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Portfolio of the Week: Industry Insider

Back in December of 2008 the MINI Space Team stopped by the LA Auto Show, where nine groups of talented and innovative designers were hard at work imagining and creating the racecars of the future. Now we bring you an interview with one of those teams, BMW Group DesignworksUSA, who created a hydrogen-powered salt flat racer.

Salt flat racer

In realizing this car, the designers first began with the concept of reuse. They took pre-existing, every day materials, such as oil barrels and barbeque lids, and turned them into the main components--the body and wheels--of the car. They also envisioned the car producing fuel emissions clean enough to sustain life. In fact, they were so confident about the car's ability to run on clean fuel, they decided to stick a few goldfish in there to prove it.

The MINI Space Team wanted to learn more about this Hydrogen-powered wonder, or the "LA Tanker" as it has been nicknamed by its designers, so we sat down with the designers and asked them some questions.

Q: Tell us about the idea behind the Hydrogen Powered Salt Flat Racer.

A: The idea is not to guess what physical form a futuristic design will take, but instead to use existing technology and perspective to challenge our perception of car driving and car racing in the future.

Q: How did you come up with the unusual idea of using a goldfish in the car's design?

A: We simply wanted to add a little humor and life to the LA Auto Show design competition, as well as showcase an approachable twist on the very complicated subject of hydrogen technology.

Salt flat racer

Q: What inspired you in terms of functionality, shape, and design?

A: The existing objects we started out with, such as BBQ grill wheels, an old oil drum, and a bomb shell, both challenged and limited our design palette.  This car really just designed itself!

Q: What was the biggest challenge you faced?

A: The difficulty was trying to unlearn and let go of traditional rules of car design.  Proportion, quality, fit, and finish were for the first time not at all part of our process.  We simply wanted to invoke a pure form of racing without trying to invent or imagine new technology.  How can we really say that a certain form of technology will be perfect for the year 2025?'

Q: Can you tell us something about the people behind BMW Group DesignworksUSA? How does the team work?

A: The team at DesignworksUSA is made up of more than 145 designers, researchers, strategists, modelers, engineers, technicians, and material specialists in Los Angeles, Munich, and Singapore. Our experts come from diverse backgrounds and all corners of the world.  Together, they have a multi-faceted vision and a unique approach to design programs; they are all passionate about what they do, and have the spirit to create the very best.

Q: What are some current trends in product design? What is the most important movement going on right now?

A: The biggest trend we're seeing in production design is sustainability. There has also been a move towards designing to simplify and streamline. The environment and our current economic climate have greatly influenced the relevance and impact of both trends.

Click on a picture to launch the image gallery (5 images)

*The members of BMW Group DesignworksUSA are:

Verena Kloos
, President
Chris Chapman
, Director
Erik Goplen
, Creative Director
Richard Kim
, Designer
Jason Rowlands and Blair Taylor, Digital Modeler

Check out our previous interview with Jacques Flynn, a representative from Mazda, whose team won the contest to design the best racecar of the future at the LA Auto Show.

Related Links

LA Auto Show Design Challenge

Interview with Jacques Flynn

BMW Designworks USA

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