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Circulus concept car - the driveable Dyson Ball vacuum cleaner


July 26, 2009

The Circulus concept design by Santosh Chawla

The Circulus concept design by Santosh Chawla

Image Gallery (5 images)

Did you marvel at the impressive cornering and maneuverability of the Dyson Ball when it first raced around the floor in TV ads? If such a ball design can take a vacuum cleaner to places no others would dare to go, what could such a thing could do for a car? Graphic designer Santosh Chawla has incorporated a similar principle into his hydrogen powered Circulus concept car design.

Like the Phoenix Concept we looked at last week, Chawla's design is part of the 2009 Michelin Challenge Design, a project that encourages creative thinking and innovation in vehicle design and gives designers the chance to show the North American International Auto Show each January.


In addition to its incredibly small turning circle, the Concept would be made using recycled materials and feature a high visibility, panoramic windshield to give the occupants all-round visibility.

Power would be provided by hydrogen fuel cells.

Here's how Chawla puts it: "Versatility combined with the vehicle's overt cool factor and the ability to use it in different environments is this vehicle's strong points. Either as an explorer of sandy beaches, snowy backroads, winding mountain passes, or simply commuting in the city, the Circulus occupies an automotive niche like no other."

The key to both its name and my earlier reference to vacuum cleaners is revealed in the designer's choice of an omnidirectional sphere at the front which is controlled by an "intelligent system that recognizes and responds to every movement."

According to Chawla: "If the driver wants, it can turn 360º on a dime."

Stability and braking are taken care of by the two wheels at the rear which would also provide the drive. It's not quite clear how the steering mechanism from the front wheel would operate, but the designs (see gallery) show suspension arms connected to a hood over the top part of the sphere, with small intermediary ball bearings between the spherical tire and the hood. Would it work? Feel free to drop us a comment below.

Low rider

The design is sporty, eye-catching and looks like it would be fun to drive. The renderings show a low rider which puts me in mind of another (very) diminutive three-wheeler invented in the mid-1980s by Sir Clive Sinclair. The electric Sinclair C5 failed to live up to its promise of revolutionizing personal transport - it's driving position was so close to the ground it was relatively invisible to other drivers. And it hasn't been seen since. Let's hope the Circulus fairs better should it proceed to prototype and beyond.

About the Author
Paul Ridden While Paul is loath to reveal his age, he will admit to cutting his IT teeth on a TRS-80 (although he won't say which version). An obsessive fascination with computer technology blossomed from hobby into career before the desire for sunnier climes saw him wave a fond farewell to his native Blighty in favor of Bordeaux, France. He's now a dedicated newshound pursuing the latest bleeding edge tech for Gizmag. All articles by Paul Ridden
This is a joke of a vehicle as it will be a hotbox in the summer like having a 1kw heater in a small closet. Next it's supposed to run on a fool cell which only a fool would think is viable. The steering shows no clue to how it might work, certainly not by the little balls which would cause too much friction, get covered with dirt wearing out in a few hundred miles probably. And because of the big front tire when it hit a puddle would hydroplane losing all control. jerryd

Rather difficult I imagine, jerryd, making so many wide-ranging disparaging comments, based on such little information! I wonder if jerryd ever designed anything novel himself? It's a lot more fun than just criticising someone else's ideas.....ask Santos Chawla the designer, at least he put some original thought into his concept. I know who I would rather spend a hour chatting with! Ian C.


A reminder that Gizmag is about debating IDEAS, not personalities. Please keep it above the belt.



Actually, the front windshield is the same size as your average car just turned sideways.. then you have the tiny joke of side windows and read window. There would be more light entering a vehicle such as a Geo Metro since they have more square footage of windows. Also, smaller the vehicle.. less energy it takes to cool.

As to ball shaped wheel.. did you even examine the pictures? It shows treads on the tire which completely nullifies your worry of too much friction, getting covered in dirt, and hydroplaning worries. As to the steering it will work considering its functioning how every other wheel functions.. just different shape. Where you change the angle in which the bearing assembly spins the vehicle begins changing straight path.

I can agree upon the subject of fuel cells being impractical due to cost of production, storage, distribution, and materials needed to catalyze hydrogen for energy.

Yet, in reality.. the energy storage and engine does not matter. It's not that hard to design, weld, and install any engine you'd desire. They've fit V-8 Engine in a Geo Metro and Classic Beetle's.

Bob Dobbs

It looks much like a velomobile. The rear wheels in uncovered wheel wells would create some drag. This idea was presented in the movie called I Robot, too.


Who says the steering is done with the front "wheel?" It's a fuel cell - meaning electric. One engine on each of the back wheels. To turn to the right, the right rear wheel spin less, and vice versa. The ball free flows, just like on the vacuum cleaner. The concept probably uses a joystick to control it. For the 360 turn, just one of the rear wheels spins... Couldn't be simpler. :) Fun concept. Will never sell because people simply don't get it that we don't need the monsters we have on streets right now...

Luciano Elias

Firstly the Dyson ball is not a sphere, it still has axles. It has a very broad, curved tread and is allowed to tilt to each side, much like a wheelbarrow.

Regarding the concept-car, it would be quite difficult to provide steering to a completely freely-suspended ball, but if separate electric motors were provided at each rear wheel it would not be a great challenge to steer by varying the power to each wheel appropriately. The handling would no doubt be horrible, but since the Circulus is presumably intended only for city driving this would hardly be an issue.


I like the idea, control and cornering would be a problem at speed (remember the Reliant Robin scenes on Top Gear). I think that a restricted speed application such as a mobility scooter would work. It is quirky and looks good, there would be a market for it.

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