6/30/2009 | 2 MINUTE READ

Rinspeed's Latest: Solo, Duo or Trio

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From cars that can drive underwater to cars that are essentially transparent, Rinspeed (www.rinspeed.com; Zumikon, Switzerland) has created concepts that are anything but ordinary. And at the recent Geneva Motor Show, the company stayed true to its spirit with the “iChange.” While there are any number of products that are glomming onto Apple’s “i” generally with little in the way of legitimacy, in the case of this vehicle there is credibility in that rather than having a quotidian key or even an electronic keyfob for entry and ignition, the iChange uses an iPhone.
But that’s only a small part of what makes this study in lightweight engineering (it weighs just 1,050 kg; it has a composite body and an aluminum/steel chassis) a Rinspeed creation. According to a statement from the company, that we couldn’t begin to paraphrase, “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 needs 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.” Yes, with the popped-up greenhouse the iChange allows the driver to be joined by two others, not the six that can be contained by those vehicles with “puffed-up exteriors.”
The iChange is powered by an electric motor with a maximum output of 150 kW. Although this is a concept vehicle, the motor/generator, power electronics, and interface to the lithium-ion battery was provided by Siemens Corporate Technology Department (w1.siemens.com/entry/cc/en). A Harmon/Kardon (www.harmonkardon.com) infotainment system includes a navi unit that calculates the most energy-efficient routes. Among the more interesting materials found on the interior are pure wool made into a high-tech wool by Schoeller Textil AG (www.schoeller-textiles.com) and a diamond-coated non-slip floor from KGS Diamond Group (www.kgsdiamond.com), a Swiss superabrasives company.
There are batteries available for both short and long trips. Similarly, the Eberspächer Group (www.eberspacher.com) has developed heating systems for trip types. For the short jaunts, there is an all-electric heater that has a 5.6-kW heating capacity yet measures just 228 x 167 x 36 mm. For longer trips, in order to minimize the use of the electrical power for heating purposes, there is the Eberspächer Airtronic heater, which runs on E-85 fuel (which is contained in a 3.5-liter tank).
And oddly enough, the transmission used in the iChange, although eco from the standpoint that it is lubricated with eco-friendly fluids from Motorex (www.motorex.com), is that found in a Subaru WRX.