The boffins at Swiss automotive madhouse Rinspeed – the people behind the Lotus Elise-based sQuba submarine – have announced their latest exercise in Geneva motor show lunacy: the iChange, a concept car that changes shape to accommodate different numbers of passengers.
Unlike its aquatic stablemate, the new Rinspeed iChange is strictly meant for dry land, but it does continue the company’s trend of battery-powered exotica, using three lithium-ion power packs.
So what makes the Rinspeed iChange so special?
The iChange has radical bodywork that changes the car’s format. In standard guise the iChange is a rather impractical one-seater. However, when you need a bit more room, the rear of the car extends outwards to become a three-seat ‘sports van’.
It looks stunning – the dramatic rising waistline and half-covered rear wheel arches are ridiculously futuristic, in a Thunderbirds kind of way.
Rinspeed: a method to the madness
In monoposto guise, the iChange is an aerodynamic tear shape, reducing drag, aiding performance and boosting efficiency – helping the battery charge last longer. Pick up passengers, and the car’s rear deck extends, freeing up more space at the cost of air-cleaving skills.
To put even bigger smiles on Greenpeace’s faces, the iChange’s seats are made of pure wool so they can biodegrade safely. Solar panels adorn the roof, their energy powering the interior fan and trickle-charging the batteries. The 17in and 18in alloys are super lightweight to save weight, although efficient low-friction tyres have been ditched for nice sticky Pirelli PZeros.
Is the iChange a true sports car?
Most definitely. Despite some complicated electrical gubbins to change the shape of the body panels, the car weighs in at 1050kg thanks to a mix of lightweight materials and minimalistic interior design; almost all of the iChange’s electrical functions are run through an iPhone, which also acts as a key.
Thanks to the slender total mass, the 150kW (204hp) motor shifts the real-life transformer from 0-62mph in 4.2 seconds, and on to a top speed of 138mph. Enough, indeed, to rival the Tesla Roadster’s 3.9 second acceleration run and 125mph max.
As usual with Frank Rinderknecht’s crazy Geneva show creations, the iChange is strictly a concept, with no indication of a possible price or production run.
>> Come back to CAR Online every day for more updates from Geneva. We'll be reporting live from the Geneva motor show on 3 March 2009