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23hrs 55mins and the suspension collapsed.
Challenge yourself, be prepared, don’t assume, have a plan, be adaptable and never give up.
3 weeks beforehand I was offered a drive in the ’96 Nurburgring 24 hours race – a complex track, new car, lack of recent racing – a challenge and opportunity I just couldn’t miss.
But could I do myself justice and not let the team down?
At the time I was working in the Mitsubishi Design Centre near Frankfurt, so meeting the UK team wasn’t possible but driving the legendary 13 mile Nordschleife was! The GP part of the circuit would be learnt at the event itself. With fellow designer Tony Pettman strapped in taking notes, 3 laps were completed before the brakes and tyres cried enough. Not perfect preparation but I gathered as much information as I could to reduce the uncertainties.
Arriving for the race, being a UK team, I had assumed the car would be right-hand drive. It wasn’t. The track picture in my head had to move by a metre and initially approaching left corners the right wheels were touching the grass and I was missing the clipping point. During my first practice laps, times dropped by 10s of seconds, but I was soon on the pace.
The team’s plan for the race was to coincide the fueling and brake maintenance stops, so 2 hour stints for the 3 drivers for a consistent and fast but not punishing pace. This was a marathon not a sprint.
The race for us wasn’t about outright victory, that was for the works teams and this time included the only female winner Sabine Reck (Schmitz). We aimed to win our class and after 18 hours the class leader was just over a lap ahead, when an unexpected failure cost us 5 laps or 55 minutes, fixed by our resourceful team who had been awake all night. A top 3 finish became the goal and the strategy changed to longer stints driven flat out.
For 2.5 hours I had the exhilaration of driving quickly around the notorious Nurburgring, through smoke and smell of campers’ BBQs. The ABS failed half way through my stint but still the lap times came down as each lap I learnt more about this incredible circuit. Handing over driver duties the speed was maintained – never giving up. We closed in on 3rd place, when with 6 minutes left the front suspension of the Subaru collapsed approaching the finish line having completed 100 laps.
Our car, the only Mercedes, passed the stricken car to complete 101 laps for 3rd place in class, a great team effort.
Events outside our control can disrupt our plans, the last year being a perfect example, but at Drive we adapted as individuals and a team, with new methods, technologies, clients and projects. I often challenge myself, not always successfully, but it can have its rewards, as it did on this occasion.
https://bit.ly/3zZTaAK Nurburgring Track
Ed Stubbs, Final Year tutor, ran a series – Automotive and Transport Design Course Podcast Interviews, during the lock down to keep the students in touch with various figures from the automotive industry.
On this occasion he caught up with Chris Longmore to discuss drive, Consultancy and the continued support of the course with the Drive Sketchbook Award.
Previous winners include Jordan Barnes and Marco Gulla.
Established automotive manufacturers including VW, Ford and General Motors are now setting out their plans to be electric vehicle brands, numerous Chinese companies such as Byton and Nio are staking their claims to become established global OEMs in the future while recent news suggests start-ups such as Canoo and Fisker (again) are finding getting traction can be problematic.
So it got me wondering whether further down the road it will be the Chinese electric scooter manufacturer Niu Technologies everybody’s talking about.
Niu Technologies was founded in 2014, with the goal of designing a stylish, smart-tech electric scooter (e-moped) and selling it to consumers in China, a market that was ready to be disrupted with lithium powered electric technology. They also developed the “Smart Niu” app that relays scooter performance as well as being a Security Alert Theft Protection system where you are warned if the scooter is tampered with when left.
Today, NIU is one of the world’s leading provider of smart urban mobility solutions, with over 600,000 electric mopeds sold worldwide over the last year, having adopted an omni-channel retail model, integrating online channels with their network of Flagship Stores, Premium Stores and Dealers, from Los Angeles to Paris. This sales growth has a lot to do with the coinciding of events, climate change awareness encouraging the reduction of fossil fuels usage, the need to reduce traffic congestion and Covid discouraging the use of public transport and sharing of rental transport.
The different series of products they provide address the needs of different segments of modern urban residents and resolve the demands of different scenarios of urban travel, while being united through a common design language that emphasizes style, freedom and technology.
New electric vehicle manufacturers need to cultivate brand loyalty and NIU are already doing this. Through their global presence Niu have the advantage should they look to disrupt the micro-mobility market further by introducing a small urban ‘car’ to their range, using the knowledge they have gleaned through their current customers.
Building on the brand awareness, with their dealership network in place, Niu are already in a very strong position compared to most of the ‘new’ car brands to be accepted by potential car purchasers. As an already profitable business and established NASDAQ listed company in its own right, there is a lot of reasons they should feel confident about the future.
Clearly developing a vehicle presents different challenges to an e-scooter, but as companies such as Opel and Peugeot have proved, starting with two wheels can lead to very successful car brands.
Neither I or Drive have any affiliation or working relationship with Niu Technologies
Image Credits – Niu Store courtesy of www.niu.com – Concept Car courtesy of Drive
Former drive designer Mark Przeslawaski gives his thoughts on what a graduate designer’s portfolio should contain for a car designer job application —
I often get reminded, here at Drive, that design is all about opinion, so here’s mine on the dark and scary world of job applications. So you can take some of it on board, all of it on board or none at all and prove me wrong.
It’s the age old and favourite past time of anyone seeking a career in the automotive industry, the application phase. From designers to alias modellers, we are all aware that our industry doesn’t tend to favour the conventional CV and cover letter with a careful placement of buzz words/phrases like ‘I can manage a team of people and take on individual responsibilities’. Although these are areas we all have to consider, at the end of the day, the dreaded ‘P’ word is what we are all thinking right now….your Portfolio. So let’s start with my do’s and don’ts of the most important aspect of an application.
First of all, know who you are applying to, if all you have is speed boats and lawn mowers in your portfolio then I would say it is quite rare that an automotive studio will consider you. Research the studio / brand and try your best to think of what they might look for in a candidate.
“You are only as good as your worst piece of work”. This cannot be said enough, and I wish someone had told me this at university too! As a designer especially, your portfolio will mainly be put under the eyes of other designers, we love looking at them, we want to be excited, we want to see that sketch or render that inspires us and then we will want you! So let‘s throw away lifeless package drawings of translucent, colour filled boxes that say “batteries” or “motors”, and the 97.5 percentile Dutch males that you’ve squashed into your vehicle, we can save all this for when we actually have to face reality, when designing a real car for manufacture (and you may not even have to worry about this).
Keep your projects to a minimum, we see 56 page portfolios with about 10 projects in. These are too big to keep/capture our attention for the period of time it would take to digest that amount of information / wade through it. We are designers ourselves and therefore have to design things and unfortunately you can’t spend all day every day looking at portfolios! Now this is the hard bit, discarding older projects as your skills have improved …. nearly impossible to do sometimes as you probably hold emotions for each project as if they were your own child. They aren’t your children and they don’t have emotions, cut them out and be brutal. Do it, cut it down, get through it. Even if you are left with 3 projects, this will the make us think that you can do everything of this level.
From my own experience as a Coventry graduate, cut out the following 1. Clay head project 2. Any ergonomics based project with lights that reflect your mood 3. An alias model or render which is then repeated in different colours to show colour choices up to 5-6 times (padding out your portfolio?).
Variations of design work. The tricky creative taboo topic, difficult to answer without causing a whole world of design debates and potential Ted talks animosity establishing what design is and how we should approach it. Try to mix it up, don’t just have 3 projects of space ships and fantastic speed painting art work, show that side of you by all means it’s great to see, however try and include some good old fashioned automotive design, displaying an understanding of surfacing, brand interpretation and proportion over 4 conventional wheels.
Your portfolio should be an extension of yourself, it should be presented in a way that you want it to be. Your style should be natural rather than something that is forced. Always be honest with the way that you work, whether you are all about hand sketching or a Photoshop wizard, show how you work as we all have different ways we do things.
A great way to stay sharp, get your name out there and they really keep you on your toes. Polestar, the Michelin design challenge and interior motives to name but a few, the briefs are usually fun, and if it is not fun then you need to twist their brief to do so! No one wants to design something boring in their spare time. These usually have no engineering requirement, package constraints or a need to convince university tutors to what you are doing, go forth and have fun!
Keep it simple, if you don’t have that much experience it’s ok, we have all been in your shoes at some point and we don’t expect to see years of experience from a student. Whatever you do, please don’t write that you have been ‘freelancing’, it’s a term we all know, love and laugh about, and it means you are probably skint after uni, living at home with your parents with a remedial part time job doing your portfolio and design competitions of an evening whilst your parents tell you that you should start thinking about getting into a different career.
Self Rating Charts
My last thought on this topic, which I could probably continue to preach about for another hour whilst I annoy my colleagues by seemingly moaning endlessly is this …. the self-rating skill charts! Now I’m not sure what the universities have been preaching to the students of late, but here’s my number one pointless thing to put in your portfolio if you are applying to be a designer or alias modeller. Grading yourself out of 10, maybe out of 5 stars even and stating how good you are at alias, photoshop, design or sketching ……
It won’t be right, it will probably annoy someone in the studio that you have sent it to. The idea of your portfolio or data you send is that we will be working this out, and deciding the level we see you as and if we feel you are right for said particular studio position. Whatever you do, please don’t include ‘football’ as a skill set, to which you then score yourself higher on this than any other design skills. Makes me think you should be a professional footballer instead! Hobbies are acceptable to list, but it is usually quite boring to do so, we would like to see your character in your work. (NOTE: Only exception is if you are applying to Drive where your karting lap times are important)
I hope this helps you in all your applications
Have an opinion
Get a photo of you applying a tape to a clay model
Drink green tea or a lot of coffee
Be protective over your pen
Talk about sketches with emotions and feelings
Moan about all cars on the road
Try as best possible to never mention Steve Jobs in an automotive studio
Never be truly happy with your work
Keep portfolios to no bigger than 5mb (if possible)
Drive look forward to seeing the results!
Mark Przeslawski SAIC Design Advanced London
The race to produce the first production autonomous supercar is well and truely on, as many doomsayers mourn the passing of true driving – missed gearshifts and terrible lines around corners – Supercar manufacturers and their highly specialised engineers are more excited than ever. Why? ….
…. because they will at last see their cars perform at the maximum. Currently they resign themselves to the fact that the people who buy these ultimate performance vehicles are unable to exploit the full potential of the car.
Far from autonomous cars reducing us all to the lowest common denominator commuter speeds, the real benefit is for ‘B’ road experiences like never before.
With autonomous control, owners will choose their preferred setting, not suspension stiffness but style of driving, clicking the dial to their driver of choice, from Alonso all the way to the Max …… Verstappen.
Moving to autonomy has relieved the need for a steering wheel, and this reduction in production costs for right and left hand drive, has allowed other manufacturers to contemplate entering the supercar market, and niche brands to compete on more even terms. With steering wheels, pedals and gear shifts now being additional cost options for those who wish to pretend to be driving, the commercial benefits are clear.
So with autonomous supercars using all the latest sophisticated positioning and sensor technology, the passenger phrase “Slow down, you don’t know what’s around the corner” will at last be erased from the English language.