AT THE 1964 World’s Fair in New York, companies told rapt audiences that technology would lead to a Utopia, and General Motors’ Futurama exhibit predicted that within 20 years, we’d be driving around in glass-wrapped bubble cars. The dream hasn’t materialized yet, but today at the 2018 New York Auto Show, Genesis unveiled a design for a grand tourer that’s rakish, edgy, surprisingly cool, and that gets us a step closer to Futurama.
The Essentia Concept is all-electric (of course) and high-performance (duh). More unusual is the transparent hood, creating a line of glass line that sweeps over the car, from the grille into the windscreen, over the roof, then down over the rear window. That grille—a nod to the oxygen-sucking internal combustion engines of old—is emphasized by orange painted ‘lips’ against the grey metallic paint of the concept. There’s no engine to see through the hood, but passers-by can admire the Essentia’s carbon fiber chassis and exposed pushrod suspension.
Hyundai created Genesis in 2015 as a breakout luxury brand. It’s planning to launch six new models by 2021, and to have them compete with established luxury giants like Mercedes, Audi, BMW, Lexus, and Cadillac. The Essentia is the young company’s attempt to prove its designers can do sporty, sexy, and innovative. It’s a good time to get into the auto industry, and use the combined disruptive influence of electric propulsions and a move towards autonomous vehicles, as a chance to try something new.
In this case, Genesis says the electric drivetrain allowed its designers to get creative. The battery pack is housed in a central tunnel in the car, instead of a skateboard design where the batteries are under the floor, popularized by Tesla. That enabled engineers to drop the overall height of the car to a sporty 50 inches, but still keep room inside.
No word on how large that battery is, or what range it’ll be good for, but Genesis does say 0-60 mph should be possible in 3 seconds (which is ridiculously quick, yet only just keeps up with the new normal for electric vehicles.)
Genesis also hasn’t specified what the transparent hood will be made of, if it goes all the way into production. But glass and high-strength plastics are increasingly popular. Tesla went for an all-glass roof design for the Model 3 to simply construction and maximize internal headroom. McLaren put clear panels in the bottom of the doors of the Senna so the driver could see the road, and many manufacturers have gone for clear engine covers on mid or rear-engined cars. A glass hood seems less practical, and less likely to make it into a real car. It means what could be a front trunk isn’t a secure place to leave your laptop bag when parked. But hey, there’s room in the back for luggage.
The interior features plenty of 3D printed components, which are lighter and stronger than their traditional counterparts. And for the trim, Genesis says it was influenced by fashion, with “Cognac” brown leather seats and a center console trimmed in not just blue, but “Oxford Blue” leather. Passengers access their Cognac leather seats via butterfly doors.
There’s no word on price yet, but it will be high if the carbon fiber construction makes it into production. Car companies rarely take the time to make flashy concepts unless they have plans to introduce at least some of the features and styling elements. They use displays at auto shows to build excitement about their brand, and to gauge public enthusiasm. With the Essentia, Genesis is likely to achieve both.