A concept car (also known as a concept vehicle, show vehicle or prototype) is a car made to showcase new styling and/or new technology. They are often shown at motor shows to gauge customer reaction to new and radical designs which may or may not be mass-produced. General Motors designer Harley Earl is generally credited with inventing the concept car, and did much to popularize it through its traveling Motorama shows of the 1950s.
Concept cars never go into production directly. In modern times all would have to undergo many changes before the design is finalized for the sake of practicality, safety, regulatory compliance, and cost. A “production-intent” prototype, as opposed to a concept vehicle, serves this purpose.
Concept cars are often radical in engine or design. Some use non-traditional, exotic, or expensive materials, ranging from paper to carbon fiber to refined alloys. Others have unique layouts, such as gullwing doors, 3 or 5 (or more) wheels, or special abilities not usually found on cars. Because of these often impractical or unprofitable leanings, many concept cars never get past scale models, or even drawings in computer design. Other more traditional concepts can be developed into fully drivable (operational) vehicles with a working drivetrain and accessories. The state of most concept cars lies somewhere in between and does not represent the final product. A very small proportion of concept cars are functional to any useful extent, some cannot move safely at speeds above 10 miles per hour (16 km/h).
Inoperative “mock-ups” are usually made of wax, clay, metal, fiberglass, plastic or a combination thereof.
If drivable, the drivetrain is often borrowed from a production vehicle from the same company, or may have defects and imperfections in design. They can also be quite refined, such as General Motors’ Cadillac Sixteen concept.
After a concept car’s useful life is over, the cars are usually destroyed. Some survive, however, either in a company’s museum or hidden away in storage. One unused but operational concept car that languished for years in the North Hollywood, California, shop of car customizer George Barris, Ford Motor Company’s “Lincoln Futura” from 1954, received a new lease on life as the Batmobile in the Batman series that debuted in 1966 on the ABC Television Network.
Different concept cars
Befitting of its flagship status, the Lagonda Vision takes the form of a big, luxurious sedan with an unusual silhouette. Interior designers took advantage of electrification and autonomy to create a spacious cabin that offers business class-like seating for four passengers. It’s too early for us to claim that what you see is what you’ll get, but we know the born-again Lagonda brand will sell an SUV, a coupe, and a sedan inspired by the Vision concept. Expect the first production models to arrive after the turn of the decade.
Aston Martin is known primarily as a purveyor of sexy sports cars, but its winged emblem used to also appear on some of the world’s most luxurious sedans. The British firm wants to renew ties with its upscale heritage by reviving the Lagonda nameplate as a full-blown sub-brand. The Lagonda Vision concept unveiled at the 2018 Geneva Auto Show sheds insight into how Aston will once again roll with Rolls-Royce.
Audi E-Tron GT
Audi told us the electric E-Tron SUV it introduced in 2018 is the tip of the iceberg. It’s the first of about a dozen battery-powered cars that will reach showrooms before 2025. The E-Tron GT concept presented at the 2018 Los Angeles Auto Show previews one of them, and it will stand proud as the first battery-electric Audi Sport model when it goes on sale in about 2020. While that’s a tall order to fill, Audi’s research and development team has cracked the code.
Built on the same platform as the upcoming 2020 Porsche Taycan, the E-Tron GT sits on top of a 96-kWh lithium-ion battery pack that stores enough electricity to deliver about 250 miles of range. An 800-volt charging system makes road trips possible by replenishing 80 percent of the pack in under 20 minutes. It wouldn’t be worthy of the Audi Sport nameplate if it didn’t deliver the kind of performance that pins you to the back of your seat, and it doesn’t disappoint in that department. Audi explained two electric motors join forces to zap the four wheels with 590 horsepower, which is enough for a zero-to-60-mph sprint of 3.5 seconds.
Don’t expect the E-Tron GT to change much as it transitions from a concept car to a production car. “We have never done a show car as close to series production as this,” Enzo Rothfuss, Audi’s head of interior design, told Digital Trends.
Audi PB18 E-Tron
Unveiled at the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance, the Audi PB18 E-Tron squeezes paddock-ready technology from the World Endurance Championship (WEC) and Formula E series into a supercar with an eye-catching shooting brake design that blurs the line between a coupe and a station wagon. It’s electric, and it’s packed with more technology than a trans-Atlantic jet, but Audi bucked the autonomy trend and instead developed the PB18 E-Tron with pure driving enjoyment in mind. It won’t move an inch without a human driver behind the wheel.
The driver sits on the left side of the car when carrying a passenger. When driving on a track, the entire cockpit slides towards the middle of the cabin to make the PB18 feel like a single-seater race car. By-wire technology that seeped into the automotive industry from the aviation sector makes this configuration possible by eliminating the mechanical components of the steering and braking systems, like the steering column that normally connects the steering wheel to the steering rack.
The Audi PB18 E-Tron is merely a concept car, not a preview of a production model. Never say never, though; British magazine Autocar reports the next-generation R8 will go electric.