Ross Lovegrove and Renault create the high-concept Twin'Z city-car
April 9, 2013
In automobile design there are concept cars and there are high concept projects. And now, apparently, there are concepts that exist on a seemingly LED-infused plain. Renault, with the help of famed British designer Ross Lovegrove, took the latter route, and developed one of the most enlightened concepts to come along in years: the Tron-styled Twin’Z Concept.
The Twin’Z concept is a collaborative project between iconic Welsh designer Ross Lovegrove (a man known in the design world as "Captain Organic") and French autofirm Renault. Lovegrove’s love of organic, biomorphic forms as a styling tool can be found throughout his portfolio. But it wasn’t until now that Lovegrove had the opportunity to experiment on an automotive participant. The desingers at Renault, being the existentialists that they are, thought the best way to practice their new design strategies was to let Mr. Lovegrove into the shop.
Powering the concept is an electric generator. Driving motivation to the rear wheels is done by 50 kW (68 hp) of power and 226 Nm of torque, with a synchronous electric motor mounted out back. Four 96-V lithium batteries are hidden beneath the floor. Renault claims the Twin’Z has a weight of only 980 kg (2160 lbs) can achieve a top speed of 130 km/h (80.7 mph). No range information is available at this time.
From frame one, it's obvious the Twin’Z is a pure concept project. But from extreme concepts some of the world’s most iconic automobile designs and design elements have been created. According to Renault, the Twin’Z is meant to be perceived as a fun, modernist, artistic take on the city car. Lovegrove was given full artistic license with the concept, and it shows.
Given the cars artistic bent, Renault chose to release the car at the Salone Internazionale del Mobile di Milano rather than at the Geneva or New York Auto Shows. The strategy was to connect more with the design audience than the typical autophile.
According to Renault’s Director of Industrial Design, Laurens van den Acker, the strategy for choosing Lovegrove as artistic lead was to bring in an outsider, with no direct automotive design experience with a clean unfettered mindset to develop the project with a fresh creative brush. It was Lovegrove’s treatment of the exterior in a sensual, poetic manner and his interior use of light, fibers and textiles that helped define the idea. Inspired by the human life cycle, the Twin’Z is the fifth concept car from Renault. The firm’s previous concept iterations focused on various life themes i.e. love, family, work and relationships. The concept’s personification is play, as can be seen via the extroverted, in your face design.
Stubby yet funky, the Twin’Zs open concept is designed to provide optimal cabin space, for its optimal play time occupants, while the missing B-pillar and 90-degree electrically powered suicide doors, not only mean improved in/out access but also a full on view of the dematerialized, neon infused interior. Touch sensitive buttons that allow access also help maintain the Twin’Zs minimalist stance on profile.
In execution, Ross Lovegrove’s team was given the task of managing the Twin’Z’s key visual features. These influences can be seen in the bodywork, bumpers, lights, grilles, LED roofscape, and those funky funky wheels. The interior of Tron-esque machine, including colors and materials, was also overseen by the house of Lovegrove. The car itself was developed a Renault design.
At only 3.62 meters (11.87 ft) in length, the Twin’Z is city car stubby, but gets stylistic help thanks to a high waistline, a low stance and 18-inch low profile wheels pushed out to the corners. Interestingly, the car’s culturally relevant paint job was inspired by 20th century French painter Yves Klein, who apparently really liked blue. The finish, a special soft clear-coat treatment, gives the car a velvety matte-gloss look.
Up front, unique grille work under the Renault logo was designed with a vortex effect in mind to help reduce turbulence while enhancing aerodynamics. Out on the rear bumper this scalloped effect can be found mirrored under the LED taillights.
So what is the deal with the tire/wheel designs? Turns out the set is designed as a single entity. Again, with the organic influences, the wheels feature a glowing green finish based on intelligent growth formations in nature. Tires developed by Michelin continue the organic theme giving the set a single holistic finish. The unique design (shades of biomimicry here) was made to happen thanks to parametric modeling and 3D printing.
Even the headlights carry over unique organic elements. Daytime running lights give the impression of imploding glass shards frozen in time while night time lighting, complimented by narrowing eyebrows, gives the Twin’Z a human-like stare. Twin'Z grille treatment gives impression of power flowing between between the headlights while circumnavigating the Renault logo.
And finally, the question all the kids are asking; what is up with the Tron-inspired, LED circuit-board, neon rave like lighting treatment? What appears to be post-Photoshop work is actually a cleverly integrated LED system. Externally, the digital halftone pattern originates on either side of the windscreen, then splays out across the roof into a peak pattern, then flowing down the sides of the hatch where it transforms into the rear taillights. The glass roof is actually designed in layers to incorporate the LED system. According to Renault, the Twin’Z lighting system is meant to “bathe passengers in light and respond to their energy.” A crystal rear spoiler is also in place to help with downforce while further enhancing the play of lights scenario.
According to Lovegrove, the LED brake light system can be programmed to increase the number of light bars depending on brake pressure. This situation specific system would present drivers following the Twin'Z key visual information advising whether or not normal or extreme braking is required.
Of course inside the Twin’Z is where the party is really happening. What Renault refers to as “milled bi-color lines” circulate around the entire cabin space. Not sure how many times we can use the Tron analogy but feel it is perhaps most fitting in this context. What looks like a digitized topographical map is meant to be exactly that. The topographical treatment is actually meant to increase the perception of interior space while profusely communicating the play theme.
Four ultra-lightweight seats were made as small as possible to maintain the minimalist theme while retaining function. Upholstered in a lightweight 3D woven textile, the pedestal seats are both waterproof and flame-resistant. As for neck and back support, rear passengers are on their own as no seatbacks seem to exist.
Dashboard clutter and gauge-work is about as minimalist as you can get without actually removing the dashboard. Actually, there is no dashboard per se. Never mind. But in keeping with the future-world mandate, Lovegrove and Renault put a single tablet on a central post where the console used to be. The tablet handles pretty much the entire car's interior requirements (i.e. heating, seat adjustment, lights, roof control, GPS system and in-car connectivity). The only thing left to distract the driver on the non-existent dash is a smartphone. The phone in turns provides information related to speed, mileage, turning signals and any other critical system inputs. And there’s a funky, oddly-shaped blue steering wheel (because that’s how French painter Yves Klein would have wanted it).
Lovegrove’s goal in designing the Twin’Z was to “Harness a new attitude towards how we integrate vehicles into everyday life by reducing harmful emissions, de-materializing the car’s physicality to achieve lightness, and maximizing not only its footprint but also, and above all, its efficiency and intelligence.” Lovegrove also meant to mention the highly digitized, LED laden aspects of the Twin’Z that play so critical a role in the overall package.