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Future models - BMW - GINA Light Visionary Model

First look: BMW research vehicle breaks new ground

Skin tight: The BMW's unique fabric body reveals the sub-frame, and perhaps the inspiration for designer chief Chris Bangle's famed flame-surfacing design language.

Innovative and almost seamless textile skin body stretches across a moveable frame

BMW logo12 Jun 2008

BMW has revealed an extraordinary concept car that, while appearing to be totally impractical, challenges all the preconceived notions of how a car is designed and constructed.

The so-called GINA Light Visionary Model features a virtually seamless body produced from a high-tech fabric skin that is stretched over a metal frame enhanced with movable flexible carbon-fibre struts.

The platform is based on the discontinued Z8 (and its 5.0-litre V8 engine) and the body shape references the Z4, but the real significance of the design is the stretchy skin and how the wires underneath can be moved to, for example, open the headlights, change the openings of the kidney grille or raise the rear spoiler to improve stability at speed.

Although BMW concedes that not all of this new technology has a series production future, the company says the ‘GINA philosophy’, which we can expect to hear a lot more about in the future, explores the potential of new materials and construction methods.

GINA rather obscurely stands for “Geometry and Functions In ‘N’ (as in Numbers) Adaptions”.

The car’s body consists of just four elements, the largest of which extends from the front air dam up to the windscreen and down the side of the vehicle to the trailing edges of the doors.

Two side panels start with the rocker panels under the doors and flow over the rear wheel arches to the tail while the fourth component covers the central rear deck and actually includes the two seats.

It is underpinned by steel wires and flexible carbon-fibre struts, and there are few gaps because the bonnet opens from the middle like a doctor’s medicine bag and the skin acts like a flexible hinge for the doors to open.

Turn signals and tail-lights are invisible until turned on, when their light shines through the translucent skin, while the headlights are only revealed when needed.

14 center imageHead of BMW Group Design Chris Bangle (pictured left with material specialist Klaudia Kruse) said that GINA was all about design flexibility and changing the core values that define the car industry.

“The GINA Light Visionary Model takes the sculptural design that has already been established by a number of production cars to a new, unparalleled conclusion,” said Mr Bangle.

“The car’s front and sides, including the doors, create one single uninterrupted, seamless whole that converges to form an optical as well as a structural unit. In order to create this appearance, it was necessary to move beyond all previous conceptions of car body configuration, design and materials.

“Therefore, the GINA Light Visionary Model has dispensed with the usual body elements found on production vehicles such as front apron, bonnet, side panels, doors, wheel arches, roof, trunk lid and rear deck. Instead, a new structure with a minimum amount of components has taken their place.”“The special, highly durable and extremely expansion-resistant fabric material offers designers a significantly higher level of freedom of design and functionality.

“The innovation of a flexible outer skin breaks new ground in automotive engineering. This revolutionary solution opens up new design, production and functionality potential. It has a major impact on the interaction between driver and car and enhances it by offering a variety of entirely new options.

“Some elements of the substructure are moveable. The driver can move them by means of electro and electro-hydraulic controls. This will also change the shape of the outer skin, which can thus be adapted to suit the current situation, the driver’s requirements and can also enhance the car’s functional range.”

Mr Bangle said that the most striking example of this is the design of the headlights, which open like eyes when they are turned on, changing the contour of the front end.

This feature – as well as the variable-opening kidney grille, automatic rear spoiler and other interactive body panels and opening – has clear ramifications for improving aerodynamic performance and therefore fuel consumption without compromising cooling efficiency or downforce when required.

The body material is described as an industrially produced hybrid fabric made from a stabilising mesh netting support and an outer layer that is both water-repellent and resistant to high and low temperatures. It is said to retain the required surface tension for a long period of time without sagging.

“The use of large fabric areas and the possibility of changing the surface contours by moving individual parts of the metal mesh that lies beneath it create a new relationship between form and function,” said Mr Bangle.

“If additional cooling air is required, the BMW kidney grille at the front of the vehicle can be opened. Because the overall surface of the special fabric covering remains unchanged, the contraction at the front of the vehicle has to be compensated for by extra tension in other areas.”

Mr Bangle said that the key to future mobility development lies in our readiness to challenge established ideas and to present new options.

“The GINA principle promotes innovative thinking by allowing maximum freedom of creativity,” he said. “GINA produces dramatically different solutions that affect the design and functionality of future cars.

“BMW Group Design is not just interested in answering the question of how the car of the future will look but primarily wishes to explore the creative freedom it has to offer.

“With this model, we initiate a fundamental discourse about the characteristics that will affect the development of cars in future. It is therefore fundamentally different from concept cars, which reflect what is expected of them by implementing as many elements as possible in a future production model.

“In contrast, the GINA Light Visionary Model is a vision of future cars and serves as an object of research.

“The GINA philosophy offers designers as well as development and production specialists an opportunity to challenge existing principles and conventional processes. Solutions that will benefit the car of the future are examined without predefined rules and from as many perspectives as possible.

“This also involves questioning what is believed to be set in stone. Does a car roof really have to rest on pillars and be bordered by windows? Do all functions have to be visible at all times, even when they are not needed? How many personalisation options does my car offer? Are there any possible alternatives to the rigid body shell made of steel or plastic?“It is in the nature of such visions that they do not necessarily claim to be suitable for series production. Rather, they are intended to steer creativity and research into new directions.”

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