Kwantlen Polytechnic University students are vying for top spot in a competition to design Canada’s first zero-emission concept car.
Marie-Pier Alary and Bailee van Rikxoort, product design students in the Wilson School of Design at KPU, are one of three teams to reach the second phase of Project Arrow, a competition launched by the Automotive Parts Manufactures’ Association of Canada (APMA). A jury will select one or two designs – depending on whether they prefer the interior and exterior cars designs from the same team – as the foundation for the development of a virtual or augmented reality concept vehicle and then a full-size concept vehicle.
“The phase one of the project was intense, there was a lot to think about and we learned a lot about our own capabilities as we had to make the design entirely online because of the pandemic,” says Alary.
In phase two the KPU team worked with specialists from Autodesk, a design software company.
“Just this perk was worth every effort we did in phase one,” adds Alary.
Their team is the only all-female one in the competition and they weren’t car enthusiasts when they joined.
“We definitely anticipated challenges, for instance learning specialized 3D programs, however we quickly realized that car design is more familiar to us than we thought,” says van Rikxoort.
“A lot of what we learned in our prior years studying product design became very relevant in helping us design this car, such as elements of human factors, sustainability and production methods.”
The students wanted to design an accessible car for Canadians from coast to coast. They also had to predict the needs of drivers and passengers in 2025, when more autonomous cars are expected to be on the road.
“We focused our concept on modularity. We believe that modularity is the new luxury,” says Alary. “Canadians have multiple interests and one car should be able to accommodate most of what they do.”
The design has to include all aspects of the car.
“We’ve been able to dive into a vast array of design disciplines that go into producing a car, when typically, there would be a large team of designers focused on specific aspects,” says van Rikxoort.
“From learning what it takes to design an aerodynamic car, to figuring out how to design a modular yet aesthetically pleasing interior, it’s been fascinating to delve into the entire scope of automotive design.
“It has undoubtedly been a valuable opportunity to discover the areas of design we’re more passionate about.”
The team is being supported by KPU design instructor Dr. Victor Martinez, who has a background as a car designer. Although this is a concept car for the future, Martinez emphasizes the car will have to be manufactured with real materials.
“It’s not just a beautiful design, it has to have all the services and functions that you can do with the vehicle,” he says.
The duo says they couldn’t have come as far as they have without the help of their mentor.
“I don’t think that we would have been able to accomplish as much as we did without the help of Victor Martinez,” says Alary. “His ability to share with us his knowledge and experience of working in the automotive industry was invaluable when trying to understand the basics of car design and trying to be car designers ourselves.”
The team delivers the next portion of their project at the end of August.