Finally, Something Good From Pininfarina

While The Truth About Cars was informing us on the business model of the Autolib concept, I was thinking about something else. 

Autolib electric per-per-mile rental cars in Paris, France. Image: Wikipedia. Give them some money, please. We all use Wikipedia so cough up. Thanks.
Autolib electric per-per-mile rental cars in Paris, France. Image: Wikipedia. Give them some money, please. We all use Wikipedia so cough up. Thanks.

This is some of what the Truth About Cars wrote: The technology involves lithium metal polymer batteries, developed by Bollore’s Blue Solutions. The batteries, which don’t need liquid electrolytes to store power, are not only lighter in weight than lithium-ion packs, but can be charged up to 3,000 times, and are stable at temps up to 338 F. No one else has gone for the technology thus far, however; Bollore invested €3 billion ($3.2 billion) over three years to develop the EVs and the battery technology now in use by his ventures.”

But please go and take a look at the full article and interesting follow-up comments. The bit that I want to add is the Autolib was designed and is built by Pininfarina. Here is the exterior:

2013 Autolib exterior by Pininfarina
2013 Autolib exterior by Pininfarina.

What I notice is that Pininfarina have served up a coherent design which is among the first to really get to grips with the modern habit of using multiple feature lines. Specifically, the line that sweep up from the front axle is balanced by a line falling from the window ledge. The meet up in theory just behind the car, giving a nice impression of acceleration. Taken together they make a unified shape which is completed in the mind’s eye, as expected by Gestalt Design theory.

2013 Autolib profile edit with lines

The red lines I have added show the main “pontoon” graphic (which is used on the Citroen CX as well). The green lines show clever use of black trim to give the car a more athletic stance. There are a lot of lines. What makes them work is that they are harmonious. Other recent small cars tend to add zig-zags in a less meaningful fashion; exception are Stefan Lamm’s Opel Corsa and the 2014 Kia Picanto, for example.

Turning to the interior, here we find out what is really needed in a small car. I am surprised it’s not even more minimal. I welcome this and I can see the business case for tending for the conventional yet I would love to have seen them try even harder to whittle away the frills. A little of the Citroen C-Cactus concept thinking might have been good here. The Renault Zoe shows how else it could be done.

2014 Autolib interior, beige.
2014 Autolib interior, beige.

Look closely: the dash is made up of two principal mouldings, one upper and one lower. The A-pillar is a bit crude and there is certainly a nicer way to finish that. I suspect the original idea was for the light-colour to run under the windscreen.

These images show the Bluecar (it’s proper name; Autolib is the rental side of things) as a private car. And, lo, a bright blue interior.

2013 Autolib interior blue

The man behind this is a billionaire, Vincent Bollore whose original business was paper. His aim, to provide cheap and accessible low-pollution transport is commendable. He needs to divest from his palm oil interests though. All the good these cars might do is undermined by this rather unsavoury form of agriculture. Google it, if you have the nerve.

You can read more about BlueCar here. And I will finish with an image of the car in owner-driver garb.

Image from
Image from


Author: richard herriott

I like anchovies. I dislike post-war town planning.

4 thoughts on “Finally, Something Good From Pininfarina”

  1. Very nice indeed. The first thing one notices with the rental cars in Paris are the raw metal, unpainted (but presumably galvanised) body panels. I haven’t driven one yet but will try next time I’m there.

  2. Richard. Whereas, I appreciate the points you make about the design, I can’t share your and Laurent’s unqualified enthusiasm. For me, visibility is a total priority for a city car and, however well they have handled the rising glasshouse, that view over the driver’s right shoulder apparent in the interior illustration, is awful.

    I too would like to see a more welcoming, yet minimal dash, and your mention of the Cactus reminds me of the crushing disappointment I had when sitting in the actual production car. Talking of which, is the Cactus selling? Despite my opinion I thought it was going to be hugely popular but, in a 1,600 km drive around France a couple of weeks ago, I saw just one.

  3. Well, I’m sort of glad. Because the Cactus looks like the sort of car I’d like to see people choosing. Until you get close-up and sit in it.

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