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Z.Car By Zaha Hadid

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Z.Car By Zaha Hadid » image 2

Architect Zaha Hadid may not be the first name to cross your mind when you think “concept car.” But after creating a plant for BMW in Leipzig, Germany, and a car park in Strasbourg, France, Hadid needed to design an actual car to complete her automotive set. Or so thought car collector and art dealer Kenny Schachter, who had exhibited work from her studio at his London gallery. Craving a way to combine design with his love of cars, he commissioned Hadid last fall to create an original concept car. The resulting Z.Car project, which will premiere at the Guggenheim Museum in New York, might be viewed as the first car designed for the new century. Hadid’s very unlikelihood made her ideal for the job.

Hadid’s office was interested in exploring how a car could affect its driver’s behavior in the city. “We thought that driving around in a car like this might make you see your environment in a different way,” suggests Borstelmann. Conceived to be built from carbon-fiber composite, using “drive-by-wire” technology, the car is lightweight as well as small. “Perhaps it would make you more conscious, more aware. You are enclosed in a passenger pod; it’s very different from a regular car.”
Z.Car By Zaha Hadid » image 1
The streamlined design of the Z.Car, with storage up front and the engine at the rear, reflects Hadid’s organic language. “It’s shaped like a water drop; as we intend it to use hydrogen, we wanted that as a reference,” says Borstelmann. The styling was designed to generate a fluid shape, with minimum wind friction. He’s proudest of its high degree of asymmetry—crucial to Hadid’s design language—and creating a distinctive design that incorporates the very developed technologies of an automobile.
Z.Car By Zaha Hadid » image 3
The studio decided it made sense to give the car just three wheels, which kept with the zeitgeist, since manufacturers, including Volkswagen and Peugeot, are experimenting with three-wheeled concepts. “In this office, we always like to challenge things that are already there, so we decided to go not for four wheels. If you look at energy efficiency and wind friction, for example, the ideal shape is to have a car body that is wider in the front and shorter at the back. Four-wheel cars usually generate a lot of friction, especially at the back, so we chose to eliminate this by not having a fourth wheel at all,” says Borstelmann.
Z.Car By Zaha Hadid » image 4
The studio was aware of previous three-wheelers, but not all of them shared the Z.Car’s configuration: two wheels in front, with passengers side by side. “To increase the communication between driver and co-driver, it makes more sense to put them next to each other,” he says. “And it makes the car more stable, because you’ve got the two wheels in front.”
Z.Car By Zaha Hadid » image 5
Hadid insisted that the car be practical for use in the city, that it adapt to the driver’s differing needs. For a start, the overall height of the car is variable: The arm that carries the rear wheel is mounted on a hinge that connects it to the passenger pod. The passenger pod raises and lowers according to the car’s speed: At low speeds, it stays in the higher position, giving the driver a better view ahead and making the car easier to park. At higher speeds, the pod is automatically lowered 10 degrees, placing the center of gravity closer to the road and making the car more stable.
Z.Car By Zaha Hadid » image 6
Thus the Z.Car neatly bridges two distinct flavors of chassis design: One is the upright urban car, with small size and good forward visibility; the other is the performance-focused sports car, with its low center of gravity. Changing the angle of the passenger compartment allows the Z.Car to handle quite differently depending on the needs of its environment. That said, Borstelmann notes that the hinge is the design element that would need the most refinement if the car were to be engineered for production.

Other practical Z.Car features envisaged by the studio include the large, asymmetric front-door hatch that gives the drivers panoramic forward vision. Cameras replace the rear window, displaying the view out back on a video screen located inside, where a traditional rearview mirror would be. Occupants can adjust the tint of the windows, whose translucence can vary by adjusting the current that powers thin LED film on the surface.

Inside, the two occupants sit side by side, entering when the passenger pod is lowered. The passenger seat slides back to allow the driver—climbing in from the left—easier access to the right-hand seat. The seats and even the steering wheel are flowing forms, each a single shape designed to be as clean as possible. The team liked “the idea of having a single element from which you can control everything, without spoiling the whole interior,” says Borstelmann. With drive-by-wire technology, turning the wheel sends signals to control modules that actually vary the angle of the wheels via electric motors or hydraulic systems.

The team also played with another feature: a baggage pod that could be inserted between the passenger compartment and the rear suspension to expand the car’s capacity. “If you’re driving around the city, just going to meet friends, you need a shorter car. But if you want to go on holiday, or you travel, you can’t put all your luggage in the car. If you can expand it, if you have an extra module in your garage that you plug in, you can use that to increase your space.”

From initial designs on a digital drawing board, the Z.Car concept has now moved to the next phase: a 1:1 scale model. Creation of a full-scale shape followed extensive research by Hadid’s studio and also by Schachter, who asked kit-car manufacturer GTM to do a feasibility study of the Z.Car’s practicality. Based in Coventry in Britain’s Midlands, GTM produces a range of sports car models in small numbers. The company is ideally suited to this unique and experimental project.

The scale model will be displayed at shows and exhibitions, including the Guggenheim retrospective of Hadid’s work, giving it exposure that should attract financing. This will allow other parties to get involved, in particular transport-design students.

The ultimate plan is to turn the Z.Car into a road-registered vehicle. Because it would be produced only in limited numbers—and hence would be subject to fewer regulations in the UK—the car could feasibly be on the road years ahead of a high-volume equivalent. Will it actually be powered by a hydrogen fuel cell? If so, it would join only a few thousand running fuel-cell cars on the planet.


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leave a response    8:25 am    August 4th, 2007     posted by : Mehdi    Permalink   
 Filed in : Design, vehicles    Tags: , ,
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