While the Tesla Model S may pack a futuristic electric drivetrain, it also can pack on nearly 5,000 pounds of weight despite its aluminum chassis and body. The EDAG Engineering Light Cocoon Concept does away with metal body panels completely, wrapping the chassis in a lightweight waterproof fabric one quarter the weight of copier paper.
The fabric, called Texapore Softshell, was made by Jack Wolfskin and designed to provide ample protection from the elements whilst keeping weight to a minimum. The EDAG concept was inspired by a leaf (like the kind you find on a tree), which has an ideal skeletal structure with a thin fabric-like covering over it.
“We are pursuing the vision of sustainability – as demonstrated by nature: lightweight, efficient, and without any waste,” explains EDAG’s head designer, Johannes Barckmann. “The result: the ‘EDAG Light Cocoon’ presents a stable, branch-like load bearing structure from the 3D printer, which only uses material where it is absolutely necessary.”
That’s all well and good, but like a leaf this material is likely fragile and easy to tear, and probably not a worth much in an accident either. The idea of super-light vehicles is wonderful, but you’ve also got to share the road with plenty of wheeled behemoths that would slice right through it like, well, a leaf. It’s a cool concept, but nothing more I’m afraid.
Other lightweight materials like carbon fiber-reinforced plastic and aluminum are already becoming more commonplace in cars, but a world where skin replaces body panels is still a sci-fi fantasy.