Get your Government Motors jokes ready, GM is going to ask Americans to make actual sacrifices in the pursuit of a low-cost green car. Comrades, we give you the GM Bare Necessity Car Concept.

We knew from our research that people wanted an extremely efficient vehicle that was also low-cost and green. But what was really eye-opening to me was that people seemed to desire extreme efficiency even if it meant making small sacrifices/trade-offs. The idea of a back-to-basics, bare-necessity approach to designing a vehicle made sense.

So I had two questions:

How can we design an optimally efficient vehicle? I mean really, what does that even mean?

And…

What are people willing to trade off for efficiency's sake?

One answer would come in the form of our first "big idea": Design a car with the lowest cost per mile of any four-seater on the road!

So if people are willing to make some trade-offs for efficiency, maybe then the first trade-off would need to be size. It would need be a very small car – having said that, it would need to be really flexible in terms of space.

The question of making trade-offs is difficult. "Bare necessity" in vehicle terms has a unique meaning to different people. The idea of offering people only what they need and nothing more became an important focus. Ok, but it can't feel cheap or limiting, it has to be flawlessly executed. As designers, we had to think in terms of designing in the ability to eliminate non-critical features, based on unique customer needs. We were calling this the "Basic Plus Approach." This approach would help us deal with the conundrum of one man's crap being another man's essential.

Beyond the basic plus approach and functional flexibility we needed to design a vehicle that was simple with minimal parts and sustainable materials. That's what we began to explore.