iChange – the iPhone controlled car that changes its shape

Posted: February 26, 2009 in science & technology
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World Debut at the 79th Geneva Motor Show, March 5th through 15th, 2009

Swiss Automobile Visionary Frank M. Rinderknecht Builds a Concept Car with Adaptive Energy Concept

„iChange“ Alters its Shape – and Automotive Thinking

ichange-1The Swiss auto powerhouse Rinspeed presents the ‘iChange’, the world’s first car whose body adapts to the number of passengers on board. In seconds a streamlined one-seater sports car transforms into a comfortable car with ample room for three. The trick: At the push of a button the rear end of the teardrop-shaped car magically pops up.

The basic idea behind the streamlined, lightweight zero-emission ‘iChange:’: The energy demand of a vehicle depends mostly on its weight, the type of engine it uses, and its aerodynamic properties. The engineering-services company Esoro that traditionally builds Rinspeed concept cars has built an extremely lightweight car weighing in at only 1’050 kilograms. To power the car, the Swiss specialists chose an electric motor. The idea of the pop-up rear end was conceived to account for the sizeable effect aerodynamics play in fuel consumption.

While other cars always have to ferry around their puffed-up exteriors that can accommodate up to seven passengers even if they’re just transporting a single soul, the „iChange“ features an adaptive body. The sole driver is conveyed in a teardrop-shaped car that offers optimal aerodynamic properties and thus minimized energy consumption. If more than one person need to be transported the expanding rear provides room for two passengers. As a result of the increased weight and no longer optimal aerodynamics the energy consumption increases – but only for the time passengers are actually on board.

ichange-2The energy for the electric motor comes from lithium-ion batteries that are available in two different stack configurations for short- and long-distance driving. The electric motor of the „iChange“ produces 150kW, capable of propelling the car to a top speed of 220 km/h. The sprint from rest to 100 km/h takes just slightly over four seconds. This impressive performance is made possible with the help of a six-speed pre-selector gearbox from the Subaru WRX car.

The central research department of Siemens AG (Corporate Technology, CT) supplied the integration technology for engine/generator, electronics and battery connection interface.  Siemens has long been one of the world leaders for energy systems and eco technology with pioneering concepts for electric drive systems. Its products cover the entire electric value-added chain from generation to distribution to consumption.

The gearbox and drivetrain are lubricated with eco-friendly lubricants from Motorex. Custom-made lightweight 17” and 18” forged wheels with aerodynamic shrouds are supplied by light-alloy wheel specialists AEZ. Pirelli P Zero tyres in size 215/40-17 in front and size 245/40-18 in back provide optimal grip. The front lights derive from the Opel Insignia, the rear lamps come from the Opel Astra Twin Top.

ichange-3An initial walk-around reveals that the concept car has no doors. The entire electrically powered roof section of the car measuring just 1.03 meters in height tilts forward to allow passengers to board. Also gone are such mundane things as a key. Its role is filled by an Apple iPhone, which also controls the most important vehicle functions.

The „iChange“ is drastically different than ordinary cars in every detail: At the heart of the concept car lies the groundbreaking next-generation Harman/Kardon infotainment system. The system uses an innovative Intel processor technology that guarantees minimized power consumption. The same is true for the Harman/Kardon high-efficiency audio system. This revolutionary technology meets highest demands on sound quality, weighs much less than ordinary systems and at the same time uses only a fraction of energy. This opens the door to a new dimension of energy efficiency. The route guidance of the navigation system is also especially eco-friendly: The system calculates the most energy-saving route and displays the directions in realistic 3D view.

ichange-4When it comes to the subject of heating systems, the “iChange” is as versatile as its car body. Because the electric motor produces too little waste heat, the concept vehicle depends on a high-performance auxiliary heater. The Esslingen-based Eberspächer Group – one of the world’s leading manufacturers of vehicle heating systems – designed two tailor-made ecological heating systems especially for this project: an electric heater as well as an ethanol 85 heater. This optimally accentuates the advantages of the two technologies: The entirely emission free electric PTC heater proves itself at short distances. Over long distances, the battery-independent alternative fuel-powered heater ensures a significantly longer operating range of the vehicle. As a result, even the heater of the “iChange” variably adjusts to the respective requirements.

The pure wool used in the interior was further refined into high-tech wool by Schoeller using state-of-the-art processes. The wool is spun and died in accordance with the highest eco standards. It provides an extremely extravagant ambiance in ichange-5the ‘iChange,’ looks stunning and is delicate to the touch. The competence partner Strähle + Hess transformed this natural product into a striking interior. Its surface character and materiality combine to create a symbiosis of shell, firmness and frothy air. Unconventional techniques create unusual surfaces. The seams of the seats are reversed and the removable seats cushions are adorned with the prototype’s name. Xmobil provided further customization services.

While textiles can be found in the „iChange“ in their original form in other areas, they are newly interpreted on seats and cargo floor using various refinement techniques such as braiding and gathering and a combination of both. Leather strips alternate with technical textiles. The seat cushions are interchangeable, braided felt alternates with technical textiles formed into three-dimensional shapes. This transfers the adaptive concept of the „iChange“ to the interior as well. The diamond-coated anti-slip floor is supplied by abrasives specialist KGS.

The Swiss Federal Ministry for Energy (Bundesamt für Energie) supports the „iChange“ project as a groundbreaking research and development project. Solar panels on the top and sides of the roof provide electricity to the fan to keep temperatures in the „iChange“ comfortably low on hot summer days. The large Sharp solar panels also provide additional eco-friendly charging of the batteries.

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