The recently finalized Double Challenge project required MA students at London’s Royal College of Art to design an ultra-compact electric vehicle for event sponsor Citroën. Not surprisingly from such distilled intelligence, the winning entry is a new type of personal urban commuter positioned between bicycles and cars – light, aerodynamically efficient, cheap to build and economical in its use of energy and hence run. Heikki Juvonen’s “E-3POD Antistatic” is an ultralight, micro segment electric three-wheeler with the driver sitting inside a large hub-less third wheel.

Juvonen’s E-3POD was conceived as an entry-level electric commuter for young people and students and so that owners of conventional automobiles could have a second low-cost vehicle which fits below the petrol-engined machinery expected to remain the primary means of long distance travel for some time yet. The E-3POD is of simple construction with a low frontal area, excellent aerodynamics and minimal weight in order to minimize the energy requirements of the vehicle and hence the required battery size. Minimal usage of materials also lowers construction costs.

The lowered weight is emphasized in design elements such as the rear wheel, which works as a supportive structural element, the shared suspension for both front wheels, and the use of scratch resistant plastic for the canopy. The silent electric engines also make sound insulation redundant, allowing for lighter material selection.

The E-3POD provides the user with easy, cost efficient transport with access to easier parking due to the small footprint of the vehicle and the likelihood that parking costs will continue to rise will further enhance the attractiveness of the vehicle. The design also provides comfortable and isolated personal space, which - when compared to bicycles or public transport - is a welcome addition. The short length of the vehicle makes it agile in urban environments. At higher speeds the E-3POD tilts slightly to provide solid grip and an emphasised stance, giving cornering a more responsive feel.

Heikki Juvonen’s E-3POD Antistatic was chosen as the best overall design by representatives from Citroën’s Style Centre and Electric Vehicle Development Team. As his prize, Heikki receives a six month employment contract to work at the prestigious PSA Design Centre in Paris. Heikki commented, “I’m thrilled Citroën selected my design as their favourite and I can’t wait to work with their talented team in France. As a designer I strive for new and better solutions. Good and sustainable design not only improves manufacturer brand image and sales, but can also help to preserve our environment.”

The project was jointly sponsored by Citroën and EXA, a France-based aerodynamic simulation software company. Citroen has a long association with the Royal College of Art. Mark Lloyd, the chief designer of the Citroen DS3, studied at the Royal College of Art.

Citroën had significant involvement throughout the Double Challenge project, providing industry figures to lend the students their expertise and experience, as well as organising a trip to the PSA Design Centre and Le Conservatoire, Citroën’s in-house museum of historic models.

Philippe Holland, Responsable Style Graphique at Citroën, said; “We’re delighted to be involved in this important RCA project. The students have produced some truly exceptional ideas for the future design of electric Citroën vehicles. This type of powertrain is increasingly recognised as an important solution for economically and environmentally viable urban transport; so it’s fantastic to see the electric visions of these potential car designers of tomorrow.”