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Tom Kent's shape shifting electric vehicle concept


May 17, 2010

Tom Kent's wheel-shifting Cell EV concept

Tom Kent's wheel-shifting Cell EV concept

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While Optimus Prime and his fellow Transformers may be pure fiction, shape-shifting cars are destined to become a reality. Over the years here at Gizmag we’ve featured several examples including the Vauxhall Flextreme GT/E with its retractable aerodynamic body panels, the Rinspeed iChange with its ability to change from a one- to a three-seater, and the flexible-skinned BMW Gina. Now, it’s time to add another one to the list, as a design concept if not an actual prototype - the wheel-configuration-changing Cell.

The Cell was designed by Tom Kent, a 3rd Year Transport Design Student at England’s Coventry University. The three-wheeled vehicle has motorcycle-style seating for two, where the passenger sits behind the driver. What really makes it unique, and rather freaky, are its two front wheels. At higher speeds, they sit relatively far apart, providing the vehicle with a stable stance. Below 20 kilometers an hour, however, the driver can manually engage “Narrow Mode,” wherein the front wheels move forward and inwards, making the car considerably longer and skinnier. While the rear wheel usually just delivers power, in Narrow Mode it also helps with the steering. The point of all this morphing would be to let the Cell squeeze through traffic congestion, like a motorcycle.

Kent’s creation is envisioned as being a pure electric vehicle, and its proposed charging system is kind of different. Instead of plugging into a universal charger, the Cell would pull into a Cell-specific charging stall, where a spring-loaded charging “bumper” would couple with the front of the vehicle. As has been pointed out elsewhere, this would presumably mean you could only drive the Cell to and from places with these stalls.

Cells would also not be privately owned. Instead, utilizing a car-sharing co-op model, drivers would simply go to a charging station and take whichever vehicle was fully-charged. Needless to say, this does beg the question of what would happen if no vehicles were fully-charged. Other features would include the car’s ability to tilt into corners, semi-transparent solar power-collecting roof panels, sliding doors and touchscreen controls.

Kent sees his vehicle being used for commuting and errand-running, by city dwellers who often have either one or no passengers. He feels it would appeal to people who want to be able to escape congestion, but who still want a car that doesn’t make them feel uncomfortable around other vehicles.

So, when are you going to start seeing Cells on the road? Perhaps never, but it wouldn’t surprise us if some of Tom Kent’s creativity soon shows up in something a little less... radical.

Via Inhabit.

About the Author
Ben Coxworth An experienced freelance writer, videographer and television producer, Ben's interest in all forms of innovation is particularly fanatical when it comes to human-powered transportation, film-making gear, environmentally-friendly technologies and anything that's designed to go underwater. He lives in Edmonton, Alberta, where he spends a lot of time going over the handlebars of his mountain bike, hanging out in off-leash parks, and wishing the Pacific Ocean wasn't so far away. All articles by Ben Coxworth

I think that shape-shifting features should be developed for the back of vehicles so that at high speeds, a cone shape could be extended out to cut down of the vacuum suction but then at low speeds, it could be withdrawn. Most people are told that thir gas efficiency decreases by about 15% in going from 60 to 70 mph but are not told the reason. At high speeds, the car needs to be designed so as to minimize drag and a few extended panels at the back would help. Large trucks might also consider the use of such a system to boost mpg.

Adrian Akau

Can we keep costs down? If yes let\'s hear more. Allan Aunapu


Sounds like a nifty concept. But why use rigid panels, maybe some inflatable ones would do the trick. I\'m sure they could be stiff enough if they can make them hold up a vehicles as in

The problem with charging can actually be converted into a benefit if they would employ some of Shai Agassi\'s strategies.

But adrian is correct in that the aerodynamics change very significantly with speed and also wind direction. However, I think there is a problem with trying to maintain the vehicle on the ground and stable with low cd values, especially at higher speeds. Maybe we should resort to a solution that nature already uses in birds called flying...with fully adjustable wings/bodies/aerodynamics. (Only for the higher speeds of course.)

Either that or get rid of the reason to stand in traffic in the first place, or maybe introduce mandatory car least we would all become friends :)


To the author: Something a little less radical? That is EXACTLY what is needed to encourage both Detroit and the \"average Joe\" driving his \"same ole box\" to be jolted awake and start or continue to think outside the ole box!

Will, the tink
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