Chinese carmaker GAC debuted an EV concept with a grill so large it makes any recent BMW grill look modest. At the 2022 GAC Tech Day, Guangzhou Auto Group unveiled the GAC Space, an autonomous hydrogen-powered MPV concept with a retractable steering wheel and a face that’s, basically, just a continuous grill under a single LED headlight across its front-end.
Chinese car design is often criticized for being derivative, but the GAC Space takes another approach altogether. This is the logical conclusion of a trend that BMW, Lexus and General Motors have perpetuated, and tried to popularize in late model designs to the chagrin of many. But we have to hand it to GAC. The Chinese state-owned car conglomerate committed to the bit, even if the advent of EVs makes large grills unnecessary. But I’m mostly baffled by its wheels:
The designers claim they imagined the GAC Space (best read letter by letter, not an acronym — Gack!) as an autonomous vehicle with up to Level 4 automation. That would put the Space into actual “self-driving” territory, which is why it has a retractable steering wheel and front seats that swivel backwards. The driver and front passenger could then zone out like public transportation users have been doing for centuries, but in private, I guess.
There’s also a “tea time” feature that opens the rear tailgate, and automatically unfolds or ejects a seat from the cargo area. Passengers can then sit below the shade of rear gate in that fanciest tailgating setup ever.
The GAC Space concept would reportedly be powered a hydrogen fuel cell engine with a range of over 400 miles per tank. The powertrain could produce 180 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque, according to Motor1, but, since the Space is a concept, those figures are as real as the CGI in the Space launch film.
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Hydrogen-powered vehicles have yet to convince the industry of their viability. Toyota is bravely clinging to its hydrogen dream with the Toyota Mirai in the U.S., and neat prototypes like the hydro-powered GR Yaris that’s undergone track testing in Japan. Other than that, hydrogen-powered powertrains aren’t all that popular despite their similarities to current gas-powered cars.
It’s like GAC dared its designers to take the most unpopular EV technology and pair it with the most unpopular car design. To be fair, what they came up with is not actually all that bad — at certain angles.
The side-profile and rear three-quarter view are both kind of pleasing; it’s just that awful grill that kills it. And GAC’s designers apparently didn’t think the gaping maw was enough, so they added LED backlights to remind us the grill is still there, even at night.
Even so, outside of the farfetched Level 4 autonomy goals and hydrogen fuel cell powertrain, the GAC Space would make a sleek EV minivan with a sloping front-end that reminds me of the Pontiac Trans Sport, Chevrolet Lumina APV and Oldsmobile Silhouette. If the GAC Space could bring back “dustbuster” vans, then I could almost forgive it for that ridiculous grill.