The Obscure Nature of Electric Vehicles

Hypothetical Electric Vehicle

Every time a new technology makes its way to the market consumers are obviously ignorant about it and they normally go: ‘For the same price, the bigger and more powerful the better’. Speaking of EVs, common people like me are usually concerned about the range. When an electric vehicle is tested its range is normally exposed in the very first lines of the article if not in the subtitle. It makes sense after all, how far we can go is the key factor, the most critical factor to be considered when it comes to such cars (apart from price of course). This because it triggers our fear to be stranded on the road side miles away from home like sailors lost at sea and it’s perfectly understandable, people who owned a 2 stroke motorcycle with a fuel tank size inversely proportional to its gigantic appetite for gas know what I am talking about, boy you could skip leg day after pushing that thing to the closest station. Most customers want to know how many miles they can run without recharging which is correct but keep in mind that efficiency is important as well: both battery efficiency and powertrain efficiency. Big batteries add pounds, which leads to bigger brakes, frames, suspensions and tires. Big batteries store more energy but part of it is dissipated just because of their weight so the industry tackles the range problem both with more capacity and improving efficiency. Have you noticed that when comparing ICE vehicles we check MPGs while when it comes to EVs we mostly want to know the range? It’s like we are worried about gas price when filling but recharging is free. Let’s put it this way: a Hummer sure has a bigger tank than a Corolla but this doesn’t mean it goes farther or it’s cheaper to run. The same goes for EVs, big batteries-great range doesn’t means miles are free: How many miles per kW the car delivers matters, engineers and insiders know this very well, now it’s time to educate common people like the one writing that range and consumption are both important, before we all end up complaining about electricity bills. Wasting energy comes with a price in terms of pollution too as long as sources are not renewable. But even when it’s renewable energy, why would we waste it anyway?
Countless videos on YouTube showed for years Toyota Prius real consumption (it was a sort of challenge) but now that society is facing this huge shift in technology to EVs it seems consumption is not that relevant anymore to the average consumer, we have to avoid the approach ‘Just throw some more Duracells in the trunk cowboy’ because it is not cost effective.
Makers say that to extend range and cut costs every little enhancement helps, downsizing and lighter components do their part in the process. I suppose leaving home the 150 pounds of your mother-in-law seems a reasonable price to pay for the sake of economizing.

On design and Popples: a not so serious pamphlet

I was an industrial design student in the late nineties and one of the most popular word among insiders was ‘multipurpose’. We discussed a lot about our projects and the lowest common denominator was that infamous word, multipurpose. It didn’t matter what the discipline was: furniture, car design, product design, multifunctionality was the aspiring designer’s holy grail. It was like if we wouldn’t be able to put together several different features in a single object we were going to be just half of a graduate, wannabe designers with the original sin: the sin of not inventing something new and complex. Creating a fork that was just a fork would have been regarded as a failure in the attempt of making complicated an otherwise simple object. Let’s make a distinction first, I’m not talking about complexity in style or shape, not at all, minimalism was a well accepted diktat. Things should have been designed showing outer elegant simplicity and hidden brainy complexity, in other words we had to prove that we were able to give an added value or extra purpose to simple goods. We were not stylists (in its academic acception) but designers thus we had to go beyond caducous mere beauty. Easy to be said not to be done because most of the times we -students- were delivering answers to unasked questions, for us things had to be extremely modular and preferably detachable, we wanted to extend the sectional idea to any inanimate thing. It was a functional binge, a multitasking galore. As you know, my beloved reader, school is one thing, you just have to please (cerebrally, not physically) the professor, market is something different. Companies need money to survive and don’t make a big thing of ‘how intelligent a product is’ as long as it floods them with pecunia. Staying alive in the market is more of a cash flow competition rather than an intelligence contest, of course intelligence is required to thrive in business but products don’t necessarily have to be Einstein approved to sell. Just think about the visceral passion kids have for slime: it’s simple, no shape, apparently silly, doesn’t develop the brain for what I know, but it’s anti-stress and in a society where kids are over-scheduled they could really use some slimetime. All this unbearably boring preface doesn’t mean that quickly and badly designed stuff is OK, not at all, just don’t overthink, don’t overdo because afraid it’s never enough, don’t make your wife a greenhouse when all she wants is a rose, that’s the point. Always remember that one clear sentence is stronger than a long confused paragraph. If we look around there’s plenty of examples pointing that out, now let’s indulge in this dull and drowsy matter by listing some of them so the reader will finally fall asleep.

1. ARCHITECTURE
I’ve read many times about architects conceiving shared spaces that can be used as offices during the day and sort of clubs in the afternight. Open spaces constantly switching from work to leisure time, from internet entrepreneurs to clubbers. Correct me if I’m wrong but so far I didn’t see many people excited about it. True, startups were born at Starbucks’ tables and true, many do online business from there but they just sit at a table for some time, they don’t rent a place where the night before hordes of beery barbarians committed themselves to make the whole building sticky and dirt.

2. AUTOMOTIVE
In 2003 Chevy introduced the SSR, an all-in-one vehicle putting together a convertible, a pick up truck, and a retro styled muscle car. Its design was eye catching (I mean it, really), the trunk was the sum of a Z3’s a Porsche’s and a Vette’s, last but not least it diligently delivered up to 390hp, not bad for the average ride experience on the coast. The point was that German sports cars buyers didn’t even look at it, truck lovers kept putting practical aspects first and pony cars junkies.. well, you know them. I personally liked the SSR but I also know car guys: they’re fundamentalists on four wheels with their own strict beliefs and opposite doctrines can’t coexist on a single chassis. It didn’t work.

3. FASHION
“I want to buy a bag good for any occasion” no woman ever said.
I’ve seen several bag design contests where young designers showed their talent creating rather peculiar ‘transformers bags’.
WARNING: GRAPHIC CONTENT
I’m talking about weird stuff my friends, bags that can be opened as umbrellas in case of rain or unfolded on the ground as mats. Large tote bags imploding like popples to become purses and the freak show goes on. You know something? Bags are like drinks: every moment of the day requires a specific one, don’t you dare mixing chocomilk, Chianti and Jack Daniel’s in one glass assuming to swallow this unfortunate concoction throughout the day.
The rules we need to follow -as designers carrying out our dirty job- are:
A. Keep in mind practical aspects because only pure art should be useless.
B. Add just the features that customers really ask for.
C. Pack the whole thing with the proper style depending on the target customer not only your personal taste.

Have fun creating new amazing products!

Crocodile handbag

I developed the early stage of this crocodile handbag (pencil sketches) for a client based in LA leaving the engineering phase to its supplier. Here can be seen how close the final result is to the original idea. They did an amazing job, didn’t they?  

#handbag #bag #fashion #crocodile 

Barrel bag

A cylinder bag designed to be used as a cross body bag, a handbag or a backpack. Its classic and simple style is revved up by a 2 inch zipper which actually was hard to find, it took weeks to get in contact with a producer of such thing and get it shipped from far east. There is no need to add more accents since its presence is enough to make the difference: one strong sign makes the bag’s design immediately recognizable, adding more stuff would make it overcrowded of details. 

#barrel #bag #handbag #crossbody #cylinder #backpack 

Carry-on backpack 

100% cotton multipocket backpack specifically sized to be a carry-on baggage. There are as much pockets as needed during a trip the way items and papers (boarding pass, passport, cell phone, metro card/airtrain, custom declaration form) are handy. Its deliberately rough look underscores the main qualities: strength and durability but with an eye on streetwear style.

100% breathable cotton

One pocket per every item

#backpack #bag #cotton #fashion #streetwear 

X the double-face backpack 

Why do backpacks have one side to be shown and one to be covered by our backs? What if we make a double-face backpack with the 2 sides in different styles and colors? That’s the idea behind X: a black serious face matching business attire during weekdays and a red edgy one on the flip side.

Practical aspects are obviously taken into account, this means both sides are provided with tablet size pockets and the backpack itself is extensible with a zipper.

#backpack #backsack #fashion #doubleface #bag #leather #zipper 

Sandals with some lowbrow philosophy attached

I feel like I’d like to make some prototypes of sandals, or other kinds of women shoes for what matter. I can’t wait to start using the 3D printer for some cool new projects. Doing quick sketches and renderings is an easy relaxing task – and it’s perfectly fine- but that’s just drawing which is the very early phase of designing. Don’t get me wrong, some sketches on Instagram are literally masterpieces worth being exposed in art galleries, nonetheless, from a designer point of view when we stop at inking some paper without going deeper into the project tackling all the structural and ergonomic issues, we are basically stating our intentions without following up. Taking the next step is far more fascinating to me, getting our hands dirty with clay, cutting, rounding edges, gluing, polishing and painting: That’s the real meaning of design!

Admittedly I am guilty of cutting short the early stage to jump to modelling (the act of making three-dimensional models, no catwalks involved) and it is not exactly by the book because every phase of the process deserves its attention, but I can’t help it, I want to transform my ideas into tangible objects as soon as possible. In my opinion a physical model is worth a thousand drawings, what do you think guys? Do you indulge in pencil and Pantone? If you’re designers feel free to shere your thoughts.