Jane Wakefield, Technology reporter for the BBC reports that a car that has been designed to strip the air of pollution as it drives along has been shown off at the Goodwood Festival of Speed. Created by British designer Thomas Heatherwick, it is hoped the Airo (as it is called) will go into production in China in 2023, with plans to make a million of them.
The radical design is intended to address not only the pollution issue, but also help solve the "space crisis". The car - which was first unveiled at the Shanghai car show in April - has a large glass roof, and the interior is designed to look like a room, with adjustable chairs that can be turned into beds, and a central table intended for meetings or meals. The steering wheel is hidden in the dashboard and the exterior is textured, with a series of ripples or ridges. "Car manufacturers are falling over themselves to make electric cars, but a new electric car shouldn't just be another one with a different look," said Mr Heatherwick.
As well as wanting to reflect the flow of air over the car in the ridged exterior, the front grill will be fitted with an air filter which will "collect a tennis ball worth of particulate matter per year", he told the BBC.
"That might not sound a lot, but think of a tennis ball in your lungs, that is contributing to cleaning the air, and with a million vehicles in China alone, that adds up." Incorporating this technology is "the next stage of development" he said. It is planned for it to have both autonomous and driver-controlled modes.
The second big idea behind the car's design is as an alternative space for owners to use. "Covid has raised the space crisis. Many of us are living in flats and houses and need more space, an office or a study," said Mr Heatherwick. With one billion cars in the world which are used for roughly only 10% of the time, there is scope for them to become "valuable real-estate", he said. "The car becomes a communal space for the time when it is not driving." The vehicle will be priced at around £40,000 - something Mr Heatherwick described as "not crazy luxury".
Critics question whether it can ever be manufactured in its current design. Professor Wells, professor of business and sustainability at the Cardiff Business School's centre for automotive industry research, is sceptical that it will be designed in its current form. Mr Heatherwick did admit the design "may simplify somewhat" when it goes into production.