Designing the future Electric cars to car designers

From the earliest days of vehicle design, the goal was to make cars look good while keeping the engine and its peripherals from extensively heating up. Since modern combustion engine cars are based around the engine itself, cars need to have enough space to let air in which will be cooling the engine.

Traditional vehicle design tends to have large front grilles which allow increased airflow and designers need to make sure that enough air is getting to the engine whilst keeping the front of the car presentable. Car manufacturers from the dawn of time have tried the sneakiest ways to slip in air ducts on the bumpers or the fenders, where the ducts add character. Other times the choice of duct placement is rather questionable but sometimes, manufacturers do not have a choice but to meet mechanical needs.

The EV market is undoubtedly one of the largest growing sectors within road transport, and electric kinetic technology has been rapidly developing as time goes by. Designers, when it comes to designing electric cars, have expanded their drawing board as there are fewer restrictions and biases to focus on while designing. As the cars do not need to be based on the position of the engine like traditional cars, electric car shells have more room for curves and design.

Electric cars such as Tesla or the Mercedes Benz EQS tend to have a traditional body design but what is different is the engine architecture. These cars do not have an engine in the front of the car but rather a 'skateboard' setup where the engines are present on either side of the car, where the engines most commonly come in pairs.

You might ask, "That's cool, but what does the shape of a car have to do with being electric?" Since electric cars do not have a traditional combustion engine, there are fewer areas that need to be shaped to accommodate an engine at the front of the car and transmission at the bottom. Designers have more room to make cars more aerodynamically sound, by slanting the front or maybe just leaving the area completely and increasing storage by adding a front trunk or more popularly known as a 'Frunk'.

For many designers, skipping the middle space where a transmission set sits is also used to their advantage. Since there is no regular transmission, the middle hump is flat, introducing more space for legroom inside the car as well as since electric cars can have a sealed bottom, aerodynamics play a large role to make the cars faster.

Although electric cars do not have an engine, it does need to store huge batteries, mostly lithium-ion, which adds a lot of weight to the car. Battery packs are usually small in size and can be distributed through the whole car, thus contributing to better weight distribution and ultimately, efficiency.

Many points have been made regarding the cooling of engines and how it affects the overall design and stance of the car. When it comes to electric cars, they demand different cooling compared to the norm. Many car manufacturers have a blocked front grille which a lot of people are against because it smoothens out the cars too much, leaving small ducts where the air is redirected to the electric drivetrain present on the sides of the car. Electric power trains need cooling, but they do not generate as much heat as an engine, so designers aren't obliged to draw large front grilles.

At the end of the day, cars are not shaped differently just because it has a different powertrain. There is a lot of marketing and public opinions behind how a car is shaped or will be shaped in the near future. If it does not appeal to the general public, even four-figure power numbers won't bite.

Thus, electric cars might be a car designer's blank canvas. Drag coefficients could be low, but manufacturers do not always need to prove a point by rolling out the most bleeding-edge designs but include new technology to an existing platform. The market is new and still maturing, but for now, it's more about the tech for manufacturers.


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