"There's never been anything like it" were the
words used in the online edition of an acclaimed international news magazine to
describe its editor's reaction when the first sketches of the new Rinspeed
concept car, "eXasis", appeared on the Internet, "and it looks
like no other vehicle before it". In fact, the illustrations could only
hint at what Swiss automotive visionary Frank M. Rinderknecht had thought up in
collaboration with the experts from Bayer MaterialScience AG – one of the
largest plastics producers in the world – to mark his company's 30th
anniversary: a drivable "glass" car with a completely transparent
body and floor made of Makrolon®. Once again, this Rinspeed creation has been
built by the Swiss engineering specialists Esoro, and will be shown to the
public for the first time at the Geneva Motor Show (March 8-18, 2007), 40 years
after Bayer presented the first "all-plastic car" at the K67 Plastics
Fair in Germany in 1967.
"Everyone who sees the eXasis for the first time raves about the glass
car, but they actually mean our transparent high-tech plastic," says Ian
Paterson, the member of the Bayer MaterialScience Board of Management
responsible for Innovation, describing the typical reaction to the
prototype. "Many people only talk about innovation. We do it, in
conjunction with our partners." In fact, nearly all the Bayer
MaterialScience business units were involved in the development of the concept
car, providing products such as surface coatings and polyurethanes (for molding
tools). but it was the plastics experts from BMS with their Makrolon®
polycarbonate who were responsible for the transparency of the eXasis.
Frank M. Rinderknecht: "In this ethereal transparency, the true spirit of
the eXasis becomes visible. An abstract idea becomes material, visions become a
tangible car. Yet the eXasis still doesn't seem to have quite arrived in our
So is it just a clever 3D projection, a fata morgana or perhaps a four-wheel
‘objet d'art’? In any case, the third vehicle to emerge from the cooperation
between the two companies differs fundamentally from the other two: the
futuristic-looking "Senso" and the pure-blooded "zaZen"
sports car. The eXasis is a completely new development, in other words it is
not based on a production-line vehicle. The insect-like, shiny yellow body with
the exposed wheels looks like a mix of the legendary Auto-Union racing cars
from the first half of the last century and an off-road vehicle, offering room
for two people, one behind the other. The reinterpretation of the frequently
cited cigar form is crowned in the "sexy" rear section with an
attractively integrated ventilator and a superb matching, highly polished Remus
exhaust muffler. And the transparency also provides an unrestricted view
of the compact 2-cylinder 750 ccm Weber engine, which, very unusually, sits
above the transmission.
The eXasis is a real eye-catcher with nothing to hide. The outer Makrolon®
shell, molded by the Swiss firm Mecaplex and coated with a tinge of yellow by
the German hard coatings specialist, KRD, reveals the vehicle's load-bearing
aluminum chassis. The chassis looks as if it has been cut from a solid piece of
material, and in fact the bulkheads are. Despite this, the entire construction
exudes a sense of lightness like bamboo, underlined by a Lesonal chrome effect
finish based on Bayer MaterialScience's Desmodur® and Desmophen®. To finish the
surfaces of the knobs and levers, the Bayer experts came up with a special
soft-feel coating based on waterborne binders - their sole aim being to pamper
the eyes and hands of the driver.
The two occupants sit in special seats designed in cooperation with Recaro.
Each seat consists of twelve transparent Makrolon® ribs – the same number as a
human being has. The head restraint and armrests are made of transparent
Technogel®. The Hightex/Sellner Group, which is specialized in interior design,
was responsible not only for the futuristic seat coverings and the design of
the fabric-covered steering wheel, it has also added a number of other stylish
highlights. One example is the innovative application of aluminized glass fiber
material with a diamond-shape design on the wheel rims, trim, wishbones, fuel
tank and headlamps.
The two transparent indicator and function displays are an absolute delight,
both technically and optically. They seem to hover on both sides in the
driver's field of vision. By touching them, various functions can be displayed
and controlled. Each of the touch-panels is made of a transparent CD/DVD
Makrolon® blank that has been coated with electrically conductive Baytron® from
H.C. Starck to trigger the switch functions. The displays were developed by the
Swiss safety and closure system specialists, Kaba. The personalized access
system to the car is also be integrated in the touch panels.
The "eXasis" is powered by an extremely lightweight, 150 bhp Weber
engine driven by CO2-emission-reducing bioethanol. In view of the fact that the
car weighs only 750 kg because of its lightweight plastic construction,
one horsepower has to shift only 5 kg – and that is about the same as a very
Rinspeed was also able to persuade some state-owned companies and government
departments to become involved in the eXasis project. The fuel is provided by
Alcosuisse, the profit center of the Swiss Alcohol Board, while the Swiss
Federal Office of Energy has chosen the eXasis to take part in a study on the
subject of lightweight construction and ecology. More information on bioethanol
and Germany's first fuel station brand for environmentally friendly fuels can
be found on the Internet at biofuel24.de.
To transfer all this power to the road, the KW chassis specialists have
accommodated the tailor-made spring and shock absorber units vertically in the
front in the partition wall and horizontally at the rear. The tires are
Pirelli's 22-inch High-Performance P Zero, mounted on forged five-spoke wheels
manufactured by the German wheel maker, AEZ. Here too, attention to detail is
evident: the wheels are decorated with transparent "inlays" of Makrolon®
that look like small windows.
Despite the attractive sweeping contours that blend smoothly into the car's
transparency, the eXasis is ‘edgy’ and definitely has a character of its own.
But everybody who has the pleasure of driving it is agreed on one thing: glancing
down through the transparent floor while the car is moving gives a very special
kind of thrill…