 17" and 18" forged wheels with aerodynamic shrouds are supplied by wheel specialists AEZ. Pirelli P Zero tires in 215/40-17 front and 245/40-18 rear provide optimal grip. The front lights derive from the Opel Insignia, the rear lamps come from the Opel Astra Twin Top.
An initial walk-around reveals that the concept car has no doors. The entire electric-powered roof section of the car, measuring just 3.4ft in height, tilts forward to allow passengers to board.
Also gone are such mundane things as a key. Its role is filled by an Apple iPhone, which also controls the most important vehicle functions.
The iChange is drastically different than ordinary cars in every detail: At the heart of the concept lies the groundbreaking next-generation Harman/Kardon infotainment system, which uses innovative Intel processor technology to minimize power consumption.
When it comes to the subject of heating systems, the iChange is as versatile as its car body. Because the electric motor produces little waste heat, the concept depends on a high-performance auxiliary heater. The Esslingen-based Eberspcher Group designed two tailor-made ecological heating systems for this project: an electric heater as well as an ethanol 85 heater. This optimally accentuates the advantages of the two technologies: The entirely emission free electric PTC heater proves itself at short distances. Over long distances, the battery-independent alternative fuel-powered heater ensures a significantly longer operating range of the vehicle. As a result, even the heater of the iChange variably adjusts to the respective requirements.
The pure wool used in the interior was further refined into high-tech wool by Schoeller using state-of-the-art processes. The wool is spun and died in accordance with the highest eco standards. It provides an extremely extravagant ambiance in the iChange, looks stunning and is delicate to the touch. The competence partner Strhle + Hess transformed this natural product into a striking interior. Its surface character and materiality combine to create a symbiosis of shell, firmness and frothy air. Unconventional techniques create unusual surfaces. The seams of the seats are reversed and the removable seats cushions are adorned with the prototype's name.
While textiles can be found in the iChange in their original form, in other areas they are newly interpreted on seats and cargo floor using various refinement techniques such as braiding, gathering and a combination of both. Leather strips alternate with technical textiles. The seat cushions are interchangeable; braided felt alternates with technical textiles formed into three-dimensional shapes. This transfers the adaptive concept of the iChange to the interior as well.
The diamond-coated anti-slip floor is supplied by abrasives specialist KGS. The Swiss Federal Ministry for Energy (Bundesamt fr Energie) supports the iChange project as a groundbreaking research and development project. Solar panels on the top and sides of the roof provide electricity to a fan that keeps internal temperatures comfortably low on hot summer days. The large Sharp solar panels also provide additional eco-friendly charging of the batteries.