Radically Designed Plug-In Vehicles to Become Future Classics?

4 years ago by Eric Loveday 4

Odd-Shaped, but Aerodynamically Correct  Nissan LEAF Headlight

Odd-Shaped, but Aerodynamically Correct Nissan LEAF Headlight

Recently, Bloomberg posted an editorial on the death of design and the loss of personality in today’s automobiles.

From All Angles...The Fisker Karma is a Radical Design

From All Angles…The Fisker Karma is a Radical Design

While mostly truthful, some automobiles still have flair,  some are even quirky in a way that only the tail-finned Cadillac DeVilles and boatail Buick Rivieras of the bygone era were.  Oddly, those Cadillacs, Rivieras and other similarly odd-looking automobiles, are still mostly cherished for their radical designs today.

That brings us to the point of this post.

Most of the general public sees the Nissan LEAF as an outrageously quirky and, perhaps even goofy-looking vehicle.  Likewise, the radically styled Fisker Karma sure stands out in a crowd.  Other plug-in vehicles cry “I’m electric,” too.  Even the Volkswagen XL1 plug-in hybrid screams for attention.

It’s long been argued that more mainstream designed plug-in vehicles will boost sales.  Though that’s likely true, some of those mainstreamed plug-ins will be forgotten as soon as production ends.

Vic Doolan, a longtime auto industry executive, told Bloomberg that electric vehicle technology will likely lend itself well to outrageous future design:

“We’ll see designs that stir both the passion of a six-year-old boy and a 60-year-old boy.”

So, while the ho-hum styling of the Honda Accord PHEV or Toyota RAV4 EV will never be remembered, funkier vehicles such as the Nissan LEAF, Mitsubishi i-MiEV and even the Fisker Karma will most likely, for better of worse, never be forgotten.  And you can bet your dollars that the VW XL1 will forever be remembered.

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4 responses to "Radically Designed Plug-In Vehicles to Become Future Classics?"

  1. vdiv says:

    In order for people to remember these vehicles they need to know about them first. How many people knew about the Chrysler Turbine or the EV1? How many even remember the first gen. Honda Insight or better yet the CR-Z? And who has heard of or seen a Th!nk City? Twizy??

    Conversely will people remember the Model S because of its looks or because of what this car means to modern day electrics?

    1. GeorgeS says:

      Gas Turbine APU’s were my job so I certainly remember the Chrysler turbine. Loved the EV1. Loved the first Honda Insight. Oddly,the S is almost mainstay now from a design viewpoint,,,but a nice looking car none the less. Think City??? What’s that.

    2. scottf200 says:

      Sales of Twizy were over 9000 among European buyers.
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Renault_Twizy#Sales
      Compare that number to the monthly scorecard (decent):
      http://insideevs.com/monthly-plug-in-sales-scorecard/

  2. James says:

    Oddly, the common Joe and Jane don’t understand aerodynamics and
    prefer cars with a “face”, as in a big gaping grill or grilles. Designers
    have shaped and arranged these geometric shapes in various combinations
    and car owners expect a car to look a certain way since the Model T.
    Of course, there’s exceptions, like the VW Beetle or exotic cars such as
    Ferraris, which we all have accepted but put in certain defined boxes we can
    be comfortable with.

    When I bought my Prius ( 2nd gen ) my family all commented at how ugly
    it was. I knew it was designed in a wind tunnel and really liked it’s shape.
    The only thing I didn’t like were the tiny wheels and tires which made them
    look like kiddie cars – so I opted for the “Touring” model with larger wheels
    which, to my eye, made it look a bit better ( and I sacrificed 3 mpg for 1″
    diameter ). So I realized how much I was effected by aesthetics as well.

    Kids in school should be taught some aerodynamics in science so they
    understand why we should look to nature to design cars and trucks that
    don’t upset the air like a Dodge RAM, F-150, Silverado or Honda Pilot
    does. When truck manufacturers started making grilles that mimicked
    big rigs – sales went up dramatically. Today, truck designers go taller,
    squarer and more beastly – then add grille shutters to try to prevent as much air
    entering the engine bay and tumbling around. Franz Von Holzhausen,
    designer of the Tesla Model S, had to put a fake grille on the car so people
    would not be offended by a smooth nose. Chevy Volt has a traditional-
    looking grille that’s just filled in with plastic panels…

    When LEAF came out many complained about it’s catfish face. Daimler
    did a concept car with very little drag designed after a boxfish. The now-
    defunct Aptera went to even more innovative levels by rounding their
    car’s nose like an aircraft and pushing the front tires out in pods like the
    ones that cover some small aircraft’s fixed landing gears. All of those
    cars appealed to me because I understood their goal of slipping through
    the air like a shark slips through water. The Aptera may well be the
    “oddest” looking of the oddball aero electric cars – and I think, the coolest.

    Every schoolkid should be told to hold their hand outside a moving
    vehicle going freeway speed and make a flat palm towards the front.
    They’ll feel the force pushing back and realize what aero drag is.
    When they turn their hand sideways they’ll understand why cars
    need to be shaped a certain way to improve efficiency. Unfornately
    this generation is lost on gaping grilles and cars with a “mouth”
    or mouths designed for cooling hot gas engines. Teardrop back
    ends may just cause people to riot in the streets!