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Future of cars is bold for Generation Alpha

Over the past three months, Sabic Innovative Plastics (Pittsfield, MA) has sponsored a competition for students from the Transportation Design department at the Art Center College of Design that was dedicated to designing a truly state-of-the-art car for Generation Alpha—anyone born after 2010. The contestants were tasked with coming up with pioneering designs that would cater to the needs of this new generation, but also to provide some insight to what the automotive design industry might be capable of by the year 2030 and after.

Kari Embree

May 20, 2015

26 Min Read
Future of cars is bold for Generation Alpha

Drawing inspiration from Sabic’s comprehensive range of thermoplastic materials and solutions for the automotive sector, students were able to design innovative outcomes, such as Hotspot Urban Base, a shape-shifting polyhedron 3D created vehicle with a giant, flexing ‘live hinge’ door; the ultra-aerodynamic efficient Air Runner designed for fully autonomous high-speed, long-range commuting; and the Transit Integrated Motive or TIM, a luxury transport system of customized pods with a shared platform for private owners or public use. Also, the students were able to take advantage of Sabic’s leading insight into the trends and developments of the automotive design industry and production process.

The jury panel was comprised of 14 professionals from seven major OEM design studios (Ford, General Motors, Mazda, Nissan, Subaru, Tesla Motors and Volkswagen) who then chose John McCarthy as the overall winner. Placing second and third were Eric Sun and Axel Kurkjian. Sabic presented McCarthy, Sun and Kurkjian with scholarships valued at $5,000, $3,000 and $1,000.

The winning design was the Hotspot Urban Base (HUB), which is built upon the idea that Gen Aers will be more engaged in technology and have a greater desire for connectivity than any other generation. With that said this autonomous vehicle welds the digital and physical lives of its three passengers into one simple environment and allows for engaging digital experiences.

John McCarthy’s Hotspot Urban Base (HUB) concept.

According to Sabic, the flexible design allows for its polyhedron 3D structure to morph into an almost infinite number of shapes and different levels of stiffness, similar to muscle fibers pulling and contracting as a skeletal structure. Thermoplastic materials allow freeform 3D-printed lithium ion batteries to be mounted into the vehicle’s fenders, allowing them to become cooling surfaces. Ultra-lightweight polymers create the ability to have a giant, flexing ‘live hinge’ door, providing very easy access to the front and rear seating areas. Ultra-soft, flexible shape memory polymers create personally customized interior spaces for the three passengers.

Second Grand Award: Air Runner – Eric Sun’s Air Runner concept with its dual-mode design and fully autonomous driving option, is intended for high-speed, long-range commuting. The layout and surging structural form is intended to enable excellent aerodynamics.

Eric Sun’s Air Runner concept .

Uses of plastics:
•    Sun incorporated many uses of plastics, including shape memory polymers to allow the body to conform to aerodynamic efficiencies.
•    Thermoplastic composites make possible a stronger, light body and also allow for the use of one larger door for entering and exiting the vehicle.
•    Electrochromic plastics allow the cabin to blend into the upper body for a private and seamless aesthetic, and the upper body can switch back again from a solid color for privacy to a clear transparent for enhanced visibility.

Third Grand Award: Axel Kurkjian’s luxury transport system, the Transit Integrated Motive (TIM), is a fully autonomous vehicle and shared transportation platform that can be owned privately or made accessible to the public. Individual pods are available for single passengers as are larger pods for two to four passengers.

Uses of plastics:
•    The pod interiors are customized through 3D printing.
•    Advanced reinforced plastics are used for the vehicle frame and other structures.
•    Polycarbonate materials are used to help enable full touch screen interaction capability and external displays.

Axel Kurkjian’s luxury transport system, the Transit Integrated Motive (TIM).

“We were delighted with the high caliber of the designs submitted and inspired by the students’ creativity,” said Scott Fallon, General Manager, Automotive, Sabic’s Innovative Plastics business. “In Design for Alpha, their imaginations went into overdrive as they embraced the design freedom of thermoplastics and opened their minds to new shapes, functions and all kinds of possibilities. We hope this experience has helped these young designers—future leaders within our customers’ design studios—understand that it can be very powerful when they’re thinking about material and process from the early stages of any creative project.”

Additional Awards
Sabic also presented two $500 Art Center scholarships. Iljung Jeong received the Design Leadership award for his strong work ethic, proactive nature and eagerness to apply what he had learned. Jaesung Kim was recognized with the Vehicle Emblem award for creating the winning Design for Alpha logo, which was a competition among all students.
Design for Alpha Jury
Jurors for the competition were Freeman Thomas, Jeremy Leng, Jordan Meadows and Lon Zaback from Ford; Frank Saucedo and Heidi Bliss from General Motors; Jacques Flynn from Mazda; John Sahs from Nissan; Masahikio Kobayashi and Matthew Wherry from Subaru; Lauren Szczesny from Tesla; Jae Min from Volkswagen; Ruben Perfetti from Gulfstream Aerospace; Scott Fallon and Geert Schellekens from Sabic and Stewart Reed from Art Center.

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