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Will the car of the future look like something outlandish, something amazing, something futuristic? Or will the real car of the future look just like a regular car, only it will be clean, efficient, and amazingly advanced under the skin?

I've been having this debate with myself since the summer of 2008. It was my first day interning at the Plug-In Hybrid Electric Vehicle Research Center at the Institute of Transportation studies at the University of California, Davis (that was a fun letterhead). While I was waiting to meet the people I'd be working with, I doodled in my notebook what I thought a PHEV of the future should look like. My boss walked in, saw the doodle and thought it was cool. As we went around meeting the staff, he'd show off the drawing and see what people think. Only when we got to the last person did we get an interesting answer.

"I dont know, I think the real plug-in hybrid of the future will look just like a regular car," said the woman in charge of the department's staff. She turned out to be one of the most interesting people there. She thought that the best hybrids got great mileage when you drove like a normal human being, rather than the ones that made you drive like a grandma to eke out good mpg numbers.

On the other side of the debate were positive sales of futuristic looking hybrids like the Prius compared to utterly normal looking ones like the Honda Civic hybrid.

This debate came up again in today's discussion of the Chevy Spark EV, as mooseknuckles gave a little design analysis of all the small EVs on the market


Let's do the rundown. The 500e, sure it looks like a regular 500, but no one is buying those anyways.

The i-MiEV is like a red-headed stepchild, with its eyes too far apart and an underbite.


The Leaf looks like a dumbass, like when you see a person and say to yourself "damn, that is one dumb looking mother f***er."

The Spark EV, looks like a regular Spark. It's a little car, it's stubby, how much styling can they do with a stub. It's the lesser of 4 visual evils. And has oodles of torque, so just close, or maybe just squint, your eyes and stomp the throttle.


So what do you think? Do you think 'futuristic' cars like plug-in hybrids, EVs, and driverless cars of the near future would be wise to have crazy-looking designs? Do you think they'd sell better if they looked totally normal? Do you want them to look normal?

Photo Credits: Chevy, Fiat, Mitsubishi, Nissan