August 1, 2006 The Z.CAR is a three-wheeled two-seat city car by prolific Iraki designer Zaha Hadid and it’s one of the most interesting new designs we have seen in a while, using the hinged rear suspension to facilitate a variable (speed adjusted) wheelbase so the car can be better at both country and city driving. In town, the drive-by-wire Z.CAR sits more upright to offer the driver a better view in traffic and to make parking easier - a shortened wheelbase requires less space. At higher speeds the pod lowers around 10 degrees, on the hinged rear suspension, lengthening the wheelbase for greater high speed stability, moving the car’s centre of gravity closer to the road for better handling and tilting the teardrop shape backwards for lower frontal area and improved aerodynamics. The lightweight carbon-fibre composite Z.CAR is hydrogen powered by design, but “there is a functional prototype in development with a British manufacturer, with the fruits expected to be unveiled within 7-12 months” according to inside sources. We think the Z.CAR is ready for prime-time, but not in hydrogen format – there are alternatives but let’s hope a path to market is negotiated because this vehicle promises much. The projected price of the Z.CAR is said to be approximately UKP35,000 (US$65,000).
We’ve written about designer Zaha Hadid before, most recently about her futuristic Z. Island Kitchen. Hadid became the first woman to win the Pritzker Architecture Prize in 2004 and her work is becoming more prolific and prominent by the day.
The Z.CAR was commissioned by London art dealer Kenny Schachter who now has hopes that the car will make it to limited production. It recently debuted to the European public at the British International Motor Show 2006 and is currently on display as part of a major exhibition at the Guggenheim Museum in New York. Not a great deal of information has been released about the Z.CAR’s finer details, though it is known that occupants can adjust the tint of the windows, which is probably a good thing given the size of the massive asymmetrical windscreen which swings upward to allow access and requires both passenger and driver to enter from the left of the vehicle. Using a thin LED film on the window surface means that the opacity of the windows can be varied by adjusting the voltage to the windows – the same concept is being introduced on some aircraft at present and smart glass is being increasingly used in architecture too. Similarly, video cameras point rearward and display their view scene on a small video screen.
Like almost every other car will a decade from now, the Z.CAR uses drive-by-wire technology.