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Posted: Jul 12, 2014

BMW concept car 3D-printed from local materials in the Serengeti

(Nanowerk News) The automotive industry is conservative and doesn’t take enough responsibility in emerging markets. Thus, countries such as China and India have experienced huge problems with pollution as they have increased their living standards and entered the western consumption society. In these booming economies there are still people who live their lives according to old customs, in small sustainable societies. It is also they who suffer most from the ongoing urbanization. Hence the automotive industry should rather adapt to their cultures than let these people adjust to the consumption society.
Now, imagine a third industrial revolution where sustainable energy and manufacturing set the standards for production. Africa is then in the forefront when it comes to alternative and sustainable solutions. Maasaica is a concept from BMW, design by Swedish designer Erik Melldahl, which is locally built in Serengeti using 3D printing technology, degradable materials and traditional handcraft.
Massaica concept car
The intention with Maasaica was to do a concept, which will leave questions and thoughts about how to best design a sustainable, locally produced car. Another aim with the project was to question the methods and ideas of the conservative automotive industry. However, Massaica doesn’t give all the answers to how to produce and design sustainable car, but is a step in the right direction on how the automotive industry can contribute to a more sustainable society.
By considering important issues such as climate change and the conditions in the 3rd world during the early phase of this project, Melldahl has had a different approach than many other student’s design projects. Massaica is designed beyond mobility.
Melldahl's main inspiration came from the Maasai culture and new ways of manufacturing. A future scenario of Africa in 2040 was created by collecting information from United Nations, The World Bank, The Economist etc.
The name Maasaica comes from the Latin word for the lion species in Kenya, Panthera Leo Masaica.
The result is a contextual concept vehicle, which is meant for the Maasai tribe in Serengeti. However, the story of the Maasai’s is similar to many other fragile habitats which are facing the challenges of urbanization. Therefore, similar concepts could be developed for other traditional societies around the world. However those concepts would have to be adapted to those societies’ needs and cultures.
Massaica concept car
Imagine Africa in 2040 as a global leader and a sustainable society. The African population has gone from using very traditional forms of transportation to sustainable vehicles. The Maasais would be recognized both regionally and internationally for being in the forefront when it comes to technology, entertainment, fashion and design. If BMW doesn’t offer them a transportation sollution they will make it themself.
By taking advantage of traditional craftmanship, new manufacturing methods and existing African mentality of upcycling, the concept Maasaica is showing how the automotive industry could take part of the 3rd new sustainable industrial revolution. A revolution that would create an Africa that would have no negative effects on the environment.
The final design is showing “Visual Sustainability” as well as visual lightweight. The car’s interior is visible from outside and the vehicle has the silhouette of a lion, but still kept simple, letting the tribe signature and local handcrafts get the most attention.
The main body is made of Mushroom mycelium/grass composite which is reinforced with a 3D printed structure. The 100% degradable composite can be grown in just a few days.
The surface of the vehicle is a membrane, which is collecting fog during the night and making a self-sufficient system for cooling green house and motors. It will also collect water for the villages. The lack of water is a big problem today and will become even bigger in the future in Africa.
Massaica concept car
The doors do not have any visible hinches and have similarities to the GINA concept. When getting into the rear, you pull the fabric backwards for easy access.
The vehicle will be connected to a cloud which BMW has developed. The Cloud provides all the touch-points when buying the vehicle, during manufacturing as well monitoring the product’s lifecycle to make sure there are no negative environmental or social impacts.
As a consumer you are licensing the blueprints from BMW, handing it over to the local factory and share the vehicle with your village. The materials that are needed for manufacturing are rented by BMW from the government.
The infrastructure is not dependent on roads when living as nomadics so what the Cloud is providing is of importance, information such as road conditions and good areas for settlement, pasture lands when herding etc.
The Cloud also provides services such as finding resources, air quality, water access, weather reports and monitoring the vehicle’s status. Thus, the vehicle has an important role in the village, Boma, since it will share information via the cloud 24/7.
Additionally, the vehicle takes advantage of the sun by collecting sun during the day with efficient solar panels, so that it has enough energy for normal usages. The motor is easy to access for repairing, and is easy to replace with whatever motor or engine that can be found that time.
Maasaicas tires are leaving tracks from a lion, because the idea of not leaving any human footprint in nature.
Source: Umea University
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