One of our favorite parts of the auto-show season is the weird and wonderful concepts that established automakers put out. Some of these models may well turn out to hold the seed to future production models, giving an insight into the exterior design language, cabin technology, and drivetrains of the future. Others will go straight from the drawing board into the wastepaper basket of history.
The Puyo, whose name according to Honda is intended to convey "the sensation of touching the vehicle's soft body," is designed to be "kind to both people and the environment". To achieve this, the bubble-shaped vehicle has no sharp edges and features a "gel body" made from soft materials to minimize injury to pedestrians.
The second model in the bizarre Pivo lineup is designed for extreme flexibility in an urban environment. Its cabin rotates 360 degrees on its platform, making a reverse gear unnecessary. The Pivo 2 seats three people and has a dash-mounted robotic agent that can cheer up the driver. In the unlikely event that the Pivo 2 ever makes it to production, it will be powered by lithium ion battery packs set under the floorboards providing electricity to four in-wheel motors, according to Nissan.
The Mazda Taiki's hydrofoil-like design was apparently inspired by the movement of the natural world. Although the concept is pretty wild, Mazda offers some real specifications for it. Taiki's rear wheels are powered by a Mazda Renesis engine under the hood, with power transmitted through a seven-speed twin-clutch transmission.
GM let its Opel designer loose with the E-Flex hybrid platform developed for the Chevy Volt, resulting in the Flextreme. This car has suicide doors, a split tailgate, and yes, those are Segways sticking out of the back. We assume the Segways were put there so the designers could have some fun while they built the thing.
According to Nissan, the Mixim is a "compact vehicle for young drivers who are mostly engaged by their computer and the world via the Internet." In keeping with other vaporware projects, the Mixim is powered by a lithium ion battery pack, which fuels electric generators on each axle, making the car an all-wheel drive vehicle.
The hydrogen-powered Space Up! Blue concept pays homage to the 1950's VW Samba Bus in its exterior styling. While its shape my be retro, its drive train is far more futuristic. According to VW, the Space Up! Blue features the world's first high-temperature fuel cell, which can operate in temperatures up to 160 degrees Celsius. This is in contrast to many other fuel cells that have to operate within strict temperature ranges. And yes, that is a solar panel on the roof.
This is not your dad's Grand Cherokee. The two-seater Jeep Renegade uses a lightweight aluminum body and is powered by an electric motor. It can go 40 miles on its lithium ion battery pack, while a Bluetec diesel engine generator works as a range extender. According to Chrysler, it can get 110 mpg.
While the Explorer America is principally a mule for showcasing Ford's new fuel-saving technologies, such as direct injection and a six-speed automatic transmission, we were mostly impressed by little benches that pull out of the bumper, making an impromptu picnic table.
The interior of Explorer America looks more suited for a intergalactic travel than terrestrial navigation. A large, domed compass sits in the center of the dash while route guidance is displayed in text on an LCD panel.
Inside, the car's steering wheel is inspired by a gaming controller, while the view from the driver's seat is designed to create a "horizontal split screen effect" with virtual displays visible beneath the windshield.
Designed as a car that "promotes healthier well-being" the RiN features seats that are built for perfect posture, an oxygen-level conditioner, and a steering wheel monitors the driver's mood. According to Toyota, the car can act to "bring you back to balance," if you're feeling out of sorts.
Built to hold recreational gear, the Hi-CT has an external rear deck to hold things like surfboards or BMX bikes. The Hi-CT's plug-in hybrid power train gives it a high-voltage power source for electrical appliances.
Taking the utility theme a little bit further, the diesel-powered NV200 features a "multiuse cartridge" that slides out of the back, with legs to support it in the open position. With the cartridge open, the inside of the van becomes an office, with a desk that folds down from the wall and a couple of flat-panel monitors for a computer.
At the Tokyo auto show, the NV200 was equipped with a cartridge set up for scuba gear. Nissan suggests other diverse uses for it, such as a baker's truck, mobile T-shirt sales, or an Internet cafe on wheels.