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Electricity & Design

Technological challenges and new design opportunities

Assuming that customers will need different car models to fulfil the needs of their everyday life, future drivers could modify their own car by simply replacing another car-body on the chassis. Figure: Reutlingen University / Martin Luccarelli

Martin Luccarelli

In its latest issue “Auto & Design”, the world’s leading car design magazine, Martin Luccarelli referred about technological challenges and new design opportunities.

 A previous article in A&D already explored how the introduction of alternative powertrain technologies will affect the exterior proportions of cars. The transition from traditional to alternative vehicles concerns not only the driven powertrain, but the whole car packaging system as well.

In this regard, the optimization of electric components integration, autonomous driving, and drive-by-wire technology (see figure) are the three main technological trends that are fostering the design evolution of car packaging.

Despite the choice of Tesla to invest around 5$ billion through 2020 in a massive battery plant to retain key technical capabilities in the company, there is still a huge uncertainty regarding the future orientation of sustainable passenger mobility. Optimistic scenarios have predicted that the market penetration of electric, hydrogen, and plug-in hybrid vehicles will notably increase after around 2020, achieving about 80% market share by 2050; by contrast, less optimistic forecasts limit the market penetration of these vehicles up to 35% by 2050, and even less according to business-as-usual scenarios.

The uncertainty in forecasting which alternative drive concept will prevail (electric, hydrogen, or plug-in hybrid) and in what volumes makes modularity an appealing method to cope with new vehicle concepts, and the need for producing them using the current production systems and value chain network used for the fabrication of conventional vehicles.

Modularity is intended here as the ability of a system to be decomposed into a number of components that may be mixed and matched in a variety of configurations. This methodology can be applied to the product (modularity in design), to its production process (modularity in production), and to its use (modularity in use).

 Students can check this issue at our university library.


About Martin Luccarelli
Martin Luccarelli is full professor in Industrial and Material Design at the School of Textiles & Design of Reutlingen University in Germany since 2015. He holds a Master’s degree in Industrial Design from the Polytechnic University of Milan and a PhD in Sustainable Energy and Technologies from the Free University of Bolzano, in collaboration with the Technical University of Munich.

Prior to his appointment at Reutlingen University, Martin Luccarelli was Assistant Professor in Technologies and Production Systems for Product Design at the Faculty of Design and Art of the Free University of Bolzano and worked as professional designer in Europe, Middle East, and Asia in the fields of industrial and transportation design.