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.