Concept cars have always looked a little odd and futuristic, but manufacturers have had to turn their design skills up to eleven to make an impact.
In the 1950s and ‘60s, auto manufacturers liked to present the public with their ideas on the “Cars of Tomorrow”. Bubble tops, absurd gimmicks, and body architecture that would only make sense in the The Jetsons cartoon show were all commonplace at early car shows as designers tried to display their vision of cars in the 2000s. Well, I don’t see many bubble tops in 2021, but car designers are still at it with their concept cars.
Concept cars are still pushing the envelope on design and technology, and would be considered alien in design if shown to someone from the early car days. And while early concepts strived to show the car world 50 years from their time, today’s futuristic concepts are actually closer to reality and timing than you’d expect. Here’s some of the unique, outlandish, and awesome concept cars we’ve seen in 2021.
We’ll start with Jeep and their more subdued vision of the Wrangler that was seen earlier this year in Moab, Utah. The Jeep Wrangler Magneto is an all-electric concept of the popular off-road SUV that gets its name from the use of magnets in the electrical motor system. It still has that great Jeep off-roading suspension, classic Wrangler looks, 4×4 drivetrain, and even a six-speed manual transmission, but under the hood is where things look off. Instead of your typical gasoline motor, the engine bay holds some of the battery packs and a custom-built axial flux electric motor. The Magneto was a nice display of what off-roading of the future could look like, and the addition of bright electric blue paint in this concept’s design was a nice touch.
Volkswagen has always been a leader in small car designs, like their Golf and Beetle for instance, so seeing that their vision of the future is a compact electric vehicle is no surprise. The ID.LIFE debuted earlier this year at the International Motor Show as Volkswagen’s “look ahead to entry-level electric mobility.” The ID.LIFE design is all about reduce, reuse, and recycle. The design uses a lot of the same materials, little decoration, and the only exterior flare is in its unique lighting areas. The clear coat uses wood chips as a coloring agent, the textile for the roof is made completely from recycled bottles, and the tires are made of eco-friendly materials like bio-oil and rice husks. Inside, the ID.LIFE looks like a futuristic IKEA. It features wood accenting, a lot of white, and a steering wheel straight out of a sci-fi film.
BMW also looked at a futuristic compact and sustainable vehicle concept in their i Vision Circular, but this concept car didn’t hold anything back in its design. This electric vehicle concept from BMW looks like an angular space egg with intersecting line designs all around. The BMW Kidneys are still implemented up front, just as a light pattern instead of a grille. The entire construction is aimed at the use of completely recycled materials and bio-based raw materials. Then you get inside the i Vision Circular and you’re transported to a freaky-deaky crystal world that BMW calls “an ingenious interior.” There’s wood accenting, 3D printed blue and pink crystal ornamentation, and unique seating structures that one would never find in a car today.
While previous entries focused on a future based around strictly electrical propulsion, Hyundai and Rimac have a unique alternative. The two automobile companies came together to introduce the Vision FK, a hydrogen-electric hybrid that aims to keep performance driving alive. This concept sports car is said to make 617 horsepower from a hydrogen fuel-cell powerplant at the front and Rimac electric setup at the rear. This hydrogen-electric platform allows the Vision FK to reach 373 miles of range and also hit a 0-60 time of sub 4 seconds. Plus, the exterior design isn’t that outlandish for a concept car from what we’ve seen so far.
Scuderia Cameron Glickenhaus may not be a name you’ve run into while shopping for cars, but they’ve made a name for themselves when it comes to Baja and road racing vehicles. The performance racing company leaked their plans for concept truck that runs completely on hydrogen fuel cells and they’re hoping it will get over 600 miles in range. It’s a daunting task to uphold, but maybe we’ll see their plans in action at next year’s Baja 1000.
MG isn’t a very well-known brand here in the states, but the British automobile company has a storied history and is still going strong across the pond. The company revealed their electric sports car concept in shanghai this year called the Cyberster, and it’s an interesting endeavor. The design itself melds together futuristic elements and some of MG’s own historical models, like the MGB Roadster. MG played heavily into the “cyber” elements of their concept, as they named the wheels “hacker blades”, named the interior design “digital fiber”, and the whole unveiling video took place in a sci-fi world that looks like it was in the Cyberpunk 2077 video game.
As for specs, MG says the Cyberster carries a module-less battery technology that has an electric range of 497 miles and can hit 0-60 mph in a sub three second time. The company also claims high tech advancements like level 3 autonomous driving and active upgrading technology.
Porsche isn’t just looking towards the roads of tomorrow – they’re breaking into the races of tomorrow. The Porsche Mission R is an all-electric concept car that looks at the next generation of motorsports through the lens of Esports, and it looks great doing it. The concept itself doesn’t look that outlandish or out of place from current cars really. Porsche says the design takes some inspiration from their 550 Spyder actually. In the end, this concept looks like a racecar and that’s exactly what fans like to see. The reveal video showcases all the digital telemetry gauges found in the Esports inspired cockpit, the chassis and body panels being built around the driver, and then you hear the whirring of those electric motors.
Porsche says that the Mission R features a centralized block battery pack to provide a mid-engine weight distribution feel, an all-wheel-drive setup powered by two electric motors, and matches the level of performance found in the Porsche 911 GT3 Cup that’s racing today. They also dropped an 800kW power number, which translates to about 1073 horsepower on tap in the Mission R. Racing may change its power source, but Porsche is preparing to keep it awesome.
Lotus isn’t a newcomer to the racing world, as seen by their concept electric endurance racecar, the Lotus E-R9. While Porsche’s entry to the electric road racing world was subdued in external design, Lotus went full futuristic spaceship. The E-R9 takes inspiration from fighter jets in its body design and implements advanced active aerodynamics that change to help with speed and cornering. While Lotus doesn’t provide any range or performance specs, they do make note that stored battery energy and power are constantly developing every year, so they hope to have the best mix in their replaceable battery cells once the E-R9 hits the track. Lotus hopes to present their endurance racing concept by 2030 at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, which would celebrate the 75th anniversary of the classic Lotus MK9’s entrance into the same race.
Audi has been showcasing their look into the future by presenting the world their “sphere” concept cars. Each concept looks at a different aspect of the company’s foresight into the luxury vehicles of tomorrow. First, it was the transforming Skysphere that provided us a futuristic look at a grand touring coupe/convertible from Audi. We took a deeper look into that concept car here. Next was the Grandsphere, a luxury sedan with a streamlined exterior that features a full glass canopy to provide a bright interior experience (almost a bubbletop I guess). The interior also provided us with a glimpse at the technology and design elements that Audi hopes to start implementing in the not-so-distant future. Then there’s the Urbansphere, a luxury hatchback/crossover concept design that leaked in advance of its official debut, but it’s speculated to be a fully autonomous city-oriented vehicle.
The final series of 2021 concept cars come from Honda, but only in China so far. The e:N Series is a new stable of electric vehicles from Honda that starts with the newly released e:NS1 and e:NP1 in the Chinese auto market. Both of them are crossover SUVs, with the e:NS1 trying to be the cool option and the e:NP1 looking to hit the luxury or family market. Along with the first introduction of the e:N Series, we got a look at three unique concept cars related to the lineup. There’s the e:N SUV, e:N GT, and the e:N Coupe. All of them feature sharp edges, boxy lines, and are only shown in a silver and black color scheme. Honda says that they have a goal in place to start selling these concept e:N vehicles within the next 5 years, but the whole plan is currently based around the Chinese auto market with no plans to reach the United States… yet.