Design concept Budget Airline Car could be the new electric vehicle (EV) that replaces the short-haul flight

The Budget Airline Car concept has been designed as a new type of car for the future. It’s been created for those who don’t want to travel by the most environmentally damaging form of transport, the short-haul flight, and for people who don’t want to be close to hundreds of people in airports and aircraft cabins.

It was conceived by Car Design Research (CDR), who are a UK based agency that has worked for the design groups of 11 of the world’s top 20 car companies over the last twenty years, during lock-down last year. The Budget Airline Car is a concept for a new type of car design that would produce only two percent of the emissions per passenger compared to a short-haul flight.

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The Budget Airline Car would have spacious seating for six adults with their cabin baggage close to hand and will be electric powered developed for long-distance cruising, rather than high performance.

The design is focused on aerodynamics and shared access. Together these offer a comfortable and efficient way to travel from city to city. It’s aimed to sit in the ‘white space’ conceptually distinct from other cars.

The core concept for Budget Airline Car was developed closely with CDR design associates Yichen Shu in China and Aditya Jangid in India. Both of whom then designed subtly different exterior design themes and illustrated how the car might be offered as an alternative to flying by today’s budget airline brands.

Today cars are evolving in their design far slower than the changes in the lives and sensibilities of the people who use them or the technologies that enable them. Yet, if embraced, these changes could unlock the potential for truly new types of cars designed for life in the mid-21st century.

As electricity generation continues to get greener many electric cars in Europe will produce only 30g/km of CO2 by 2030. CDR realised that if one efficient electric car carried six passengers, currently there are no electric cars with seats with space for six adults, there would be about 5g/km of CO2 produced per person.

This would likely be a modest target if the car was dedicated in design and engineering to being efficient, unlike today’s performance-orientated electric crossovers.  

To travel with emissions of 5g/km of CO2 per person would be game-changing. To only have two percent of the CO2 emissions per person per kilometre of today’s short-haul flights would make a huge difference and have potentially very significant market appeal too.

This would equate to an individual person making 50 car journeys for the same environmental burden as one aircraft journey of the same distance.

Short-haul flights are the most common form of air travel and in Europe account for 80 percent of all flights. They produce more CO2 emissions than any other form of passenger transportation at around 250g/km of CO2 per person.

The core concept for the Budget Airline Car is for a shared super-efficient car to be offered by budget airlines or hire car brands as an alternative service to short-haul flights.

It would  be able to offer space for luggage in an efficient way thanks to the electric motor which takes up far less space. The two-person wide layout also contributes to a reduced frontal area compared to a car designed to seat three people side-by-side.

The electric powertrain would be developed for long-distance mid-speed cruising, rather than high performance, and the design would unprecedentedly prioritise aerodynamics.

At a  length of five metres, the Budget Airline Car would be as long as the Tesla Model X, Nio ES8 or Volvo XC90, but its 1.8-metre width and 1.5-metre height would give it 20 percent less frontal area. This along with a more slippery shape and lower drag coefficient would make it more aerodynamic and thus more energy efficient.

The idea would be for passengers to share the driving, with good driving incentivised by the shared-economy digital platform that they access the service through, similar to eBay, Airbnb and other shared service platforms. A suite of advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) would aid safety and ultimately fully autonomous driving would also be available.

Presented here are two design themes from designers Yichen Shu and Aditya Jangid, both based on the shared core Budget Airline Car concept that they developed with CDR, and shown also wearing the branding of short-haul operators.

As governments ban or restrict short-haul flights (in Austria, France and the Netherlands already) and more people wake up to the environmental impact of flying, along with pandemic issues of being around large groups, a new type of car design could be a better solution for millions of passengers a year.  

This shows one way car design could take a leading role in reducing the total CO2 produced by transportation, respond to the climate emergency, and perhaps take a more proactive role in realising better forms of car and wider mobility solutions.  It also illustrates how CDR envisages new and relevant future design concepts for several of the world’s leading mobility brands.

Ian Osborne
Ian Osborne
Editor-in-Chief at ElectricDrives

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