Long, low and covered in shimmering gold diamond-shapes, the Renault EZ-Ultimo concept car, unveiled at the Paris Motor Show, looks unlike any car the French automaker has ever produced. Or, for that matter, unlike any car anyone has ever made.
Looking toward a future in which autonomously driven electric cars are hired to shuttle occupants around town, Renault designers envisioned the most luxurious version of such a machine. A high-end luxury hotel might have a fleet of these to carry guests to and from the airport, said Renault designer Stephane Janin. Or a couple might rent one for a special night on the town.
Renault designers have been exploring several different types of driverless vehicles. At the Geneva Motor Show in March, Renault showed off a less ornate vehicle called the EZ Go. It explored the idea of public autonomous transportation. With simple bench seats and huge windows, it could provide an inexpensive ride around a city.
In the EZ-Ultimo, on the other hand, a few occupants are concealed behind lattice windows covered in shimmering champagne-colored diamond shapes that look like fish scales. The car’s profile is low and sleek to suggest speed.
“It could have been much simpler but we wanted to create a piece of art,” said Janin.
Passengers can see out, but no one outside can see them. The EZ-Ultimo’s techno-baroque exterior hides a futuristic smoking lounge interior with wood, deep green leather and marble surfaces.
Instead of looking to luxury cars for inspiration in creating the interior, designers turned to high-end boutique hotels.
“We are lucky in Paris that there are many new [boutique hotel] projects going on and we went to many of them,” Janin said.
Since the vehicle is self-driving, designers were freed from having to create a traditional automotive interior with a focus on a forward-facing cockpit. Instead occupants face one another in seats that resemble nice office furniture, including armchairs and a bench seat.
As this is a concept vehicle, designers had much greater freedom than if they were working on a car that had to meet real-world requirements. Given how closely it hugs the ground, for instance, the EZ-Ultimo clearly could not drive for long on real roads.
Still, the vehicle suggests some general possibilities for a rapidly approaching world in which automobiles take on new roles as people are freed from having to control them. Despite its opulence, the EZ-Ultimo is also designed to be affordable to rent — at least for short periods of time — to almost anyone, said Janin.
The car was unveiled as Renault celebrated the 120th anniversary of its founding by brothers Louis, Marcel, and Fernand Renault in 1898. Their initials, LMFR, are embossed in the car’s interior. Today, the automaker is part of the Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi Alliance. Last year, the Alliance announced a program to work together more closely on electric and autonomous vehicles.