Icona partners on autonomous design study
In the shadow of all of the high-profile high-volume OEMs introducing new concept and production vehicles at the 2018 Geneva International Motor Show, Italian design company Icona announced its debut, unveiling an autonomous driving concept vehicle called Nucleus that it says “represents the synthesis of futurism and a human-centered mindset.” Designed for fully autonomous SAE Level 5 driving, the absence of a driver not only means the absence of a steering wheel and dashboard, but also the opportunity for a new understanding of mobile living spaces. The company also thinks its car can replace several cars, with its use and versatility directly benefited by the multiple layout possibilities of its interior design.
Samuel Chuffart, Global Design Director of Icona, refers to the concept as “a seamless gliding first class form of transportation.” The mono-volume exterior is unique. Being fully autonomous, there is no side glass in the traditional sense, but rather semi-transparent body-color panels that allow the occupants to see out from the vehicle but remain shrouded for privacy while traveling. Its overall shape is characterized by a long curvy side line. A slick aerodynamic design with full underbody diffuser and wheel arch aerodynamic blade extensions bring the CX to just under 0.25, a very good number that helps its reduce resistance and energy consumption.
To build the vehicle around the user’s needs, Icona believes that the powertrain should become virtually invisible to the user, with the focus instead on “the front-end functionality.” So it worked with Elaphe Propulsion Technologies Ltd. to integrate the latter’s in-wheel motor technology because both believe that transformation through different levels of vehicle autonomy and digitalization needs to be supported by a transformation in the underlying powertrain technology.
Elaphe provides off-the-shelf or custom developed motors, combined with advanced power electronics and multiple-wheel control system. Innovative (and some patented) electromagnetic and mechanical designs enable its in-wheel propulsion products to boast market-leading specific torque and compact design. The company believes that its advanced software features and control over individual wheels make its in-wheel propulsion platform the ideal powertrain platform for the next generation of autonomous and connected electric vehicles.
At each wheel of the Nucleus is an L1500 motor, currently Elaphe's highest-performance product and said to be the highest-performance production in-wheel motor in the world. Producing a staggering 1500 N·m of torque throughout its speed range, each delivers 110 kW of maximum power. Four L1500 in-wheel motors provide the concept with a total of 440 kW of wheel power, which is said to be in the same range as the conventionally powered Lamborghini Huracan.
Not only does the in-wheel motor deliver its performance without the technical complexities of a combustion engine, gears, transmissions, differential, driveshafts, and other components, the team says it allows more flexibility in interior design (see here for more info). The Nucleus takes advantage of this to redefine interior design based on occupant activities. The passengers get the feel of luxurious living room, with six adjustable seats that can be joined into two large sofas and joined by a table and a lamp to allow passengers the freedom of choice between an office or leisure time.