Electric Cars

Chris Bangle-designed REDS EV radically alters the idea of a car

It's definitely unlike anything we've seen before.

Chris Bangle Associates

The Los Angeles Auto Show is home to some interesting vehicles, but there isn't a single thing like the REDS electric city car.

The car's toaster-meets-city-bus design is the brainchild of Chris Bangle, a vehicle designer responsible for some of the more daring designs of the last 20 years -- you might be familiar with the "flame surfacing" design language that first graced the E65-generation BMW 7 Series. That's him.

It's weird, but then again, it needs to be weird. The idea behind Bangle's wild design is that if an electric vehicle is to function in new ways, it cannot be designed like a traditional car. All you need is one look at the REDS to see that it's nowhere near traditional.

Maybe it's just Stockholm syndrome, but the more I look at it, the more I think I get it.

Andrew Krok/Roadshow

"At first glance, the side view recalls a child's drawing of a car," the press release reads, and it's spot on. The windshield has a counterintuitive rake, like a coach bus. It looks more like an Amazon shipping box than a car. The doors slide open, like those on a minivan. There's a solar panel on the roof, too.

It seats four, and the driver's seat can rotate inward when the vehicle is stopped. I find that strange, because nobody really hangs out in a car when it's not in motion, and I didn't hear any mention of autonomy, so that's a bit odd. When the driver's seat rotates around, the steering wheel flips toward the windshield to increase space. A 17-inch screen only makes use of its full real estate, again, when the car is stopped. When in motion, it retracts to one third of its full size to boost forward vision.

It's a small little thing, measuring only a bit longer than a Smart Fortwo, but it's a fair bit taller, since the interior tries to double as some sort of quasi meeting space -- despite the fact that an urban city car will probably be used to take people to actual meeting spaces. The idea of doing more work while on the road sounds like dystopian hell.

The idea of car-as-workspace aside, Bangle's radical reimagining of an electric city car proves a few different things. First, it proves that he still has the ability to create something that commands attention and discussion. It also reminds us that the current idea of a car is not something set in stone for the remainder of human history -- no idea is perfect, even that of the modern automobile.

As we attempt to deal with urban congestion and the shift from internal combustion engines to electric propulsion, new ideas aren't just welcome, they could be necessary. In that light, maybe Bangle's on to something here, even if it looks silly as hell.