Rinspeed zaZen – vision of the future automobile unveiled
By Mike Hanlon
February 16, 2005
February 17, 2005 Rinspeed and Bayer MaterialScience have finally unveiled images and details of the car we previewed in December as “Automotive enlightenment on four wheels” - the jointly develop concept zaZen involves a number of revolutionary lighting techniques and a transparent hardtop and will be displayed to the public at the Geneva Motor Show on February 28, 2006. zaZen is the work of famous Swiss designer, Frank M. Rinderknecht, and it represents his vision of the car of the future. The vehicle was produced in cooperation with Bayer MaterialScience, one of the world's largest plastics producers. It also embraces a technical revolution in car manufacture, with the transparent backlite being turned into a luminous holographic area. As if from nowhere, the third brake light shines out of what looks like a floating transparent hardtop.
Rinspeed consistently produces innovative concept cars, but this time it has outdone itself. The world premiere of the “zaZen”, with its holographic brake lamp and smoothly contoured, transparent, one-piece roof dome made of high-tech Makrolon®, marks the beginning of a new era in lighting technology in vehicle design. For Ian Paterson, who is responsible for innovation on the Board of Bayer MaterialScience, this novel lighting system represents a small step on the way to building the car of tomorrow: “Together with Rinspeed, our goal is to get people thinking about the car of the future. We contribute our high-quality materials and the combined creative know-how of our engineers." The name of the new concept car – “zaZen” – has been carefully chosen by Rinderknecht: “After all, Zen – borrowed from Buddhist teaching – is a special form of perception: You only get there if you are prepared to give up preconceived ideas.” Both partners went out of their way to emphasize that a concept car presented at a motor show can only be a snapshot taken from an unceasing development process. For example, the work on the switch-on/off transparency for three-dimensional forms is always ongoing. The breathtakingly designed vehicle concept was born at the Swiss engineering specialists, Esoro, from one single vision and many imaginative ideas. The entire roof dome down to the belt line is made of Bayer's transparent Makrolon® polycarbonate. A glass-clear elastic sealant from Revoflex AG has been used to achieve an optimum joint with the body. The striking hardtop is light in both senses of the word. Not only does it appear to float airily above the rather chunky body, it is also weighs many kilograms less than glass – not that it would be possible to make it from glass in the first place. The lightness of the roof construction ties in with the surface coating of the “zaZen” – a white mineral shade based on the Bayer raw materials, Desmodur® and Desmophen®. It is certainly not gaudy, but unassumingly beautiful through the millions of tiny precious Swarovski crystals protected by a self-healing polyurethane clear coat. This so-called “crystal skin” finish was developed and applied by the Austrian surface coating specialists, Karl Seelos. The Lesonal company was responsible for producing a perfect substrate. In a nutshell, the future driver can expect to find a muscular body in a sophisticated, tailored suit – a suit that has been given an exclusive touch though Swarovski trimmings on the front, side and rear lamps and the wheel rims. But the crystal manufacturer came up with a real masterpiece in the design of the seemingly never-ending 3D rear decorative panel. The interior fittings of the “zaZen” are also dominated by this ethos of transparency and reduction to essentials, cleverly combined with strategically placed highlights. The transparent plastic seat shells of Makrolon® fitted with Technogel® upholstery were produced in cooperation with Recaro. A bright, friendly mango-orange color has been chosen for the rest of the leather/fabric interior trim. It was made by hand by Strähle & Hess, SC Schäfer, OesterleSLR and Sellner. Together with the Luoro Faia plantation wood – also in the dashboard area - it creates an interior that radiates warmth and relaxation. The “zaZen”, which weighs 1,495 kg, is powered by a 355 bhp 6-cylinder boxer engine from the Porsche 997 Carrera S. It has a top speed of 293 kph and accelerates from 0 to 100 kph in exactly 4.8 sec. Should the “zaZen” be built in a small series at some time in the future, Rinspeed will consider – in line with its tradition – offering it with an environmentally friendly natural gas propulsion system. At 6,600 rpm, the engine has a maximum torque of 400 Nm, which is transmitted to the rear axle via a manual six-speed transmission. The necessary traction is provided by Dunlop tires with Touch Technology (245/30-20 at the front and 305/25-20 at the rear), mounted on lightweight Rinspeed five-spoke rims (8.5 x 20” at the front and 11 x 20” at the rear) made by CW Fahrzeugtechnik (Borbet Group). The body – for which the molds were produced using Obomodulan® modeling foam – sits on a 4x adjustable chassis specially designed by KW automotive. Here, the designers have managed to perform the rare feat of creating an outstanding synthesis of drive comfort and sporty handling. Another small work of art connected with the “zaZen” is currently taking shape in Berlin at the eyewear designers, “ic! berlin". The company's owner, Ralph Anderl, who also acted as the model during the photo shoot, was so taken by the new Rinspeed concept car that he designed an eyewear collection specifically to go with the car. Now you can not only drive the “zaZen", you can also wear it. Swiss made Esoro Frank M. Rinderknecht used highly advanced technology and a Swiss-based network of top automotive specialists for his project. Although there is no automobile production in Switzerland, there is a very active automotive supply industry there. Many highly innovative prototypes have been developed and manufactured in Switzerland. engineered by Esoro - What you dream is what you get For the seventh time the Swiss engineering company Esoro was hired to serve as general contractor for the entire vehicle project. Esoro was responsible for project management, implementation of new technologies, engineering, design and manufacturing of the Rinspeed “zaZen”. Esoro realized the concept with the help of its highly competent suppliers Schwaller AG (metal works) and Protoscar (styling). Starting with initial concepts, it took the highly skilled development team just six months to realize the entire project. Esoro has been a contract developer in the areas of automotive production, lightweight design and plastics technology for 15 years. During this time it has gained a well-deserved reputation for excellent efficiency and innovative solutions not just in these but also in other fields, including fuel-cell vehicles and prototype design. Esoro has impressively demonstrated its expertise with numerous extraordinary prototypes. Another recent development from Esoro is the new E-LFT production technology developed for Weber Fibertech. E-LFT makes large scale production of high-strength and lightweight composite parts affordable. E-LFT composite parts weigh 30-50 percent less than comparable steel parts. The first industrial part produced with E-LFT will be introduced with the new Smart for two in 2007. Furthermore another production process for niche markets, like high performance cars, trucks and caravans is now introduced by Esoro to several OEM’s. The new and patented process called Melt Embossing does offer the possibility to produce high end thermoplastic composite parts with low initial invest for structural and semi-structural applications. Esoro is able to offer the entire service starting from topological optimisation and explicit FE calculations trough to the delivery of the serial parts. Strong partners for the future Gasverbund Mittelland AG, Swiss Energy, Rinspeed and Volkswagen – four strong partners - have the goal to develop vehicles that can be used on an everyday basis but that also depict automotive visions for the future. The exhibited vehicles are operated ecologically with natural gas or biogas as the fuel of choice. With the exception of the zaZen which can also be converted to natural gas operation. The power supply company Gasverbund Mittelland AG has promoted the marketing of natural gas as a fuel in Switzerland for many years first-hand and also as gasmobil ag’s partner. Natural gas is currently the only available, sensible and environmentallycompatible fuel alternative that contributes significantly to a decrease of noxious emissions in particular in heavily populated regions. Furthermore, noxious particles can be further reduced in combination with the CO2-neutral biogas. Speed limits as result of critical particle emission values would be less of an issue. The most important arguments for natural gas and biogas as fuels are: more than 60 percent reduction of noxious emissions compared to petrol or diesel; even less fuel consumption for mixed operation. This results in savings of 30 to 40 percent of fuel costs. Tests have shown that natural gas vehicles are just as safe as the same models with a petrol or diesel motor. Depending on the canton, funds are granted by the natural gas suppliers for the purchase of a new vehicle as well as a reduction of the motor vehicle tax. Natural gas and biogas will become even more attractive with the expected reduction of petroleum tax on natural gas and biogas to take effect from the middle of 2007. Volkswagen focuses on natural gas Gasverbund Mittelland AG and Rinspeed joined forces this year with Volkswagen. Europe’s major passenger vehicle manufacturer is convinced by the performance potential of natural gas as a fuel and its efficiency. In order to produce the first natural gas models for the series, substantial investments in research, development and production are required. The VW Caddy 2.0 litre EcoFuel and the VW Touran 2.0 litre EcoFuel are two interesting vehicles which will be on offer by the middle of 2006. Both of them can be used privately as well as commercially. Together with Gasverbund Mittelland AG and Rinspeed, Volkswagen will present a study based on the VW Touran with an innovative drive technology at the Natural Gas/Rinspeed stand at the 76th International Motor Show in Geneva. The same study in another outfit can also be inspected at the official Volkwagen stand in Geneva. Furtherance by Swiss Energy The Swiss Federal Office of Energy with its Swiss Energy programme has promoted the use of natural gas and biogas for more than ten years. Research activities were initially promoted. This was followed by pilot and demonstration trials with compogas in the canton of Zurich. Some 100 vehicles were put into operation. In the meantime, the Swiss natural gas industry is expanding the fuel station network to over 70 units which led to a marked increase in the demand of natural gas vehicles. Gasverbund Mittelland AG, Rinspeed AG and Swiss Energy have collaborated in promoting natural gas and biogas as fuels for five years. The concept vehicles by Rinspeed AG give the public the visionary option of using natural gas as a fuel. The vehicle study involving the VW Touran EcoFuel shows a similar realisation option. The third vehicle, the VW Caddy Life EcoFuel is a natural gas vehicle which can be purchased on the market or which will soon be available. Supply in Europe is no problem Natural gas and biogas used as fuels is another step on the way to reducing the world economy’s dependence on crude oil and to minimising the particulate matter problem of our society. Therefore, the high environmental potential of natural gas and biogas will not only contribute to a reduction of the burdening by soot, nitrogen oxides, CO2 and hydrocarbons in a steady state, but also on the road. The more natural gas vehicles on our roads, the less economic damage will be caused by motor exhaust fumes. In addition, natural gas motors generate less noise than conventional aggregates. The drive technologies of natural gas vehicles are fully developed and tested on the market. The major brands already have several models with natural gas drives in their programmes. It is important for the consumer that the manufacturer warranties prescribed by the legislator are fully granted. Furthermore, supply of natural gas and biogas is ensured around the clock thanks to the continued expansion of the fuel station network in Switzerland and Europe.