“iChange” Alters its Shape – and Automotive Thinking
Zumikon, Switzerland – World debut at the Geneva Motor Show 2009 (March 5th-15th): The Swiss auto powerhouse Rinspeed presents the ‘iChange,’ the world’s first car whose body adapts to the number of passengers on board. For Rinspeed boss Rinderknecht the vehicle is more than just a clever concept car. The “iChange“ is a symbol for the fundamental changes the auto industry undergoes worldwide. And it is clear that only those companies will survive that have innovative answers for the demands of a new automotive era.” The visionary Rinderknecht is convinced that the days of gas-guzzling behemoths are coming to an end: “The „iChange“ is a signal for the coming global changes to individual mobility. We need to be ready to meet these challenges with new ideas.”
In seconds a streamlined one-seater sports car transforms into a comfortable car with ample room for three. The trick: At the push of a button the rear end of the teardrop-shaped car magically pops up. “We have designed and built an extremely flexible vehicle. In it we have brought the themes of versatility and continually changing energy demands to their logical conclusions.” The result is a streamlined, lightweight zero-emission car with dramatically reduced energy consumption.
The basic idea behind the ‘iChange:’: The energy demand of a vehicle depends mostly on its weight, the type of engine it uses, and its aerodynamic properties. The engineering-services company Esoro that traditionally builds Rinspeed concept cars has built an extremely lightweight car weighing in at only 1’050 kilograms. To power the car, the Swiss specialists chose an electric motor. The idea of the pop-up rear end was conceived to account for the sizeable effect aerodynamics play in fuel consumption.
While other cars always have to ferry around their puffed-up exteriors that can accommodate up to seven passengers even if they’re just transporting a single soul, the „iChange“ features an adaptive body. The sole driver is conveyed in a teardrop-shaped car that offers optimal aerodynamic properties and thus minimized energy consumption. If more than one person need to be transported the expanding rear provides room for two passengers. As a result of the increased weight and no longer optimal aerodynamics the energy consumption increases – but only for the time passengers are actually on board.
The energy for the electric motor comes from lithium-ion batteries that are available in two different stack configurations for short- and long-distance driving. The electric motor of the „iChange“ produces 150kW, capable of propelling the car to a top speed of 220 km/h. The sprint from rest to 100 km/h takes just slightly over four seconds. This impressive performance is made possible with the help of a six-speed pre-selector gearbox from the Subaru WRX car. The central research department of Siemens AG (Corporate Technology, CT) supplied the integration technology for engine/generator, electronics and battery connection interface. Siemens has long been one of the world leaders for energy systems and eco technology with pioneering concepts for electric drive systems. Its products cover the entire electric value-added chain from generation to distribution to consumption. The gearbox and drivetrain are lubricated with eco-friendly lubricants from Motorex. Custom-made lightweight 17” and 18” forged wheels with aerodynamic shrouds are supplied by light-alloy wheel specialists AEZ. Pirelli P Zero tires in size 215/40-17 in front and size 245/40-18 in back provide optimal grip.
An initial walk-around reveals that the concept car has no doors. The entire electrically powered roof section of the car measuring just 1.03 meters in height tilts forward to allow passengers to board. Also gone are such mundane things as a key. Its role is filled by an Apple iPhone, which also controls the most important vehicle functions. The „iChange“ is drastically different than ordinary cars in every detail: At the heart of the concept car lies the groundbreaking next-generation Harman/Kardon infotainment system. The system uses an innovative Intel processor technology that guarantees minimized power consumption. The same is true for the Harman/Kardon high-efficiency audio system. This revolutionary technology meets highest demands on sound quality, weighs much less than ordinary systems and at the same time uses only a fraction of energy. This opens the door to a new dimension of energy efficiency. The route guidance of the navigation system is also especially eco-friendly: The system calculates the most energy-saving route and displays the directions in realistic 3D view. Eberspächer Group from Esslingen, Germany is one of the world leaders in car heaters. Specifically for the „iChange“ project Eberspächer developed custom-tailored electric and fuel-burning heating systems. Both systems are geared toward the specific requirements and conditions of electric vehicles.
The pure wool used in the interior was further refined into high-tech wool by Schoeller using state-of-the-art processes. The wool is spun and died in accordance with the highest eco standards. It provides an extremely extravagant ambiance in the ‘iChange,’ looks stunning and is delicate to the touch. The competence partner Strähle + Hess transformed this natural product into a striking interior. Its surface character and materiality combine to create a symbiosis of shell, firmness and frothy air. Unconventional techniques create unusual surfaces. The seams of the seats are reversed and the removable seats cushions are adorned with the prototype’s name. Xmobil provided further customization services. While textiles can be found in the „iChange“ in their original form in other areas, they are newly interpreted on seats and cargo floor using various refinement techniques such as braiding and gathering and a combination of both. Leather strips alternate with technical textiles. The seat cushions are interchangeable, braided felt alternates with technical textiles formed into three-dimensional shapes. This transfers the adaptive concept of the „iChange“ to the interior as well. The diamond-coated anti-slip floor is supplied by abrasives specialist KGS.
The Swiss Federal Ministry for Energy (Bundesamt für Energie) supports the „iChange“ project as a groundbreaking research and development project. Solar panels on the top and sides of the roof provide electricity to the fan to keep temperatures in the „iChange“ comfortably low on hot summer days. The large Sharp solar panels also provide additional eco-friendly charging of the batteries.
With the „iChange“ Rinderknecht, a passionate C. F. Bucherer watch wearer, and his partners once more want to provide food for thought for the automotive industry. The Swiss car visionary: “If we want to maintain our individual mobility in the future we have to rethink the car in its entirety, without taboos. Most of all, we have to take its ecological aspects into consideration.” And in the end everyone has to personally answer the same question: Am I ready and willing to change myself, do and can ‘I change’?
Esoro – Swiss Made
Frank M. Rinderknecht used highly advanced technology and a Swiss-based network of top automotive specialists for his project. So the Rinspeed “iChange” fits perfectly to Esoros motto: engineered by Esoro – What you dream is what you get.
For the tenth time the Swiss engineering company Esoro was hired to serve as general contractor for the entire project. Esoro was responsible for project management, implementation of new technologies, engineering, rendering, design and the manufacturing of the Rinspeed “iChange”. Esoro realized the Rinspeed “iChange” with the help of its competent suppliers. Starting with initial concepts, it took the highly skilled development team
just six months to realize the entire project. For 18 years now, Esoro has been a contract developer of concept vehicles, components and products with main focus on lightweight construction and mobility. During this time it has gained a well-deserved reputation for excellent efficiency and innovative solutions, which is demonstrated by numerous prototypes and serial products. Esoro develops fiber reinforced components from initial conception up to pre-production samples. In-house specialists optimize the component properties and characteristics throughout the entire development process. Important steps are non-linear, strong orthotropic Finite Element Analysis and crash simulation.
Another recent development from Esoro is the new E-LFT production technology developed for Weber Automotive. E-LFT makes large scale production of high-strength and lightweight composite parts affordable. E-LFT composite parts weigh more than 30 percent less than comparable steel parts. The tailgate of the actual smart fortwo – the first serial produced E-LFT-component – was produced over 200’000 times since 2007 and received the JEC Innovation Automotive Award 2008. Furthermore another production process for niche markets, like high performance cars, trucks and caravans is now under development at Esoro. The new and patented process called Melt Embossing offers the possibility to produce high end thermoplastic composite parts with low initial invest for structural and semi-structural applications.
Since the company was founded, Esoro has been working intensively in the field of conception, implementation and tests of alternative and optimized vehicle concepts and drive systems. Esoro is thus one of the few companies in the world with well-founded experience in development and operation of electric, hybrid and fuel cell drives. The Rinspeed “iChange” proves impressively this competence using cutting edge technology.
Electric shape-changer: a sports car or a sports van? Rinspeed “iChange” – forward-looking ideas on AEZ wheels
The Motor Show in Geneva is traditionally the place where Frank M. Rinderknecht presents his visions. For years he and his company Rinspeed have been presenting environmentally-friendly, practical and extravagant creations, which offer possible solutions for the future of automobiles. And now joining him for the third time is: AEZ, the renowned manufacturer of premium light-metal wheels. Following the eXasis and the underwater car sQuba, this time the perfect alloys had to be found for the “iChange”. Norbert Frohner, the General Manager of AEZ, said the following: “As with the sQuba we have created a new wheel, which works almost directly on the blank forging. The task was just as complex as last year, but also just as different. Although the “iChange” can’t go underwater, it is extremely diverse on land – and that’s precisely what the wheel intends to demonstrate.”
Frank M. Rinderknecht’s latest development is actually a vehicle which adapts to diverse conditions: First and foremost, thought, the “iChange” is a thoroughbred, futuristic sports car. The AEZ alloys support this by looking like the wheels on a classic Bugatti – and that suits the streamlined design of the Rinspeed. In this form the “iChange” is a fun car for one person, but “when the rear is raised as if by magic” it changes in the blink of an eye into a small sports van for three people. The double spoke wheel also takes part in the metamorphosis; it fits the spatial wonder like a glove even when the focus is shifted to the adequate transportation of people.
Dynamics meets versatility – that is this year’s topic from Rinspeed. Rinderknecht says: “If we want to maintain our individual mobility in the future, then we will have to rethink the car disregarding all taboos.” That also means that the vehicle has to adjust to changing conditions. And that explains the name “iChange”. The vehicle concept also comprises, of course, the vehicle technology, as it also has to adjust to future demands. As is normal with Rinspeed, environmental protection is in the foreground: an electric engine with 150kW (204 HP) offers decent thrust without harmful emissions. With its large, enclosed surface, the wheel from AEZ provides even better aerodynamics – it helps to extend the life-span of the battery and increase the sports potential of the “iChange”. Designers and technicians at AEZ have designed and built an expressive, spectacular alloy for an extraordinary car. It represents the high-point so far in the cooperation between the wheel producer and Rinspeed.
Durability on four wheels. Carl F. Bucherer supports the “iChange” by Rinspeed
For both Frank M. Rinderknecht, the founder of Rinspeed Concept Cars, and Carl F. Bucherer, innovation is the driving force of all production. So it is not surprising that the Lucerne watch manufacturer is supporting the latest of Frank M. Rinderknecht’s projects the variable Rinspeed “iChange”. Over 30 years ago, Frank M. Rinderknecht set himself the goal of fulfilling the dreams of his youth and realizing the vision of the ultimate motor vehicle with his own cult car. His company, Rinspeed, soon created for itself a unique reputation in the tuning and modification of luxury vehicles for a financially independent clientele. In parallel with this, Rinspeed became famous for producing concept and small series cars. In his partnership with international companies in the high-tech field, Frank M. Rinderknecht actually provided them with a valuable development platform.
Common philosophy, new project: Cars which can drive on water, cars which can drive under water, cars with transparent bodywork. The concept cars developed by Frank M. Rinderknecht interpret mobility in a different way. They are the work of a person, who quietly goes his own way. Just as Carl F. Bucherer, founder of the Lucerne watch brand, used to. This was one of the reasons that CEO Thomas Morf and Marketing Manager Bruno Jufer decided to support Frank M. Rinderknecht and his ideas. However, an even greater influence was the common philosophy shared by Carl F. Bucherer and Rinspeed, demanding technology, top class materials and amazing shapes, all contributing to an innovative, conceptually convincing final product.
From the sports car to the van: This common philosophy is also foremost in the latest Rinspeed-Project. The “iChange” is a „1-2-3-seater” with a 150kW-e-motor, whose eye-catching body shape adapts to the number of passengers by electronic tail magic. At the touch of a knob, one can convert the single person sports car into a small sports van for three people, exactly like the motto “I change”. As well as in its design, the “iChange” reveals its innovation through its extremely low energy consumption: the car drives without exhaust emission and boasts a weight and wind resistance reduced to their minimum. So the Rinspeed “iChange” demonstrates a high potential in the area of durability, which also represents part of Frank M. Rinderknecht’s motivation: “We have put a flexible vehicle on wheels and, in so doing, the themes of the varied and constantly changing energy requirements meaningfully thought right through, to take the ecological aspect fully into account”, maintains the car tinker.
Highest Swiss quality: Innovative thinking, the belief in one’s own way and today’s theme of durability are also of the utmost importance for Carl F. Bucherer components, and explain why the Lucerne watch manufacturer is collaborating on this project with Frank M. Rinderknecht. “The Rinspeed „iChange“ stands for change, future-orientated technologies and great passion. This embodies the Carl F. Bucherer philosophy in a unique way”, explains Bruno Jufer, Executive Vice President Marketing. The “iChange” will be presented to the public for the first time at this year’s motor show in Geneva, taking place f
rom 5th to 15th March. Carl F. Bucherer will be there with Rinspeed. All in all, the credos of the “iChange” and the watch models of Carl F. Bucherer go perfectly together: the highest Swiss quality and efficiency, combined with the perpetual search for perfection.
About Carl F. Bucherer: Carl F. Bucherer, registered as Bucherer Montres S.A., is an independent company with 90 years competency in the production of luxury watches. The Manufacture brand stands for uncompromising quality and esthetical products with stylish design. It combines the finest watch making craftsmanship with the highest jewelry competency. The name recognizes the pioneering achievements of the company’s founder of the same name, Carl Friedrich Bucherer. The Carl F. Bucherer brand was launched in 2001, with the objective of giving more strategic emphasis to its manufacturing expertise, which had already been successfully demonstrated since 1919. As the only watch brand located in Central Switzerland, Carl F. Bucherer produces and markets exclusive ladies and gents watches, thereby building the second arm of the Bucherer Group. Today, the Bucherer Group is managed by the owner-family. It took the Carl F. Bucherer team only a short time to develop an effective distribution network and create international consumer awareness for the brand. In July 2007, Carl F. Bucherer strengthened its market position as a watch manufacturer in the premium segment with the acquisition of the workshop for the development, research and production of manufacture movements, Carl F. Bucherer Technologies SA, (formerly Techniques Horlogères Appliquées SA) in Ste-Croix, and with the launch of its manufacture movement CFB A1000 at Baselworld 2008.