Airo, a car designed to strip the air of pollution, took the Goodwood Festival of Speed in Sussex UK by storm. The radical design is intended to address not only the pollution issue, but also help solve the space issue. The car is expected to go into production in China in 2023, with plans of a million. It will be priced at around £40,000.
Thomas Heatherwick, the British designer who is known for architectural projects such as Google’s headquarters in California, told BBC he had never designed a car before. “When I grew up design values were manifested through cars, whether it be the Ford Sierra in the 1980s, the Fiat Panda, some major ideas were emerging through cars. When we were approached by IM Motors in China, we said that we were not car designers and they said ‘that is why we want you’.”
Airo was also unveiled at the Shanghai car show in April. It 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. The steering wheel is hidden in the dashboard and the exterior is textured with a series of ripples or ridges.
Heatherwick said car manufacturers are falling over themselves to make electric cars, but a new electric shouldn’t just be another one with a different look. “As well as wanting to reflect the flow of air over the car in the ridged exterior, the front grill will be fitted with an air fitter which will collect a tennis ball worth of particulate matter per year,” he said. “That might not sound a lot but think of a tennis ball in your lungs, that is contributing to cleaning the air, and with a million vehicles in China alone that adds up.”
The designer highlighted that incorporating this technology is the next stage of development, it is planned for it to have both autonomous and driver-controlled modes. Heatherwick acknowledged that the COVID-19 pandemic has raised the space crisis. “Many of us are living in flats and houses and need more space, an office or a study. With one billion cars in the world which are used for roughly only 10% of the time, there is scope for them to become valuable real-estate,” he said.
Heatherwick 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.