Zumikon, Switzerland – World debut at the Geneva Motor Show 2009 (March 5th-15th): The Swiss auto powerhouse Rinspeed presents the ‘iChange,’ the world’s first car whose body adapts to the number of passengers on board. For Rinspeed boss Rinderknecht the vehicle is more than just a clever concept car. The “iChange” is a symbol for the fundamental changes the auto industry undergoes worldwide. And it is clear that only those companies will survive that have innovative answers for the demands of a new automotive era.” The visionary Rinderknecht is convinced that the days of gas-guzzling behemoths are coming to an end: “The „iChange” is a signal for the coming global changes to individual mobility. We need to be ready to meet these challenges with new ideas.”
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. “We have designed and built an extremely flexible vehicle. In it we have brought the themes of versatility and continually changing energy demands to their logical conclusions.” The result is a streamlined, lightweight zero-emission car with dramatically reduced energy consumption.
The basic idea behind the ‘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.
The 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 tires in size 215/40-17 in front and size 245/40-18 in back provide optimal grip.
An 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. Eberspächer Group from Esslingen, Germany is one of the world leaders in car heaters. Specifically for the „iChange” project Eberspächer developed custom-tailored electric and fuel-burning heating systems. Both systems are geared toward the specific requirements and conditions of electric vehicles.
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 the ‘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.
With the „iChange” Rinderknecht, a passionate C. F. Bucherer watch wearer, and his partners once more want to provide food for thought for the automotive industry. The Swiss car visionary: “If we want to maintain our individual mobility in the future we have to rethink the car in its entirety, without taboos. Most of all, we have to take its ecological aspects into consideration.” And in the end everyone has to personally answer the same question: Am I ready and willing to change myself, do and can ‘I change’?