When Do We Start Seeing Some Weird EV Designs?

Gif: Jason Torchinsky

Hey, do you remember ever hearing something about how new EV architectures would allow car designers to rethink traditional form factors and create cars packaged for maximum comfort/utility/looks? “Human-centered” designs that put people, not engines, gas tanks, transmissions or drivelines, first?

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Or was the line, “We’re just gonna do a bunch of normal-ass crossovers with batteries”? It’s so hard to remember.

Regardless, that seems to be what we’re getting, just a bunch of absolutely generic looking crossovers with some lighting details to indicate that they don’t run on gas. Maybe this is fine.

Illustration for article titled When Do We Start Seeing Some Weird EV Designs?
Illustration: Jason Torchinsky

It could be that a lot of the more novel shapes that were being proposed when EVs started catching on as a concept around a decade ago were living-room-on-wheels boxes. Given that range is a huge part of the sales pitch for any modern EV, I can understand why nobody has pitched a box-shaped car so far, at least not as a personal car from a company that has a prayer of bringing something to market. But still, there has to be something!

Illustration for article titled When Do We Start Seeing Some Weird EV Designs?
Illustration: Jason Torchinsky

I remember talking to a designer years and years ago, maybe when the KL Cherokee came out about how the advent of modern lighting technology meant that headlights as we think of them weren’t strictly necessary, but that consumers didn’t like a headlight-less face. Maybe that’s why we haven’t seen anyone really step out with a novel design? Do people recoil in horror when they see something that doesn’t look like a CR-V? Are we just...afraid?

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The old, and most-likely apocryphal, Henry Ford saying is, “If I’d have asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.” Basically, the idea is that people often need to be presented with something better, something they weren’t capable of imagining for themselves, before they realize it’s exactly what they needed. In a number of situations, that’s absolutely been the case. Are we waiting for some designer to show us something? Are we waiting for an exec to believe in it? Are we, culturally programmed to reject things that look different?

Illustration for article titled When Do We Start Seeing Some Weird EV Designs?
Illustration: Jason Torchinsky
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I would think a Stout Scarab thing could work — lots of interior space, plenty of room for batteries and a fundamentally aerodynamic shape. Canoo is more or less poking around there, but even this thing isn’t drastically different from the vans of yore.

Illustration for article titled When Do We Start Seeing Some Weird EV Designs?
Screenshot: Canoo
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The EQS is definitely strange looking, but it’s a strange looking sedan. The VW ID.Buzz is very cool, but it’s kind of an electric Type 2. We haven’t seen anything other than more or less traditional sedans, vans, hatchbacks and crossovers. Is there anything else? When are these brilliant designers gonna start stretching their legs to give us something we haven’t seen before?

Illustration for article titled When Do We Start Seeing Some Weird EV Designs?
Illustration: Jason Torchinsky

Jalopnik EIC '48 Willys CJ-2A, '84 Porsche 911, '15 VW GTI, '07 Lexus GX 470.

DISCUSSION

smalleyxb122
smalleyxb122

Not any time soon. We know how to do efficient. It’s a teardrop. We know how to do utilitarian. It’s a box. They are mutually exclusive asymptotes in vehicle design, and they are not beholden to the means of propulsion.

Any “weird” EV design will be weird for its own sake, and not for any practical reason.  The buying public does not respond well to weird for its own sake.  At least not en masse.  Design of ICE cars is a balance between efficiency, utility, and aesthetics, and EV design will follow suit.  Revolutions don’t do as well in the market as evolutions.