Removing our reliance on fossil fuels isn’t exactly the sexiest idea in the world, but Franz von Holzhausen, chief designer at Tesla Motors, was determined to change that. Given the task of designing an electric vehicle with the same romance and excitement found in luxury vehicles, von Holzhausen needed to set the tone in a world still seeing eco-friendly alternatives as only for people so passionate about the environment that they’re willing to sacrifice style, comfort, and luxury. Of course, when we all think of Tesla, we think of style, comfort, and luxury, so someone sure did their job well!
Fast Company published a great interview with Franz von Holtzhausen where he lets us in on how someone would go about designing a sexy EV for Tesla:
“It’s one thing to design a car. It’s another to create the first vehicle for a brand founded on the goal of making electric cars sexy, mainstream, and a threat to the rest of the automobile industry. ‘No pressure,’ said Franz von Holzhausen, chief designer of Tesla Motors. ‘Just hit a home run on your first swing.’
In 2008, von Holzhausen was designing concept cars for Mazda North America when Tesla founder and tech visionary Elon Musk asked him to create the Model S, Tesla’s first generation electric sedan that has since been lauded by everyone from Motor Trends to Consumer Reports. Musk’s primary goal with Tesla is to ween vehicles off fossil fuels, but he also saw an opportunity to also change manufacturers’ current approach to car-making. And von Holzhausen, who was interviewed at GigaOm’s Roadmap conference yesterday, plays a crucial role in both aspects of the company–while also being tasked ‘to protect the romance’ of cars.
‘What I wanted to create was a moth to a flame,’ he said. ‘Emotional engagement that draws you in…and you don’t really know why.’
With the release of the Model X scheduled for next year, von Holzhausen will bring that signature romance to the most maligned of automobile styles–the minivan. Yesterday, he also alluded to the newest Tesla, a high-style design being called the Gen 3.
BUILT IN A ROCKET FACTORY, INSPIRED BY ATHLETES
The design and engineering teams tasked with developing the Model S were originally located in the back corner of a rocket factory at Space X, where Musk is the CEO and chief designer. And while the car does have a space-age feel, its design was actually inspired by athletes.
‘If you see the car, it has broad shoulders, a wide stance, and a purposeful built body,’ said von Holzhausen. ‘Our goal was to create a face for a vehicle–a character or face that is recognizable–the eyes of a headlight. Many brands have evolved their faces over time. We were starting with nothing. It was very important to get the eyes correct. We also have a nose cone on the car, chosen so that if you see a Model S from afar now it is instantly recognizable.’
The Model S also ended up having a fronk–front trunk–no gas cap, and a charging station under the taillight. It’s quirky and weird, but it works. Even the door handles were intentionally fashioned to be a memorable experience. ‘It’s such a shame with other vehicles that the first contact you have, the handles, are the cheapest part,’ he said.
The internals of the Model S also had to live up to its sporty exterior. And the engineering team pulled it off too, said von Holzhausen, as only a roller coaster or fighter jet has the same kind of torque.”
– Read the entire Fast Company article.
Picture from: FOX Business