A Lexus design challenge to envisage how luxury mobility might look in 2040 was won by a personal globe-like flying vehicle inspired by hot-air balloons and plant terrariums.
Alto, designed by Richard Newman, was chosen from six finalists in the Lexus 2040: The Soul of Future Premium programme.
The six-month project – run by Lexus with the Royal College of Art (RCA) – challenged postgraduate students at the college’s Intelligent Mobility Design Centre (IMDC) to explore new vehicle architectures that met changes in European city life and society.
They also had to reimagine the role Lexus might play as a luxury mobility brand.
Alto is a hydrogen-powered vertical take-off and landing vehicle, and Newman said he was looking to a future where technology will be so commonplace it’ll no longer be considered a luxury.
Instead, people will value ‘celebration of the everyday’ as premium experiences.
He described the vehicle as ‘jewellery in the sky – like a cloud’s earring’, with an exterior that can be personalised.
The design also allows for seamless docking on to the side of buildings.
‘I wanted to create something that is quite challenging, that would raise a few eyebrows, but which would also make people smile,’ said Newman, who is from Coventry.
‘It proved to be quite an organic design process, and the changes I needed to make became quite evident as the programme progressed, with the input from the Lexus designers.’
The programme included mentoring and assessment sessions with Ian Cartabiano and Lance Scott, who are respectively president and senior manager at Lexus’s European design studio ED2, along with IMDC chairman Prof Dale Harrow and Dr Chris Thorpe, the RCA’s Intelligent Mobility head of programme.
They were joined on the judging panel by design author and commentator Nargess Banks, as well as senior representatives from Lexus Europe.
Scott said: ‘All the designers impressed us with their thinking and the breadth of their imagination.
‘What they produced was not just fantasy but based on factual study of what “premium” might mean in a future society, and they extrapolated this to create something very forward-thinking.
‘With Richard Newman’s winning project, everything was well thought out and executed.
‘His positive, optimistic view of the future of Lexus is very much what we want for our brand – something that can bring a smile to everyone’s face.’
Etienne Plas, senior manager of Lexus Product Communications, said: ‘As a brand, we actively encourage and support the development of new design talent and thinking.
‘This project has delivered intriguing and exciting new ideas about how Lexus might evolve as a brand to address changing mobility requirements and perceptions of what “premium” means.’
Pictured at top: Richard Newman presents his Alto personal flying vehicle design at the final judging event