A car that has been designed to strip the air of pollution as it drives along has been shown off at the Goodwood Festival of Speed.
Created by British designer Thomas Heatherwick, it is hoped the Airo will go into production in China in 2023, with plans to make a million of them. The radical design is intended to address not only the pollution issue, but also help solve the “space crisis”.
Critics are not convinced it can ever be more than a concept car. Despite designing London’s new version of the iconic Routemaster bus, Mr Heatherwick is better known for architectural projects such as Google’s headquarters in California and London.
He told the BBC that while he had never designed a car before, he was intrigued by the brief. The steering wheel is hidden in the dashboard and the exterior is textured, with a series of ripples or ridges.
The car – which was first unveiled at the Shanghai car show in April – has a large glass roof, and the interior is designed to look like a room, with adjustable chairs that can be turned into beds, and a central table intended for meetings or meals.
Incorporating this technology is “the next stage of development” he said. It is planned for it to have both autonomous and driver-controlled modes. The second big idea behind the car’s design is as an alternative space for owners to use.
He was inspired by first-class airline seats, which are used “to sleep, eat, entertain and work”. “The car becomes a communal space for the time when it is not driving.”
“The car industry has a long history of creating excitement around concept cars but the transition to production – if it happens at all – usually means the exciting features are replaced by something more mundane, able to be manufactured, practical in use and cost-effective.”
“This isn’t a fantasy,” said Mr Heatherwick. “The whole idea was for it not to be a concept car, which is why we are working with a manufacturer, and we focused everything on ideas that can happen.”