The 2013 LA Auto Show Design Challenge
has been won by SAIC Motor Corp. The Chinese automaker’s “Mobiliant” concept saw off competition from eight other contenders who where challenged to create forward-looking designs under the theme "Biomimicry & Mobility 2025 – Nature's Answer to Human Challenges."
The murky details of DARPA's sub-hunting drone project are a bit clearer, thanks to a new concept video published by Science Applications International Corporation (SAIC). DARPA is spending US$58 million to have SAIC build the first Anti-Submarine Warfare Continuous Trail Unmanned Vehicle
(ACTUV), which will detect and track a growing number of stealthy, inexpensive diesel-electric subs.
Submarine combat may seem like an obsolete relic from World War II films and Cold War thrillers, but the past 20 years have seen a growing number of increasingly quiet diesel-electric submarines turning up in some very unfriendly navies. In order to counter this threat, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has awarded a contract to the Science Applications International Corporation (SAIC) of McLean, Virginia to develop unmanned submarine hunters capable of operating for months on end without human intervention.
Ask someone in the street to name an electric vehicle
right now and top-of-mind brands would probably include Tesla, Chevrolet Volt and Mitsubishi’s iMiev. Twelve months from now, there may be another name amongst that list you’ve not yet heard. Tata is best known for its US$2500 Tata Nano
and recent acquisition of Jaguar and Range Rover but another of its wares appears set to make a huge impact in the EV field. The Tata Indica Vista EV hits the market early in 2011, carries four people, has excellent performance and can run 150 miles on a charge. Most importantly, the EV is based on a best-selling, mass-market car from the Indian market where it sells for less than US$9000 and its performance in the recent Future Car Challenge verifies its extreme energy efficiency.
China’s meteoric rise to become the center of the world’s automotive industry was well documented last week in our article
and video on SAIC’s YEZ Concept car
. This week another Chinese manufacturer is making global headlines by buying Volvo Automobiles. Unlike Government-owned SAIC, Volvo’s purchaser Zhejiang Geely is a public company controlled by Li Shufu (top left) a self-made 47 year-old billionaire who is being heralded as China’s Henry Ford. Geely’s ambition knows no bounds – it already plans to produce the world’s cheapest car (the tiny gullwing at top right), has a range of green drive trains ready for market including full electric and parallel and serial hybrids
, has plans to produce a serious sports cars (bottom right) and now the first fully-owned Chinese prestige auto brand looks set to grab a fat slice of the Government fleet which makes up 8% of China’s auto market.
A few days ago, I managed to get up close and personal in Shanghai
with one of the most interesting concept cars the world has yet seen. SAIC's Yez concept car is the first automobile, concept or otherwise, that's ever been conceived to have a negative carbon footprint. That is, it removes more pollution than it creates.
Not so long ago it seemed that the golden age of giant lumbering airships had gone down with the Hindenberg, consigned to less spectacular roles in research, advertising and as a great camera platform above sporting events... but they're making a comeback. Lighter-than-air aircraft are returning to passenger carrying roles
in tourism and in recent years we've seen a new-generation of airships put forward as a cargo-lifting solution (DARPA's Walrus Project
) and even as a corporate air yacht (Aeroscraft ML866
). Now the U.S. Army is moving quickly to build a hybrid airship weapons system that will act as a long-duration UAV – a very big UAV. The Long Endurance Multi-Intelligence Vehicle (LEMV) will be longer than a football field and stay aloft at altitudes of 20,000 feet for more than three weeks at a time providing an "unblinking eye" for surveillance and reconnaissance.
SAIC is already one of China’s biggest automotive manufacturers, which means that by 2050, when China will have 500 million automobiles on its road, it will become one of the largest automakers in the world. Beyond its potential for growth, it's the company's futuristic thinking that most impresses us. It recently showed the groundbreaking YeZ Concept car
, and its next concept car, which we bring you a sneak peak of here, is equally as thought provoking.
General Motor's Joint-Venture partner in China, Shanghai Automotive Industry Corporation (SAIC) rolled out a concept alongside GM's EN-V
at Expo 2010 which in many ways is more ground-breaking than the EN-V. The idea behind the YeZ Concept is that it will photosynthesize, absorbing carbon dioxide from surrounding air and emitting oxygen back into the atmosphere. Among the many futuristic aspects of the YeZ (Chinese for “leaf” as Nissan already uses the name
for a clever green concept that is heading for production) is a roof that incorporates solar panels and wheels that incorporate small wind turbines to harvest energy from the environment. And if you think this is not within reach by 2030, think again – artificial photosynthesis
has proven elusive, but there's every indication it will be a commercial reality within two decades.