BMW Cloth Car?

BMW unveiled its latest design philosophy last year — via a radical concept car — that will sure to raise some eyebrows in the automotive industry. It’s called the Light Visionary Model.

There are four main pieces of skin that make up the Visionary’s body: The largest component starts at the front of the car and extends all the way to the base of the windscreen, then down and across the two doors, ending at the rear edge. The next two fabric-like skins begin at the front lower rocker panels, then run across the rear wheel and tire package arches to the back. The last piece of skin makes up the rear deck. The roadster’s scissor-type doors open with its outer skin wrinkled in a very clearly defined pattern, but they are stretched back into a silky-smooth surface when the doors close.

The fabric that covers the Visionary’s body is constructed from a waterproof and temperature-resistant mesh netting on the outer layer, supported by a flexible metal-wire structure underneath to maintain the skin’s tension and smoothness. Around a few areas where curvatures of the skin are called for, carbon struts are added to allow for higher flexibility while keeping the rounded contours.

The Light Visionary Model is striking not only because of its fabric outer skin, but also its utility in form following function. Because of the flexible skin, the headlights can be hidden or exposed when necessary. The side markers to signal lane changes are not visible on the outside until they are turned on during use — their light shines though the translucent (but not transparent) cover. Airflow around the car can be managed actively as the skin can be closed, opened or stretched based on need; the rocker-panel shape at the front and around the auto tires can be adjusted for better aerodynamics. And because the rear deck is covered by one single piece of fabric, the spoiler can be completely hidden when it is not in use.

Chris Bangle, Head of BMW Group Design, says, “Personal customer requirements will broaden the context of our products and change the core values that define our industry along the way.” That’s why BMW is focused on breaking new ground and finding innovative design solutions.

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