Rinspeed

The annual Geneva Motor Show offers opportunities for automakers to present their latest innovations to captive audiences. This ten-day event also promotes smaller firms that are well known in the auto industry but unfamiliar to the average consumer. Swiss think tank Rinspeed has been presenting creative takes on the automobile since opening shop in 1977. The company’s founder Frank Rinderknecht thrives on challenging conventions associated with success in the automotive industry. Rinspeed’s contribution to the 2013 Geneva Motor Show is the microMAX, an all-electric vehicle that could be used to fill mobility gaps in major cities.

The microMAX is unlike other vehicles heading to Geneva thanks to unique dimensions. Rinderknecht looked at the needs of commuters when creating the microMAX’s tall frame. The vehicle reaches about six feet in height with upright seats designed for short-term travel. These seats feature seat belts as well as great views out of oversized windows. Rinspeed extended the vehicle body to ten feet long in order to accommodate four seats along with small carts and luggage. Rinderknecht seemed to start with a frame similar to the BMW Mini and stretched the frame to accommodate standing passengers.

Rinspeed focused on creating a short-range EV that could be used to handle the gap between public transit and workplaces. The microMAX offers a refrigerator ideal for passenger lunches and drinks that might become tepid over long commutes. A coffee maker provides that morning jolt for commuters without drawing too much power from the battery. Rinspeed notes that the microMAX would also be outfitted with wireless communications equipment to accommodate travelers. Rinderknecht hopes that each rider who uses the microMAX would reduce their share of carbon emissions while enjoying conversation with fellow commuters.

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This prototype was developed by a long list of collaborators that share Rinspeed’s interest in innovative design. Partners like Evonik Industries, Continental Automotive and Noser Engineering contributed greatly to the microMAX’s final design. The keywords when discussing the microMAX including comfort, convenience and versatility. Rinspeed has considered the most comfortable approach to upright seating while considering passenger safety. The inclusion of workplace necessities like a coffee maker, refrigerator and Wi-Fi ease the transition for commuters. Rinderknecht envisions adjustments to interior design that would make space for cargo and work stations for commercial clients.

Past innovations by Rinspeed show the agency’s unique approach to vehicle design. The firm has presented the Dock & Go, a modular EV that can be adjusted to handle trailers, extra seating and other optional features. The Splash is a sporty EV with onboard equipment that allows high-speed trips on waterways without much effort. The E-Go Rocket is a rocket-powered concept that looks like something out of a James Bond film. Rinspeed has focused on developing EV concepts in recent years not only in recognition of a changing market but an opportunity for greater innovation. The microMAX appears to be an entirely practical vehicle compared to these concepts and should be considered a viable transit option rather than a novelty.

Nicholas Katers is a history lecturer, freelance writer and green vehicle advocate based out of Milwaukee, WI.

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