Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Doing it Right: Automotive Edition

I figured it was apt to follow the last post with some examples of companies leading the way in responsible design (rather than dragging their feet and throwing tantrums because the glory days of $40K+ trucks with fake wood trim are over.)

Our "Doing it Right" series salutes people and organizations who are socially and environmentally responsible by nature, rather than because green is in. "Green" brings up images of Birkenstocks Crocs and every bad cliché that makes me want to puke. Responsible design should not be market driven. It is not an aesthetic. It is not a way to make yourself feel better. It's just the right thing to do.

We covered the super-awesome Tesla Motors previously. Here are some initiatives we like from more mainstream manufacturers:

BMW Hydrogen 7 was the first realistic example of a no-compromise approach to responsible automotive design. Hybrids, ethanol, etc. are all compromised intermediate steps to emissions-free propulsion. Hydrogen powered and pure electric powered vehicles are the only foreseeable future when the oil runs out. BMW has the technology pretty much ready to go, just waiting for hydrogen distribution infrastructure. Plus, instead of sticking it in a 318, they showcased it in their top-of-the-line luxury sedan. Nice touch.

Toyota's Corporate Citizenship Division focuses not only on environmental issues, but on traffic safety, education, arts and culture and a "harmonious society". Also, Toyota MoCo spends one million dollars an hour on research and development. I'm personally not a fan of Toyota styling in the least, but president Watanabe's speech at the Detroit Auto Show was honestly an inspirational example of good, balanced corporate citizenship. Watch it here. [Full disclosure: I co-designed the set you see behind him with Dharmesh Patel and the team at o2. The set by the way, is recycled cardboard.]

The Audi R8 V12 TDI is another realistic example of a responsible no-compromise product. It is still fossil fuel powered - however, it's a pure exotic which scoots to 62mph in 4.2 seconds and gets better mileage than the average sedan on the road today (around 25mpg in a segment that averages around 15.) Audi entered the first diesel powered car to win the 24 Hours of LeMans. "Adopting European diesel is pie in the sky.” M'kay, Bob. More thoughts on the R8 V12 TDI at Core77.

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