Autostyle Competition 2012: the winners

Autostyle Competition 2012: the winners

An exclusive report from the Autostyle 2012 event, with the winning projects of the Eco Popemobile Competition design contest, won by Eric Leong and Yong Fei from Umea University.


Automotive supplier Berman not only creates accessories for leading OEMs, the company also has an enviable reputation of hosting one of the more familial events in the automotive calendar. Every year, designers from different companies all over Europe gather together for Autostyle, a conference program and design competition now in its ninth edition.

Autostyle 2012 - Serra Autostyle 2012 - Ferrari design director Flavio Manzoni

As usual, the 2012 Autostyle event played host to a series of interesting lectures by Ferrari design director Flavio Manzoni; Klemens Rossnagel, head of design research at Audi; Andreas Wuppinger, chief exterior designer at Fiat; and Peugeot design manager Anna Costamagna.

Set in a beautiful garden arena in the Mantua region of Italy, the event was also the stage for a design competition in which 22 shortlisted students from seven different universities showcased their visions for the next Popemobile.

Autostyle 2012 - Peugeot design manager Anna Costamagna Autostyle 2012 - Audi head of design research Klemens Rossnagel

The winners of the competition were selected by a panel of judges including Flavio Manzoni, Wolfgang Egger from Audi, Roberto Giolito of Fiat, Elvio D’Aprile of Toyota’s ED2 studio in France, Claudio Messale of Ford, Bentley’s Robin Page, Alessandro Maccolini of Alfa Romeo, Fulvio Cinti of Auto&Design magazine and Massimo Grandi of the Università degli Studi di Firenze.

1st Place: Volkswagen Cross Coupe Popemobile Concept

Eric Leong and Yong Fei of Sweden’s Umea University were deemed the competition’s overall winners, having secured the most votes for their Popemobile version of Volkswagen’s Cross Coupe concept.

Volkswagen Cross Coupe Popemobile Concept Design Board

Their aim was to create a vehicle that would answer the ecological aspect of the brief through the implementation of technological elements. “We wanted to show innovation through production ready materials but also new high-tech elements”, said Leong.

Volkswagen Cross Coupe Popemobile Concept Design Board

The concept includes a spray-on battery pack, a working prototype of which was developed at Rice University in Texas; roof-mounted solar panels that mimic the look of canvas, but are made from spider silk infused with titanium for enhanced durability; Kevlar-belted tires mounted on wheels inspired by those of military Humvees, but with an added graphical element; and multiple emergency access points for increased security.

Autostyle 2012 - UMEA winners with Flavio Manzoni Autostyle 2012 - UMEA winners and design board

Lexus RX 450H Popemobile Concept

Delegates in the audience were also given an opportunity to vote for their favourite concept, an award that was ultimately bestowed upon Università degli Studi di Firenze students Giacomo Alberotanza and Giuseppe Starace’s Lexus RX 450H concept.

Lexus RX 450h Popemobile Concept - Design Board

Lexus RX 450h Popemobile Concept - IdeaTaking into account the competition criteria, the Italians designed the vehicle with a ‘dual mode’ system, optimising functionality on all occasions.

We stayed two days in Carrozzeria Marazzi in Milan to study a project we would be able to realise,” says Alberotanza.

The rear section of the roof can be raised one meter, enhancing visibility when the Pope is driven through crowds, and benefitting from zero-emissions mode as it makes use of its electric motor.

The roof can also be lowered to its traditional height to make the vehicle more manoeuvrable and aerodynamic when travelling at speed.

Lexus RX 450h Popemobile Concept - Design Sketches Lexus RX 450h Popemobile Concept - Interior Design Sketches

Autostyle 2012 - Giacomo Alberotanza and Giuseppe Starace Autostyle 2012 - Giacomo Alberotanza and Giuseppe Starace

BMW’s ActiveHybrid X6 Popemobile Concept

The third place proposal, created by Istituto Europeo di Design (IED) of Torino students Aldo Maria Sica, Alessandro Daniele Capriotti and Leong Seunghun, scooped the Creativity Award.

BMW ActiveHybrid X6 Popemobile Concept - Design Board

Based on BMW’s ActiveHybrid X6 crossover, the vehicle’s blooming flower-inspired Technogel-coated bulletproof roof petals, which open in a sequence resembling a wave, made it stand out as the most conceptual and emotional proposal. “We wanted [to use] a coupe car, but not with a glass roof on the back,” says Sica.

BMW ActiveHybrid X6 Popemobile Concept - Design Sketches

As Pope Benedict XVI is also active on Twitter, Capriotti decided to incorporate Amoled surfaces into the vehicle’s design to enable the Pope to interact with his believers all over the world.

BMW ActiveHybrid X6 Popemobile Concept - Render BMW ActiveHybrid X6 Popemobile Concept - Render

Inside, an innovative seating arrangement improves security, while environmentally friendly Korean paper, suggested by team member Seunghun, provides a good tactile quality for the interior.

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