What Would Santa Want to Drive?

Everyone knows Santa drives a sleigh. And, while I’m sure it’s a very nice sleigh, if he and the missus are on holiday in Monaco, Miami, or Melbourne they’re going to need something a little more practical. A little elf told me Santa’s got his eye on the Los Angeles Auto Show’s Design Challenge for a green urban machine. Santa’s naturally concerned about the environment (global warming’s not so good for the poles), and the sleigh’s speed and agility have raised the bar for how he expects an automobile to perform. Nine innovative auto company's design teams won’t disappoint the big guy. From companies known for their environmental edginess to the makers of gas-guzzling monstrosities, L.A. will provide the backdrop for them to unveil their greenest conceptions on November 30. (One of our other featured bloggers, Gloria Campos, wrote about two of the nine in her Nov. 5 article, “Lean, Green, Driving Machines”. To read that article, click here .)

This is the third year the Design Challenge has been part of L.A. Auto Show. Judges will evaluate the cars on the following four criteria: design creativity, environmental compatibility, safety, and their reflection of a Southern California eco-friendly lifestyle. Last year’s winner was the GMC Pad.

Before I introduce the entries, I want to make one observation. I know it’s not breaking news that there’s a shortage of women in the auto industry. However, while these designs are cutting-edge cool, most manifest a masculine influence. I’d be curious to see how the show floor would look if there were more women (there are three named females in list of thirty designers). Just food for thought. Without further ado, here are this year’s designs.


1. Acura FCX 2020 Le Mans

Many of this year’s designs incorporate nanotechnology for the fuel cells to make the cars more compact and efficient. The Acura is one of them. The body looks like the Batmobile, but every part is completely recyclable. It’s created to operate under the most extreme conditions and, as its name implies, the car was tested in the famous auto endurance race this past June in Le Mans, France. A diesel Audi won Le Mans, but Acura must have been pleased with the FCX 2020’s performance.


2. Audi Dynamic Space Frame

AudiAudi Audi distinguished itself by combining processes and materials that are normally separate. For instance, all of the liquid and electrical channels are inside the car’s frame, and a single material is used for both the inside and outside of the car to make it more reusable. It’s probably the most typecast feminine design, with large curves and de-emphasized wheels. If I’d taken a blind test, I would have guessed this car or the Toyota had the most female designers. The Audi had two women on the team, and two additional female interns.


3. Honda Extreme

The L.A. Auto Show web site blurb says this car “grows with the owner”, and they mean it literally. The primary differentiating factor for the Honda is that the interior can be adapted to fit different body types. The car body and parts can be recycled after five years.


4. Hummer 02

This car appealed to me most on an instinctual level. My friends would be shocked since I think the available Hummers are among the most irresponsible cars on the road. But this Hummer actually creates more oxygen than it burns by using panels of algae that expand, helicopter-like, when the vehicle’s parked. The algae converts carbon dioxide in the air into oxygen. Also, the body of the car itself produces oxygen. I like the color scheme, the rugged look when driven, and the techy look when parked. There was one female designer on the team that submitted this entry.


5. 2015 Kia Sandstorm

The Kia Sandstorm deliberately looks like a dune buggy. The designer, Marc Mainville, sets the last judging criteria firmly in his mind (to reflect a Southern California eco-friendly lifestyle) when he created a spacious trunk designed to hold barbecue equipment and beach toys. The biodiesel electric plug-in hybrid is convertible so the ocean wind can whip through your hair, and there are interior recycling containers that can be removed. The outside panels can be recycled too.