Best Car Concepts, Designs and Random Automotive Weirdness from 2021

I’m not sure if automotive design is evolving, or just getting weirder for the sake of being weird. While engineers are busy trying to develop autonomous systems, car designers mostly seem preoccupied with developing loud forms that will cut through the signal noise of our attention economy. Here’s what jumped out at us in 2021:

Audi revealed their shape-shifting Skysphere concept, a sort of telescoping car that can increase or decrease its wheelbase.

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West Coast Customs realized Rolls-Royce’s “Floating” concept car, their interpretation of the 103EX. (The client is allegedly Justin Bieber.)

Toyota unveiled their eye-popping X Prologue concept, which kind of looks like a murderous rollerskate.

The unlikely pairing of Mercedes and Geely yielded the Smart Concept #1, a design that I found stood out in this market for actually demonstrating restraint.

Speaking of unlikely pairings, Pininfarina designed a car for Foxconn, whose new car division is called Foxtron. I can’t call the results good.

We saw a shameless electric VW Beetle knockoff in the Ora Punk Cat, a Chinese car targeted at women.

Another tiny car that caught our eye is German EV startup Adaptive City Mobility’s City One, which kind of looks like it was designed by Samsonite.

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Speaking of tiny cars, we learned of a strange-to-us vehicle category in China: Ultra-narrow low-speed EVs. It’s apparently a vehicle commonly used for a single grandparent to transport a single child to school.

We got a glimpse of Rolls-Royce’s bananas Coachbuild Program, where rich clients are embedded within the design team to help develop their own bespoke vehicles. That’s gotta be fun for the designers….

We learned that prior to Virgil Abloh’s untimely death, the designer had been collaborating with Mercedes-Benz on an off-road electric Maybach.

EV startup Arrival designed a car specifically for ridesharing, implementing the input of actual Uber drivers.

Looking towards the future, Toyota unveiled no less than 15 concept EVs at a single event.

Looking towards the future but with an eye on the past, EV startup Alpha revealed their forthcoming models that look like modern updates to 1960s/’70s European or Japanese coupes:

Looking towards the past, Jaguar announced they’re bringing back the 1953 C-Type (for eight lucky kajillionaires, anyway).

This year we learned that the Microlino, a micro-car that you enter through the front of the vehicle, is actually going into production (but won’t be for sale in America).

I guess some car designers are getting bored with side doors? Following the Microlino announcement, we learned about this Pininfarina concept car that you enter through the back of the vehicle.

This year we also saw lots of experimentation with automotive UI. Mercedes developed this “Hyperscreen” that takes up the entire dashboard.

Rolls-Royce made the rather bizarre UI decision to replace the tachometer with a counterclockwise “Power Reserve” gauge. Check out how it works:

Speaking of dashboards, we looked at some wild ones from the 1980s.

How ’bout those yoke steering wheels? Surprisingly, this guy gave a positive review of Tesla’s yoke, finding it “way easier to turn:”

Audi came up with a strange idea for their A6 E-Tron concept: It can use its headlights to project a videogame you can play while the car charges.

The Dacia Sandero can save you a few Euros by not having to charge you for an infotainment screen. Instead you plug your smartphone into the dash, and that’s the screen, connected by Bluetooth.

Cognitive dissonance: We were incredulous to learn that Mini’s Countryman has stock turn signals that point the wrong way.

This year we also ran across a bunch of random car stuff. For instance, if you’ve ever wondered what an inside-out car would look like, here you go.

Another thing you’ve probably never wondered, but here’s what it looks like when you move a car’s driving components to the back seat.

Dutch designer Niek Pulles catalogs cars that look like sneakers.

Here’s a “Predator Prius,” for hunting things other than parking spaces.

A Detroit Institute of Art exhibition showed us how different car renderings used to be.

“Ford Nucleon Atomic Powered Vehicle, Rear Side View,” 1956, Albert L. Mueller, American; gouache, pastel, prismacolor, brown-line print on vellum. Collection of Robert L. Edwards and Julie Hyde-Edwards.

“’71 Barracuda Front End Facelift Concept,” 1968, Donald Hood, American; crayon, gouache, ink, felt marker, prismacolor, pastel on vellum. Collection of Robert L. Edwards and Julie Hyde-Edwards.

“Rendering of Proposed 1967 Cadillac Eldorado Design,” 1964, Wayne Kady, American; watercolor, gouache, and ink on paper. From the Collections of The Henry Ford, Dearborn, Michigan.

Incredibly, this year Klein Vision’s flying car flew from one city to another, landed, turned back into a car, and drove downtown.

Rather than flying through the air, these racecars use it to power the built-in air jacks they have for speedy pit stops.

This year we learned an industrial design student’s solar car was actually prototyped a few years ago.

Lastly, we didn’t travel much this year, but we did manage to land one sit-down interview with an auto designer, and it was a great one: Jaguar Land Rover CCO Gerry McGovern spoke with us on modernism, evolution and what design students should be learning.

Source: core77

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