Are we really just nine years away from cars that weigh half a ton, with super-efficient nano-paper batteries and pedestrian airbags? It may seem like fairy-tale tech, but one auto design whiz-kid thinks it's realistic. Australian Harsha Ravi won the Young Designer of the Year award for his far-out Globetrotter 2017 design. An interview, and sexy car pics, below the fold.

Advertisement

Advertisement

Advertisement

Advertisement

So the Globetrotter design looks pretty sweet. Is this just a city car, or could we take it on the highways too?

Advertisement

It's designed primarily for urban driving, but there are no implied speed restrictions. The technology can be customized to suit highway driving.

Is the nano-paper battery made of 90 percent cellulose a real thing? nIt looks totally scifi.

A team of scientists at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, New York, have developed the first samples of this battery, each gram of which produces about 10 milliamps of current at 2 volts. This technology is going to have a massive impact in the future of green vehicle technology, once it can be mass-produced. They are currently researching methods for rolling sheets of these batteries, much like paper in a newspaper mill.

How about those airless tires? Are those a real thing, or did you just dream them up?

Michelin Tires have released a few variants of this technology already, under the name of 'Tweel.' It's extremely durable and has a unique aesthetic character. The company has estimated the technology will be production-ready by 2016, which makes 2017 a realistic proposition for it to enter the mass-market.

Advertisement

Your car also has a bioplastic body made out of 88 percent corn and 12 percent petroleum. Is this just a giveaway to farmers, or does using corn actually make this carbon-neutral?

The use of corn means the majority of the material for the body panels can be grown in rural areas, in plantation fields across several regions. This not only produces jobs in several areas globally, but also facilitates local manufacture. And that ensures a reduced carbon footprint, because you avoid transporting parts across countries.

We love the old basket-weaver guy making the seat coverings. So it seems like a lot of this car would be locally sourced wherever it's sold. Is that right?

Advertisement

The body panels and seat coverings are the main parts that can be locally manufactured, so you can tailor them to suit the functional and aesthetic requirements of your region. This could mean a substantial saving in terms of transportation and manufacturing costs, since you only have to produce half of the vehicle. (Globetrotter is symmetrical about 2 axes.)

How much would the Globetrotter weigh? What kind of gas mileage would it get?

The target weight is 500 kg. The mileage depends on the amount of nano-battery the individual customer customizes the vehicle with. That decision depends on how far he/she wants to travel at a stretch before recharging through connection to an AC power source.

Is it true the doors open and close with a double-zipper?

Yup! The double zipper allows the door to be closed from both inside and outside the vehicle. Also attached is a lock (much like those used with suitcases while traveling) that helps with securing Globetrotter.

Advertisement

OMG, your bumpers have outer airbags. How does an external airbag actually protect pedestrians?

By sensing a large enough object while traveling at a given speed, Globetrotter deploys the airbag which would cushion a pedestrian collision, and reduce the impact.

Your car's roof would either absorb solar energy when parked, or would feature an electrochomic roof to regulate the inside temperature. Does the electrochromic thing actually work like air-conditioning?

Electrochroming the roof allows you to customize the level of sunlight entering the interior environment by conducting current of a certain voltage. So you can choose the temperature of the space inside Globetrotter.

Advertisement

So as part of your reward for winning the Young Designer competition, you get an internship with GM. When does that start?

I'll be beginning my internship at GM Detroit in 2008, during the beautiful U.S. summer. I'd better stock up on those shorts, since I'll be experiencing three hot seasons next year, the other two of which will be here at home in Australia!