L.A. Auto Show Design Challenge Entries - Japanese & American Automakers  

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Continuing on from our look at the German automakers' efforts for the Design Los Angeles Design Challenge 2009, the focus is now on the entries submitted by Japanese and American manufacturers. This is a competition of particular importance to designers, hosted in a city and in turn a region famed for its trendsetting but also for its position as having the greatest concentration of manufacturer design studios in the world.

In recent years, the challenge has covered briefs from the designing of a 'RoboCar for 2057' to that which takes the future of driving to an 'environmental experience', with previous wins from GM, GMC and Dodge as well as two from Volkswagen. Victorious American designs have included GM's Hummer O2, fitted with an algae-panelled body that enables CO2 emissions to be converted into O2, and the GMC Pad - a vehicle judges branded as a 'Living Activity Vehicle'.

This year's brief seeks a Motor Sports vehicle for 2025 - with designs being entered from across the continents. Japanese and American makers involved are General Motors, Honda, Mazda, Mitsubishi and Toyota.

Honda’s The Great Race 2025

Honda designers forsee a reincarnation of the Great Race of 1908, in which 17 brave men dared to traverse the world. The race spanned twenty-two thousand miles and three continents, lasting six months. Honda's proposal for The Great Race 2025, 117 years after it was first devised, would take competitors across the US by land, Asia by sea and Europe by air.

In making such a race remotely feasible, Honda are keen to promote their brand's experience in all the necessary fields, from automotive and marine technologies to robotics and jet expertise. By possessing technologies that detect changes in speed, terrain and altitude, Honda's vehicle is able to adapt

GM Chaparral Volt

Designers at General Motors Advanced Design facility in California have gone local for their Chaparral Volt, drawing on the three features in abundance in the state - Earth, Wind and Fire - for a revival of the LA Times Grand Prix in 2025. Collecting its energy from these three sources, managing them and in turn powering EREV propulsion, the Chaparral Volt creates a new category in racing: the eco-triathlon.

Earth provides high braking efficiency as well as active energy regeneration, Wind enables power cell cooling via rear turbine extractors, provides down force and (when reversed) assisted energy regeneration and braking power. Fire is the integration of a thin poly-vinyl layer into the Volt's body to capture the energy of the sun for conversion into stored energy for use by the primary energy source.

Mitsubishi Motors MMR25

Breaking away from convention, Mitsubishi have designed beyond the traditional four-by-four, instead opting for a drivetrain touting 8x4 wheel drive. Explained somewhat more clearly in the accompanying photos, the omni-directional all-terain wheels allow for forward driving while the car itself faces in any other direction. Cornering is particularly interesting because the car can be pointed in the target direction before entering the apex, the MMR25 therefore entering a bend sideways. Further pecularities include a center wing that acts as spoiler and front and rear spoilers that double as suspension blades.


Working on the basis that Californian freeways will have been resurfaced in a sub-level electro-conductive polymer by 2025, powering the electric cars of the near-future, Mazda's design team present Kaan, an electric racing car designed to compete in the E1 races. Using this and an electronic tire system, the Kaan will be powered to 250 mph top speeds free of harmful emissions.

Designed for racing with up to thirty competitiors per team, the vehicle is optimised around its energy-drawing wheels with the cabin providing space for one occupant and its aerodynamics made for greatest efficiency in packs in a vain similar to that of cycling peletons.

Toyota Lemans Racer

Californian Toyota designers at Calty Design Research, Inc. have come up with an adaptable racing concept for 2025 that 'never needs to stop'. Powered by hydrogen fuel cell, the Lemans Racer can also be charged from its photovoltaic body panels should further energy be required.

With two modes, each adapting the vehicle to the required characteristics of each, the LeMans can achieve optimisations in aerodynamics or grip dependent on whether High Speed Mode or Cornering Mode is selected. In High Speed Mode, the body and wheels narrow, reducing drag and resistance to reach its 350 mph top speed. Cornering Mode stabilises the vehicle by widening the body and expanding the wheels to establish the greatest contact and grip through tight turns.

The cockpit is entirely digital both for optimum safety and race performance, the environment enhanced by virtual reality and computer recommendations on trajectory, collision avoidance and even boasting an automated co-pilot system.
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