Eco of tomorrow

Green car designs don't have to look cuddly, wholesome or worthy. E&T finds some green mean machines at this year's RCA degree show.

They're only ideas and models of course, but these concepts are by serious designers. The Royal College of Art vehicle design postgraduate course in London is the most famous in the world, with designers in this year's graduate show from France, Korea, Italy, Sweden, Finland and Spain as well as the UK. Students of the course often go on to work in the world's most important car design studios. You may well drive a car designed by one of its alma mater. Here are just three of this year's projects with an alternative energy or energy saving rationale.

'Regenerating passion' (pictured) is the title of the project from Sergio Loureiro Da Silva, a mechanical engineering graduate who comes to the college from a Mercedes internship in Japan. "The aim of this project is to regenerate most of the lost energy in a vehicle," he explains. "Today's cars seem to be still using a a lot of antique know-how, where, in other fields, there are systems of regenerating power through movement. This car is about thinking how to improve sustainability by designing every element to aspire to less energy consumption. The technical elements will be part of the design, as I think that the beauty of some vehicles comes from the combination of a nice fluid shape in contrast with precise technical elements." It features, for example, electromagnetic brakes, energy dedicated heat cells and movement powered lights.

The RCA's vehicle design course isn't all about cars. The Tortuga research vessel concept from Swedish industrial design graduate David Gonzalez could be powered by light and waves as well as wind."I wanted to create a new type of boat with a new type of exterior, while keeping to the values of its precursor," he explains. "Sailing is an attractive and majestic way of travel, and a sustainable way of transport."

Another space-age looking 'eco-iconic luxury' car is all about brand ideas. Swedish industrial design graduate Jon Radbrink came to the RCA from Toyota European Design Development in France. "Today the only visual difference between a regular and hybrid Lexus is a miniscule h on the back. My Lexus Nuaero concept is a vehicle that communicates ecological efficiency through its exterior from," he says. "Through my design process, I try to evaluate the semiotic potential of a product and then change its physical properties to deliberate meaning." Er, okay, Jon; we reckon it looks cool, anyway.

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