In keeping with designer Ross Lovegrove's signature approach that is inspired by nature, the Twin'Z concept car he designed for Renault appears to glow and react like a living organism. We take a test drive of the all-electric city car.
As part of a series of concept cars that illustrate Renault’s commitment to design, the car manufacturer invited Lovegrove to collaborate on an all-electric city car that was to be presented at the Salone del Mobile design fair in Milan. The British designer was chosen because of his intelligent approach that is inspired by nature and the Twin’Z was conceived to be a “living object”. Renault’s own design department provided an unfinished car that owes its heritage to the iconic Twingo, and Lovegrove was tasked with providing finishing touches to the bodywork (bumpers, lights, grilles, wheels) and was given carte blanche for the interior. “Ross turns things inside out, upside down, challenges
and inspires,” says Laurens van den Acker, Director of Industrial Design at Renault. Of the finished concept, he says: “He makes a hard car soft, a small car spacious, creates simplicity despite complexity, and turns a lifeless object into something that is alive.”
What is most striking about the Twin’Z is the magical light it emits from both inside and outside. From the exterior grille, a series of LEDs extend to the rear bumper via the roof. The roof itself is glass meaning that passengers experience the pulse of the animated light patters. “Passengers are hooded in a technological envelope that bathes them in a light which responds to the energy and pulse of Twin’Z,” says Ross Lovegrove. “This roofscape heightens the sensation of space and blends seamlessly into the rear window.” The clusters of LEDs on the rear of a car are innovative in that when a driver presses on the brake pedal, the burst of brake lights climbs gradually towards the roof for enhanced visibility. A final feat of lighting is found in the daytime running lights, which form a structure based on the iris, giving the car a humanlike gaze.
The wheels are designed in the form of intelligent growth structures and are finished in glowing green like bioluminescent plankton. Coupled with the 3D printed tyres that were developed specially by Michelin, they appear as a single entity.
“The interior is not broken up into separate elements and all passengers feel very much part of the travelling experience,” says Lovegrove. “The rear seat backs have been integrated into the floor-pan to create space and a new, informal aesthetic.” Continuing the unusual light on the exterior, the seats are upholstered with a perforated 3D woven textile that appears to glow, being lit from within the seat structure. Even more striking light is found in the paths of light that follow the topographical forms of the cabin. There is no dashboard, which is replaced by an iPad-style tablet and a smartphone mounted in the driver’s line of sight that displays the vehicle’s speed etc. For such a small car the interior space is remarkable, achieved by its rear-mounted motor and batteries located beneath the floor.
Painted in Yves Klein blue, the body of the Twin’Z has a satin finish which suggests a skin-like covering. “It echoes France’s cultural heritage while also mirroring the virtues of our planet,” says Lovegrove. “After all, isn’t the Earth blue when seen from space?” Touch sensitive buttons open the electric coach doors hinged at the front and rear, which reveals the cabin in its entirety.
Ross Lovegrove’s Vision of the Automobile:
“The car has become a symbol of our progress and civilization; an icon of our technocracy and our ability to transform materials into objects of great precision and physical presence.
The use of composites and recycled materials opens up new opportunities to combine textures and new skin expressions. Mechanical ‘hard' aesthetics are making way for the biological principles of ‘soft’ aesthetics.
“As a consequence, designing a car no longer consists merely in improving the look and feel of the drive experience. It involves harnessing a new attitude towards how we integrate vehicles into everyday life by reducing harmful emissions, dematerialising the car’s physicality to achieve lightness, and maximising not only its footprint but also, and above all, its efficiency and intelligence.
That is what I wanted to achieve through this project.
Thanks to advances in digital modelling, the frontier between dream and reality is becoming increasingly hazy. It is now possible to create objects which feature a strong design yet which still meet the needs of consumers.
From the start, the intention was to build on the heritage of luxury and grace associated with France and to express it in a modern way, while at the same time creating a link between Renault’s past, present and future.”