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BMW Introduces GINA Concept Car, Covered In Fabric 347

Posted by kdawson
from the bend-me-shape-me dept.
smithtuna33 writes "Ever wondered what the metal skin on your car is actually good for? Engineers at BMW have decided that fabric might work just as well. The doors literally peel away from the side of the car, the engine bay opens up down the middle, and pretty much everything (such as headlamps) is hidden until the fabric reveals it. It is a stunning concept that has already been influencing BMW's designs. The video is well worth watching."
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BMW Introduces GINA Concept Car, Covered In Fabric

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  • by badboy_tw2002 (524611) on Wednesday June 11, 2008 @12:32AM (#23742913)
    I'd call a car made out of nice fabrics a 'gina too!
  • Finally.. (Score:5, Funny)

    by mrbluze (1034940) on Wednesday June 11, 2008 @12:32AM (#23742917) Journal
    the skinnable car!
    • Re:Finally.. (Score:5, Interesting)

      by mrbluze (1034940) on Wednesday June 11, 2008 @12:37AM (#23742965) Journal
      Just having watched the vid, it's quite a cool concept. Though I can well imagine a jealous walker-by accidentally slashing it with his pocket knife. That would ruin it a bit methinks.
      • Re:Finally.. (Score:5, Interesting)

        by bruins01 (992422) on Wednesday June 11, 2008 @12:47AM (#23743069)
        What you're suggesting is the fabric analog of getting keyed. I imagine repairing a tear caused by a key, or a pocketknife, or a rock on the freeway, would be a lot less expensive if the repair consists only of replacing a piece of fabric.

        I'm more concerned about security. Would this feature make it easier to break into my car? Would it make it easier to sabotage or steal from my engine? My gas tank?

        • Re:Finally.. (Score:5, Insightful)

          by Chrisje (471362) on Wednesday June 11, 2008 @05:49AM (#23744947)
          Didn't anyone RTFA?

          I see a lot of people talking about the sturdiness of said fabric, but noone mentions that it's some space-age stuff they're slapping on there, on a metal frame, laced with carbon for extra strengthening.

          Come on guys! Zee Germans are building the thing! I'm relatively sure they'll deliver a solid product. They *ALWAYS* do.

      • Re:Finally.. (Score:5, Informative)

        by ozmanjusri (601766) <aussie_bobNO@SPAMhotmail.com> on Wednesday June 11, 2008 @12:50AM (#23743095) Journal
        JThough I can well imagine a jealous walker-by accidentally slashing it with his pocket knife.

        There are already plenty of fabrics which are resistant to casual slashes, and some in the pipeline which are even more durable [slashdot.org].

        Vandals can already do a significant amount of damage to a painted metal car body with a knife or even a coin. If the repair costs of the fabric are competitive with metal, it might even reduce costs over the life of the vehicle.

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by bloodninja (1291306)

        Just having watched the vid, it's quite a cool concept. Though I can well imagine a jealous walker-by accidentally slashing it with his pocket knife. That would ruin it a bit methinks.
        Don't you know? BMW stands for "Break My Windows" not "slash my fabric".
    • by Zymergy (803632) * on Wednesday June 11, 2008 @01:07AM (#23743219)
      Great! Now the kids are gonna want designer 'clothes' for their cars.
      A Ralph Lauren skin, or a Prada Skin, and even some of those ludicrous-speed expensive handbags.
      I can see the fashion shows being conducted on *actual* runways.... 'Oh the humanity....

      -I am sure Larry Flynt has some creative ideas for 'skin' designs for his new BMW 'GINA car too... a very slippery slope... LOL (Cool, I just made a Double Entendre!)
  • It winked! (Score:5, Funny)

    by mortonda (5175) on Wednesday June 11, 2008 @12:35AM (#23742943)
    Any car that winks at you has to be taken seriously... ;)
    • by mrbluze (1034940) on Wednesday June 11, 2008 @12:38AM (#23742975) Journal
      On the youtube link someone posted a comment I had to quote: people dont want a car that feels like a condom. ROFL
      • by ozmanjusri (601766) <aussie_bobNO@SPAMhotmail.com> on Wednesday June 11, 2008 @12:51AM (#23743111) Journal
        people dont want a car that feels like a condom

        BMW drivers do.

        They're all dicks.

        • by A nonymous Coward (7548) * on Wednesday June 11, 2008 @01:25AM (#23743337)
          What's the difference between a porcupine and a BMW?

          The porcupine has its pricks on the outside.
        • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday June 11, 2008 @07:38AM (#23745867)
          German cars: Drivers are super-aggressive. They drive fast and push the car to its limits. Ignore them and they will accelerate away. Usually equipped with electronic countermeasures. If a German car is speeding, you can too. Never pass a German car. If it's going slow enough for you to keep up, there must be a reason. The German car driver is a fanatic -- willing to tolerate any amount of maintenance expense because of the joy of driving on those days when the car works properly.

          Japanese cars: Drivers THINK they have a German car, when in fact they don't. These people have an inferiority complex -- anxious to prove that their Honda Accord is a drop-in replacement for a BMW 745LI, while secretly planning to buy a BMW next time. Well known taking risks that the German car drivers cannot afford to take. If you are passed at high speed by a Japanese car, rest assured they will draw out whatever law enforcement might be around. Be prepared to call 911 on your cell for an ambulance.

          Korean cars: These people are trying to optimize the Total Cost of Ownership. They don't enjoy driving very much, but they spend very little money doing it. Similar to the Japanese car owner, the Korean owner is anxious to prove that his Hyundai Sonata is a drop-in replacement for a Honda Accord, while secretly planning to buy an Accord next time. Let's take a moment of silence to remember those early Korean car buyers and their dreadful machines.

          American cars: Drivers are not paying attention. They didn't pay attention when they bought the car, why would you expect them to pay attention while driving it? Some will exceed the speed limit, but only in a straight line -- often beyond the limits of the brakes and suspension. The American car driver laughs about Korean cars, until he discovers that his own car is a lemon. Secretly planning to buy a Hyundai Sonata next time. American cars are the car of choice for people who like to complain about all the OTHER cars and drivers.
  • but call me stuck - I just can't get over the thought that the fabric can't keep the car as safe as metal does.


    I can see some of the benefits - you won't have to worry about dents and the such, but the isn't the possibility of having something tear right through the fabric pretty high (if you hit something on the highway the kinetic energy on it is rather high)?

    • by mortonda (5175) on Wednesday June 11, 2008 @12:41AM (#23743001)
      A lot of people are questioning the crash safety, but the metal skin of a car doesn't really have anything to do with that anyway. Stuff flying up on the road could be a problem, though it seems like that stuff always hits and chips the windshield.

      I think the most obvious danger would be someone taking a knife to the skin to break into the car and hotwire it. Or is this material stronger than that?
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Gordonjcp (186804)
        I think the most obvious danger would be someone taking a knife to the skin to break into the car and hotwire it.

        How often does that happen with soft-tops?

      • by Viol8 (599362) on Wednesday June 11, 2008 @05:19AM (#23744745)
        Most cars (not trucks) these days are monocoque - they do not have a chassis. Therefor the strength of the vehicle is contained in the entire body as a whole from roof to doors to underbelly. About the only bits that don't matter are the wings over the wheels. Sure , theres extra crash protection built into the engine bay but thats in addition to the stregth of the rest of the vehicle. If you build a fabric car body you're back to using chassis' and the poor compromises they entail.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by adolf (21054)
        I think the most obvious danger would be someone taking a knife to the skin to break into the car and hotwire it.

        All that does is save a thief from looking around for a brick.

        And, having slashed the bodywork apart, they'll still have to climb through/between the structural members of the car, which will remain metal.

        And, THEN, they'll have the chore of hotwiring a BMW, which is easily among the most nontrivial cars to do that with.[1]

        Honestly, I think brick-through-the-window is a faster method.

        [1]: I spen
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by JediLow (831100) *
      To reply to some of my questions about it: "The special fabric is supported by a metal wire structure. At specific points, the high-strength metal is enhanced by carbon struts with a higher flexibility. They are used predominantly for round, moving contours with a particularly narrow radius."

      Taken from the press release found here [worldcarfans.com]
    • Haven't for decades. The kinetic energy involved doesn't get much higher.

      Fabric can be made rigid and extremely durable simply by doping it with an epoxy. Think cellulose reinforced plastic if you will, y'know, like motorcycle helmets.

       
  • Very cool (Score:5, Insightful)

    by tsa (15680) on Wednesday June 11, 2008 @12:39AM (#23742983) Homepage
    The video is really cool, but was it a real car or a computer model? And I wonder how the fabric behaves at high speeds. And how do you wash the car? I have loads of other questions but I think the concept is fantastic. Cars that can change shape! Mmmmm... :)
  • by immakiku (777365) on Wednesday June 11, 2008 @12:43AM (#23743023)
    So the chassis is still rigid right? Imagine unintentional impacts with external objects. The skin was meant to be protection for the car and driver. Flying rocks, small animals while the car is parked, pranksters, and thieves of engine parts make this not work so well. As well psychologically the driver will feel less protected in this new concept of a fabric skin. Imagine if your house was made out of cardboard... On the other hand I always like making cars lighter. I can see this becoming the norm if all the kinks are worked out.
    • by Max Littlemore (1001285) on Wednesday June 11, 2008 @12:49AM (#23743085)

      I can see this becoming the norm if all the kinks are worked out.

      It's fabric. The kinks don't get worked out, they get ironed out. Pay attention.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      They said in TFA that the shell is NOT part of the crash design, that the space frame takes all this into account, so there is not much purpose left for the shell... Small rocks though... stone chips would be game over! I guess the aerodynamics would be interesting too. Maybe at high speeds you could tighten the fabric up, stretch it so it doesn't deform?
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by badboy_tw2002 (524611)
      Dunno, there are some tough fabrics out there. Ever hear of Kevlar? Last time I checked bullets go through car doors but not Kevlar.
    • by mrbluze (1034940) on Wednesday June 11, 2008 @01:21AM (#23743305) Journal

      So the chassis is still rigid right?
      Yes, but after you've had it in overdrive for any length of time it suddenly goes limp for at least 10 minutes.
    • Well, the reason it's easy to chip car paint is because it's hard. A flexible but durable surface might be a lot harder to damage from small, flying objects. As for safety, are you seriously asking if the car is only made from fabric, with no other structural protection?
    • psychologically the driver will feel less protected in this new concept of a fabric skin.
      you say that like it's a bad thing. As a result of feeling less safe, people will drive more safely.

      put a big spike on every steering wheel, aimed right at the driver's neck. put one of these in every car and people will drive a whole lot better.
    • by dlevitan (132062) on Wednesday June 11, 2008 @01:41AM (#23743463)

      small animals while the car is parked
      The car is parked in a driveway. A cat jumps onto the hood expecting a nice warm sunny place. Next thing it knows, the hood opens up, swallows the cat, the car emits a nice burp, and your gas tank increases by a few gallons. Sounds good to me :).
    • by Fri13 (963421)
      I would like to know how much new car "skin" would pay when you need to replace it every 1000km when sharp stone hits it and makes small hole what will expand in time.

      Or what you do when it gets dirty? You take it off and put it washing machine with other your laundry?

      I have sprayed factor on my car. It cost 500 euros but it is needed to do only every fourth year. It takes one day to get done, you drive your car to workshop, they wash car, wax it and then sprays the factor on it. After that, it can take hit
      • by Yetihehe (971185)
        Changing fabric on this car takes two hours. I think they can make it faster, it is just first concept. If fabric gets dirty, you can take it to washing machine, and put another in meantime.
    • by MrMr (219533)
      Imagine if your house was made out of cardboard
      I've been living in a box since the previous dotcom crash you insensitive clod.
    • by Detritus (11846)
      They've been putting fiberglass bodies on cars like the Chevrolet Corvette for many years. Has it been a significant problem? A Corvette owner told me that the body would just disintegrate in any serious accident.
  • I'll pass (Score:2, Insightful)

    I would buy a Volkswagen beetle before I would buy one of those. I mean an OLD Volkswagen beetle.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      I mean an OLD Volkswagen beetle.
      I'm not a fan of Volkswagen, but it's hard to beat the old Beetle: low TCO, a ton of replacement and after-market parts, and an active fanbase.

      Sure, I think the old Beetle looks dorky, but I'd choose one of those over a new sports car.

      Yes. Seriously. :)
  • Skin-schmin (Score:5, Interesting)

    by LoudMusic (199347) * on Wednesday June 11, 2008 @12:58AM (#23743151)
    First off it's a concept vehicle. The point is to try new things, good or bad, to see how it works.

    Moving forward, the skin of this car is almost purely for aerodynamic effect. There is a certain amount of visual additive, and it keeps the wind and dirt off the occupants. In reference to other mechanical value, there are plenty of cars which have no skin at all and are faster than pretty much any other production road going vehicle. Ariel's Atom [arielmotor.co.uk], to name one. Cars don't need skins. Hell, look at motorcycles. The passengers aren't even contained in the vehicle!

    I think it's an awesome idea. Of course, my current roadster is paint chipped all to hell and being able to replace body panels of fabric would be rather appealing, but think about washing your car. Strip it down like bed sheets and throw the skin in the washing machine. Want a new paint job? Maybe a thousand dollars of fabric, or perhaps even just a dye job. You could change your car's color in a matter of minutes.

    That brings up a really interesting point. How do the police identify cars? Color and shape? Well those two are irrelevant with this vehicle. You can change the shape while you're moving and theoretically the color in about 10 minutes, I figure. It goes into a parking garage as a red roadster and comes out as a green pickup truck.

    Most importantly, and realistically, I'm sure the weight savings are impressive. And saving weight improves performance both in the go fast and the save fuel sense of the term. Imagine this combined with the Tesla Roadster. Shazam!
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by vigmeister (1112659)

      It goes into a parking garage as a red roadster and comes out as a green pickup truck.
      It goes in a GINA and comes out a GINA. Wait... that's just wrong!

      Cheers!
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by blitzkrieg3 (995849)

      That brings up a really interesting point. How do the police identify cars? Color and shape?
      You identify it by the fact that it's the only expiramental car within a ten thousand mile radius with fabric where the sheet metal should be.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by mgblst (80109)
        In some countries they have this new invention called a number plate, that goes on the back and sometimes the front of the car. These are unique to each car, and car owner is registered to that number plate.

        Neat, huh?
    • by afidel (530433)
      I can't see how any fabric is going to have a lower coefficient of drag than clearcoat, so the only possible advantage with respect to drag is that you can do compound shapes more easily than you can with metal. The problem is this is BMW and it's going to be expensive no matter what so why not make it out of metal and gain the efficiency of ultra-smooth paint. I guess their engineers think they can gain more from lighter skin weight than is lost to friction?


      • It could be possible that the right type of fabric could reduce air friction. Although water and air turbulence is different, scientists have found that dolphin skin is faster underwater [iop.org] than smooth steel-hulled craft.

        Weight reduction is more valuable to fuel efficiency than reducing wind resistance. Both are important, but the biggest hit on fuel economy is generating momentum from a stop. Reducing weight reduces the energy required to put a car in motion. A BMW is going to spend more fuel going 0-30
  • by HockeyPuck (141947) on Wednesday June 11, 2008 @01:00AM (#23743165)
    Which is exactly what that is, a concept, BMW comes up with an idea and floats it with the public to see what they think. Saturn did this with plastic bodies, "you'll never get a dinged door from a loose shopping cart.." While the metal skin of a car doesn't provide much protection, I bet it does add quite a bit to the weight of a car, and quite a bit of manufacturing (stamping, painting etc..) than a textile based covering.

    At least they're thinking different.
    • by MoreDruid (584251)

      At least they're thinking different.

      Ugh... an Apple credo in conjunction with a BMW product... I guess you'll only see overly pretentious pricks riding these cars (tongue in cheek: I can really imagine Steve Jobs riding one of these on stage during the intro of yet another cool iProduct(tm)(r)(c))

      That said, I think this tech is really promising especially since it'll be super lightweight compared to currently used products. Now let's just hope it's also cheaper than (or even as expensive as) metal, it mig

  • by r_jensen11 (598210) on Wednesday June 11, 2008 @01:02AM (#23743179)
    I'd love to see this car in the shower. Or, at least for the instance of cars, either the front yard or the car wash.

    How the hell would you wash these things? Something makes me think that a sponge and a hose just wouldn't cut it....
  • Bah! (Score:5, Interesting)

    by lahvak (69490) on Wednesday June 11, 2008 @01:30AM (#23743375) Homepage Journal
    This has been done before: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Velorex [wikipedia.org]
  • It's not slashdotted and it's a very small article.


    However, there's no suggestion that the Gina will lead directly to a production car in the short term. Instead, Bangle says that its principles have influenced the infamous 'flame-surfaced' styling of BMW's current crop... and will continue to do so.

    Expect to see unusual-looking Beemers for a few years to come, then.


    No, I am not new here and I have karma to burn. Go for it.
  • I wonder how well this holds up under heavy aerodynamic load. Really not a new concept if you think about it: biplanes used "doped" fabric, but I think the "doping" made the fabric stiff, and there were plenty of ribs in the wings. Obvioulsy, a well constructed biplane with a stiff fabric covering the wings didn't have fluttering problems, but the fabric here is plainly not stiff.

    Then, there is the vandalism problem people mentioned. It can't be any more prone to vandalism than a ragtop; just a lot more

  • The Trabant was produced by the East German auto maker VEB.
    Duroplast, a form of plastic containing resin strengthened by wool or cotton was used to save on expensive steel imports.
    Does BMW like Duroplast?
    Trabant 601LX Deluxe clip
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X4VKVnq-GOY [youtube.com]
    • by Colin Smith (2679)
      The irony being that the Trabants here in Germany still look exactly as they did 30 years ago. Steel cars have long since rusted to scrap.
  • by Eternal Vigilance (573501) on Wednesday June 11, 2008 @03:07AM (#23743981)
    I suffer every time I see one of his production car designs. But before this I could at least believe they were simply the best he could do - like Stevie Wonder designing clothing or Stephen Hawking doing brain surgery.

    Now I see he can design a beautiful car.

    And so all those other designs must be out of spite. Damn you, you sadistic bastard! :-)
  • It'll probably go all frootfflllarpflarpfloop when you drive them at certain speeds. Like driving your own private whoopie cushion.
  • Good god (Score:4, Insightful)

    by soccerisgod (585710) on Wednesday June 11, 2008 @04:23AM (#23744445)
    "Design fuhrer"? I wonder if that guy has any idea what kind of insult this represents to most Germans. Probably not.
  • by mxs (42717) on Wednesday June 11, 2008 @05:40AM (#23744893)
    The visuals of that video are interesting, the soundtrack is beyond condescending.

    Here is a literal transcript.

    "GINA is an acronym -- a set of letters -- that stand for geometry -- shapes -- and function -- how things work -- an N -- n is a way of saying 'an infinite number' -- of adaptations -- meaning, there is a lot of change possible."

    Their target audience does not know that an acronym is a set of letters, that geometry deals with shapes, that function is related to how things work, that N is a variable, and that adaptating means changing.

    He goes on to babble a whole lot of meaningless babbling. "Context over Dogma, that's it!" are the last words in that presentations. Seldomly have I heard a saying so devoid of meaning.
  • by tramm (16077) <hudson@swcp.com> on Wednesday June 11, 2008 @05:56AM (#23744979) Homepage
    Airplanes used fabric skins [wikipedia.org] for years. They travel much faster than automobiles, so the strength isn't an issue. Even during WWII, most aluminum bodied aircraft used fabric covered control surfaces to allow easy repair of combat damage -- it is much easier to sew a new patch over a rip than it is to rivet aluminum patches.
  • by nicestepauthor (307146) on Wednesday June 11, 2008 @11:42AM (#23749881) Homepage
    Some of the very early sports cars (1930's) had bodies made of fabric stretched over a wooden frame. Apparently some early hot rods did too, because I think NHRA rules specifically ban this kind of body. Its a fire hazard.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by dotancohen (1015143)

      Some of the very early sports cars (1930's) had bodies made of fabric stretched over a wooden frame. Apparently some early hot rods did too, because I think NHRA rules specifically ban this kind of body. Its a fire hazard.
      No, that's a carry-over rule from demolition derbies. As demolition derby cars were often junkyard cars missing body parts, cloth was a popular but dangerous substitute before it was banned. The rule carried over to the NHRA.

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