- Electric-vehicle concepts are common enough these days that you need more than a zero-emission powertrain to stand out. So why not work on a negative-emission EV?
- That’s what Heatherwick Studio did with its Airo concept, which uses a HEPA filter under the car to filter out pollution from other cars on the road. The Airo has been on display at the Goodwood Festival of Speed this week.
- Hyundai has similar air-filtering technology on its Nexo hydrogen fuel cell vehicle, but there the filter does double duty by cleaning the air that the fuel-cell stack needs to operate.
A motor vehicle with negative carbon emissions has, until recently, been basically impossible. Sure, electric vehicles have no local tailpipe emissions, but to actually reduce the amount of carbon in the air as you drive is no small feat. Hyundai says its Nexo hydrogen fuel-cell CUV actually cleans the air it moves through, since the car’s fuel-cell stack needs purified air. The car accomplishes this by using a special filter that removes microparticulates from the incoming air, and that means the exhaust (such as it is) is cleaner than what was taken in. The car can even display the amount of CO2 removed.
This filtering strategy is similar to the one used by the Airo, a new concept vehicle designed by Heatherwick Studio in England. The electric vehicle has a “state-of-the-art HEPA filtering system” that cleans the air that moves through the vehicle’s undercarriage. No precise specifics were given about how many pollutants the Airo traps, but Heatherwick told the BBC that the concept can “collect a tennis ball worth of particulate matter per year.” Heatherwick, which also designed London’s new Routemaster bus and buildings including Google’s headquarters in California and London, is displaying the Airo at the Goodwood Festival of Speed this week.
The Airo’s interior tries to be as different as the air filter on the exterior. Heatherwick said that it’s not supposed to be simply a place to sit while moving around, but to act like a “moving room or a space for your life.” Like other EV concepts, the front seats can swivel around to face the vehicle’s center, where there’s also a four-leaf table that can fold away when you don’t want to dine or play a tabletop game, and use the Airo more like a lounge. You can also unfold a screen for projected video images – Heatherwick said the Airo can become “a perfect gaming-pod” in this configuration and the seats can even fold down into a “spacious” double bed. The glass roof can turn opaque for more private moments.
Designed to simultaneously address the global space shortage, Airo is also a multi-functional room with extra space for dining, working, gaming or even sleeping,” said Heatherwick Studio founder Thomas Heatherwick in a statement. “As a new room for our lives, with a changing view, Airo is a car intended to transport us to a cleaner and better future.”
Heatherwick isn’t planning on building the Airo itself. Instead, the studio designed the EV for IM Motors which said in April, when the Airo debuted at the Shanghai auto show, that it plans to start building the EV in 2023. The BBC said IM Motors plans to make “a million of them.” The Airo is supposedly capable of both autonomous and human-controlled driving but details about the self-driving features and exactly how the air purifier will work in the real world when it comes to production remain, well, up in the cleaner air.