It’s been a busy week for greener driving. Elon Musk has announced that his Teslas will soon be able to drive themselves across America unattended, and all-but-confirmed that Apple has hired thousands of engineers to build their own electric car. Rumours are swirling that Ford and Google are cooking something up together, and BMW has unveiled a new i8 concept optimised for automated travel. With electric cars making headlines at the Detroit Motor Show and at CES in Las Vegas, Amuse takes a look at the most incredible green concept cars of all time, some that nearly made it and others that could still become reality.
Faraday Future FFZero1
The dark horse of the current electric car race, Faraday Future are reportedly set to open a $1billion factory in Nevada to produce a series of standardised but versatile electric vehicles that users would ‘subscribe’ to. At CES, they’re showing off the idea with a totally insane concept car called the FFZero1, which would accelerate from zero to sixty in under three seconds and reach a top speed of over 200 miles per hour.
First unveiled at the 1972 Turin Motor Show, Fiat’s crazy little X1/23 might have helped save the world if it had ever been produced. A working prototype built in 1976 featured a battery pack in the boot and ahead-of-its-time regenerative braking, which recaptured otherwise lost energy. Seating two and squeezing in 50 miles on a single charge, it could have transformed our cities into quieter, greener places.
Ultra-green hydrogen fuel-cell cars emit water as their only ‘exhaust’ but have yet to really take off. That’s especially tragic when you lay eyes on Honda’s 2003 Kiwami concept car. Only available in black, the very Rei Kawakubo-esque wedge pointed to a future of clean, minimalist interiors and clean, minimalist emissions. Sadly only one was ever made – we would dearly love to know where it is.
When it comes to retrofuturism, Volvo’s Light Component Prototype is in a league of its own. Beyond looking kind of rad, the experimental car could run on biodiesel and was made from lightweight components like magnesium and plastic. This gave it a personal best of 60 miles per gallon way back in 1983 – a fuel efficiency figure that many cars still struggle to reach today.
Considering they drive around all day and night, not much attention has been paid to making taxis greener. A collaboration between universities in Germany and Singapore, the sleek EVA concept is specifically designed as an electric taxi for the world’s teeming tropical megacities – with a focus on fast recharging and the ability to operate in the heat.
The Biome was mocked-up and unveiled a year after Avatar came out, so we’re imagining a bunch of Mercedes-Benz engineers getting high, watching James Cameron’s 3D eco epic then literally making this up the same night. The ‘car’ would be grown in a lab instead of built in a factory. It would store a perfect (and imaginary) fuel called BioNectar4534 inside its organic and completely biodegradable body. Oh, and it would only emit oxygen as you drive. Okaaaaaay.
This San Francisco based company so very nearly succeeded in bringing their sleek, electric superbikes to our roads. A futuristic, minimal concept model designed by Yves Béhar was unveiled at a TED talk in 2009, and their later realworld R and RS models were almost as badass. Sadly the company has now filed for bankruptcy, but their technology may still ended up being bought and used by other companies.
Chevrolet Astro III
In 1969, the year astronauts first set foot on the Moon, General Motors unveiled possibly the most insane concept car of all time – the Chevrolet Astro III. A very NASA-inspired experiment in efficiently-shaped, low drag technology, the two-seater was powered by a gas-turbine engine and would have run on dedicated high-speed highways.
2001 VW Microbus Concept
Hipster hopes were high that Volkswagen would unveil an electric update of their iconic campervans at this year’s CES show, but instead all we got was a battery-powered MPV packed full of dashboard gimmickry – such as a Twitter account for each car. Instead, some kind of zero-emission update of the company’s surprisingly beautiful 2001 concept remains our best hope for the future.
R8 e-tron Piloted Driving Concept
As if Audi’s ultra-limited R8 e-tron supercar wasn’t enough (its rear-mounted electric motors produce 456 horsepower to propel it to 155mph with a range of 280 miles) the company went on to a self-driving prototype under its ‘Piloted Driving’ project. Having experienced this firsthand at Catalonia’s Montserrat racetrack, Amuse can assure you this is very much the near-future of travel.