The Changing Face of Automotive Identity
With the electric vehicles becoming more and more popular and being produced by more and more companies, there is an interesting conundrum that designers face: “What to do with the face?”
The original VW Beetle stood out because of it’s unique front end, due to the rear mounted, air cooled engine. There was no need for a grille so there wasn’t one. The trunk appeared on the front and it became the leading identity for many VW’s to come, so much so that it even became difficult for VW to modernize their range.
So when VW finally did break the mold with the new front-wheel-drive water cooled platforms for Golf, Passat, Scirocco and Polo, it was a gut wrenching time at VW to see if people would adapt the new facial identity as VW. They did, with lots of success.
Now the advent of the electric vehicles will pose similar problems, not only to VW but to all car companies. They have all spent years coming up with a unique face for their car lines, all of them depending on the good old grille to assist in excusing the unique openings that would help them profiling their identity. Of course quite a few started and still adapt the identities of others, so the waters were muddied sometimes, but in general there was a given.
Electric vehicles do not need grilles. In fact, they need an excellent aerodynamic management of cooling air flowing through the vehicle to cool the batteries and power train, but these do not rely on any given front-end openings relating to radiators what-so-ever. Looking around the Paris Motor Show concepts you would not think so. There are quite a few concept offerings relying on dominantly placed fake or real openings just to remind people that this are actual cars, from a specific brand. The broad-beaked-frog type hamster cheeks are simply ridiculous, and they are on most EV concepts, suggesting active air being diverted to the wheel arches are brake ducts. Upon closer inspection, most of them turn out to be closed behind the ribs, fake.
I would strongly suggest that from now on, any new concept or production electric vehicle will only embarrass themselves if they still feature this styling. It is time for the true designers to team up with the aerodynamicists to come up with a design identity that is both very aero efficient as well as offer clear and unique design and brand identity. Earn your money people!