Today was at the faculty of Industrial Design in Delft to attend the first 'c,mm,n Garage' event. c,mm,n - pronounced as common - is a project to develop sustainable mobility. It is led by Stichting Natuur en Milieu, The Netherlands Society for Nature and Environment and currently the main participants are students from a number of Dutch technical universities.
Right now, engineering efforts are focused on a clean, remanufacturable car that runs on electricity generated by a hydrogen fuel cell:
The car is almost completely built out of biodegradable plastics, making it extremely light and environmentally friendly.
There is a YouTube Video available that shows off the exterior design and which gives you a good impression of how open and spacious the design is. For example, the windshield extends very far to the front, giving somewhat the impression if sitting inside a helicopter.
One of the coolest things of the project is that it is open source. For example, the car's blueprints, composition of materials, construction of components, etc. is released under an open source license. (Not sure which one exactly). Check out the Developer's Wiki.
Another cool thing of this project is that it doesn't just focus on products like vehicles. Instead, the people involved in the project are trying to define mobility services (the lease company Athlon is already experimenting with this), and also how community participation can change the ways in which we are mobile.
The idea behind a 'mobility community' is something that very much intrigues me. It is kind of hard to explain the ambitions of the project, as they are very far-stretching. But let me try and give a tangible example.
One of the things that will be implemented in this car is that it will have on-board internet access to exchange routes with other people in your part of the mobility community. Through the network, you can catch up with each other and participate in a so-called 'platoon': basically, several cars form a train, which is controlled by the car in front. The other cars switch on an automatic pilot, allowing the fellow travelers to stop driving and do some work or chat or whatever. The interior of the car is designed in a manner that it allows the seats to rotate in order to support this.
Allowing the other drivers to do something more useful than driving is of course great in itself, but what is really terrific is that the car is designed so that riding in a platoon will actually reduce fuel consumption even more. So it is not only convenient, it will actually be more efficient. I can see all kinds of applications for this platoon-riding. Think of a taxi service or hotel shuttle service...Instead of being cramped up with many people in one van, dropping off everybody sequentially, you can now leave as train (or even form one as you are going) and let the cars with individual destinations bud off the train, taking those passengers to the exact desired location, after which the cars travel back to join a new train that's underway.