Mitsubishi MMR25
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Preview: L.A. Auto Show’s Design Challenge

Mitsubishi MMR25
By Colin Ryan, Special to the Los Angeles Times

A highlight of the L.A. Auto Show, happening Nov. 21-30, is the L.A. Design Challenge, in which competing car companies artistically render their most futuristic visions of what vehicles may be like 20 years hence. This year’s contest theme is “Motorsport in the Year 2025,” which has given applicants plenty of scope to let their imaginations run wild.

We’ve already seen one entry (the Mitsubishi MMR25) for the Design Challenge, but now we can check out the full complement of nine contenders.

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 (Mitsubishi)
Audi R25
Audi R25

Picture the scene: It’s the American Le Mans Series of 2025. Incorporated into the track are tunnels where cars race upside down and along high-velocity banking. Tempting drivers to the tops of these features are wireless electrical-charging zones offering free energy and the chance for fewer pit stops. Audi has just turned up to the grid with this, the R25, a product of the Audi Design Center in California. It uses an electric motor along with biofuel made from algae, active micro-control surfaces for optimal airflow and HD cameras with real-time data links -- allowing spectators to experience the race through monitors and virtual-reality booths.

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 (Audi)
BMW Salt Flat Racer
BMW Salt Flat Racer

This machine is powered by hydrogen (theoretically) and consists of existing ordinary and mundane materials. Old oil barrels and barbecue lids help to form the body and wheels. The tires are airless and can be re-vulcanized or re-treaded. BMW calls its creation “friendly, whimsical and sustainable.” The only aspect that doesn’t fit the description is the rather sinister idea of using goldfish as co-pilots or, as BMW puts it, “canaries in a coal mine.” The idea being that if the fish become sick, then the engine is running too rich. Hmmm.

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 (BMW)
GM Chaparral Volt
GM Chaparral Volt

Why is it no surprise that General Motors has entered something with Volt in the name? Designed for the 2025 revival of the Los Angeles Grand Prix, the Chaparral Volt uses extended-range electric vehicle technology that seems inspired by that great funk band of the 1970s Earth, Wind & Fire. GM reasons that each of those is abundant in California. Earth-wise, gravity and momentum-capture regeneration provide highly efficient braking. Rear turbine extractors cool power cells and provide aerodynamic force, which covers the wind section. And the sun’s fire becomes solar energy for the Chaparral Volt’s primary kinetic force.

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 (General Motors)
Honda Great Race 2025
Honda Great Race 2025

In this hypothetical event, competitors must circumnavigate the globe in 24 hours, crossing the United States by land, traversing Asia by sea (does Honda believe that all of Asia will be underwater by 2025?) and flying over Europe. This machine has sonar and echo-location sensors to detect changes in speed, terrain and altitude so it can switch to any configuration.

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 (Honda)
Mazda Kaan
Mazda Kaan

Lance Armstrong might be partly to blame for this. In the minds of Mazda’s design team, California’s freeways have been resurfaced with a sub-level electroconductive polymer that powers electric cars. This system has given rise to the E1 race series, and the Kaan uses its technology to reach an emissions-free 250 mph. By employing strategies similar to cycling pelotons, the tighter a group of racers stays together, the more aerodynamic the pack becomes.

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 (Mazda)
Mercedes-Benz Formula Zero Racer
Mercedes-Benz Formula Zero Racer

Naturally, Mercedes-Benz has gone somewhat upmarket. The Formula Zero Racer is described as “incorporating the thrill of Formula One, the track dynamics of the bobsled or luge, and the grace and efficiency of yacht racing.” It has an electric motor in each wheel hub, a solar skin and a high-tech rigid sail. In this dreamed-up sport, participants all have the same amount of energy and must manage it wisely to win. Meanwhile, a transparent track allows spectators to see the race from below if they choose.

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 (Mercedes-Benz)
Mitsubishi MMR25
Mitsubishi MMR25

These multi-terrain, omnidirectional wheels are really something. They consist of eight independently controlled motors, providing 8x4-wheel drive. The MMR25 can go forward while it’s facing sideways, or go sideways while it’s facing forward. This machine is ideal for any kind of race where the surface has low levels of grip, like rallying or ice racing.

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 (Mitsubishi)
Toyota Le Mans Racer
Toyota Le Mans Racer

This is Toyota’s idea of the ultimate endurance race car. It runs on fuel cells, with extra electricity coming from photovoltaic body panels. When the racer is in high-speed mode, the body and wheels narrow, creating less drag, to reach a top speed of 350 mph. In cornering mode, they become wider for a stable stance and maximum tire contact. The cockpit is completely enclosed, with all-digital information displays for the driver. A robot copilot manages the systems and oversees running repairs.

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 (Toyota)
Volkswagen Bio Runner
Volkswagen Bio Runner

According to VW, the Baja 1000 is still happening in 2025 -- but it will have a “One Tank Unlimited Solo Class” in which each driver has just 10 gallons of patented biosynthetic jet fuel to play with and a dual-turbine engine that spins up to 500,000 rpm. In the Bio Runner, the racer sits on a motorcycle-like saddle inside a protective cage and works controls attached to the hands and feet. Like a motorcycle, the cockpit can be leaned over in corners to shift the center of gravity. It is also supported by an aerial reconnaissance drone, which sends video into the cabin when visibility is limited.

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 (Volkswagen)
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