habitat and its readers don’t admit it that often, but now and then ideas are presented and we can’t help but be blown away by them. One such example is the unveiling of a concept battery electric vehicle (BEV) by Lexus, the LF-Z Electrified1. The boundaries of functionality and design are pushed further than ever here: From the most exciting designers in the sneaker space right now designing its virtual interiors with visceral sensations that subtly regulate mood, the hyper-futuristic visions of this car go past any known language or concept.Imagine a concert hall-like experience from a car’s audio system among a copious array of other wow factors. We can forget about what is usually used in the automotive interior industry with this delightful example of avant-garde engineering and design.
To deliver the significant evolution of vehicle performance using electrification technology, the LF-Z Electrified1 adopts a dedicated BEV platform. It features a new four-wheel driving force control technology known as DIRECT4, which uses the instant responsiveness of an electric motor’s driving force to individually control each wheel for superior and highly flexible driving performance.
By fusing the electrification technologies and vehicle motion control technologies that Lexus has long cultivated, a core aim is to evolve driving performance in a way that better connects driver and vehicle. Drawing from advanced lithium-ion battery technology, the LF-Z Electrified1 realises a maximum 600km cruising range [WLTP] on a single charge. Impressive key stats reveal 400kW of power, 700Nm of torque and a 0 – 100km/h performance in 3.0 seconds.
The sculpted and emotional exterior of the LF-Z Electrified1 strongly accentuates the uniqueness of Lexus design and expresses the dynamic and agile driving sensation delivered by high-output electric motors. To further provide a ‘uniquely BEV’ driving experience, the interior is equipped with a Tazuna cockpit of open and minimalist design. The interior embodies an elevated level of the human-centred Lexus approach – an ethos that has been a foundation of the Lexus brand since 1989.
Through dialogue with the driver and based on having learned the driver’s preferences and behavioural traits, Artificial Intelligence (AI) has evolved as a lifestyle concierge – proposing routes and making restaurant reservations, among other functions. By enhancing safety and security along the way, AI enriches the mobility experience.
The LF-Z Electrified1 evolves the Lexus driving signature, which translates as a linear response that’s faithful to the driver’s intentions, including the feeling of seamlessly connecting braking, steering and acceleration in all driving situations. The LF-Z Electrified1 achieves an ideal balance and inertia by optimally positioning the battery and motors. This electrification technology allows for innovative packaging and design, and raises the Lexus driving signature to an even higher level by significantly evolving the basic performance of the vehicle.
By orienting the 90kWh lithium-ion battery assembly longitudinally under the floor of the vehicle, the chassis becomes more rigid and the centre of gravity of the LF-Z Electrified1 is lowered for agile dynamics. In addition, this design helps mitigate vibrations and noise levels within the passenger cabin. The Lexus DNA of quietness and ride comfort has evolved dramatically, yet remains a core focus in all models.
The new four-wheel drive force control technology, DIRECT4, allows the drive force of the high-torque motors to be controlled individually, enabling the vehicle’s posture to be finely controlled according to human senses and inputs. By controlling the front and rear drive wheels independently, the appropriate drive system is provided – front-wheel drive, rear-wheel drive, or all-wheel drive – for each driving situation.
The system controls the distribution of driving force through the seamless orchestration and calculation of accelerator pedal application and steering wheel operation, resulting in powerful acceleration and exhilarating cornering performance that aligns to the driver’s intentions.
The use of steer-by-wire eliminates the need for a mechanical connection through the steering shaft, resulting in a more direct response between steering operation and driving force. This enables the vehicle to turn with a reduced steering angle –and greater precision – in response to driving conditions.
The LF-Z Electrified1, as a study model that suggests the evolutionary direction of Lexus styling, aims for a simple and captivating shape rooted in strong proportions and a distinctive appearance. Specifically, the overall form, which starts low in the front and peaks toward the rear, as suggestive of a BEV, is composed of a continuous silhouette centred on a smooth cabin. Large-diameter wheels that transmit the power of the high-power electric motors to the road surface are situated as much as possible at the vehicle’s four corners for a wide stance with a low centre of gravity.
Lexus has taken up the challenge of evolving the Lexus design icon of the spindle shape into a spindle body as the overall body architecture in a new form of expression. The aim was to create a three-dimensional design that transforms the form of the vehicle body itself into the icon of the Lexus brand and to continuously develop functional expressions and styling that keep abreast with the evolution of technology.
The use of DIRECT4, which individually controls the driving force of the four wheels, enabled styling that evokes the image of dynamic driving in which the distribution of driving force is linearly shifted. The accentuation of the doors fluently transitions from the front wheels to the rear wheels, which are surrounded by shiny, projecting, flare-shaped moulding.
In the rear, a clean and simple horizontal design combines with the moulding that emphasises the projecting wheels to express a powerful stance in support of a torque-strong driving force. Also, horizontally displaying ‘LEXUS’ in the continuous slender rear combination lamp contributes to styling that, along with the front of the vehicle, symbolises the next generation of Lexus.
To articulate a key characteristic of the Lexus ethos – a human centred approach to decision making – the cockpit was designed based on the new concept of Tazuna (Japanese for rein). Inspired by the relationship between horse and rider, who communicate through a single rein, steering wheel-mounted switches and the vehicle’s head-up display have been highly coordinated to create a space in which various functions, such as the navigation system, audio system, and driving mode selection, can be performed while concentrating on driving and without movement of the driver’s line of sight or need to operate complicated switches.
While the cockpit is a key focal point, the low positioning of the instrument panel relative to the vehicle occupants and other measures are used to express a refreshing minimalism and a space that offers true omotenashi: the Japanese art of hospitality embodied by Lexus.
The interior has been made a clean and high-quality space by a form that seamlessly connects the cowl to the front doors and on to the rear doors. Also, a panoramic roof includes long panes of glass that invokes a feeling of openness, emphasising the minimalist environment.
While the augmented-reality head-up display, gauges, touch display, and other information-provision functions are grouped into a single module, driving system functions are concentrated around the steering wheel. This suggests the direction of next-generation Lexus interior styling, with expanded forward visibility and the driver being naturally invited to look forward.
In the LF-Z Electrified1, Artificial Intelligence (AI), which learns the driver’s preferences and behavioural characteristics, provides constant support to the driver. Voice communication contributes to improved operability while driving. The voice recognition system uses the latest AI to recognise, learn, and adapt to a driver’s habits and preferences, supporting with tasks such as determining driving routes and making restaurant reservations. Such interactivity between AI and driver leads to a fruitful dialogue, improving the overall ownership and driving experience, while adding colour to the customer’s life as a lifestyle concierge.
The use of a digital key allows family and friends to access the car without having to hand over a conventional key, in addition to operating the vehicle with a smartphone, such as opening and closing the door locks. Also, by enabling service providers to access the car via the digital key, it will be possible to provide vehicle-linked services such as package delivery to the car or car sharing.
The E-Latch system in the LF-Z Electrified1 makes door opening and closing smoother and safer. When boarding, the retractable door handle automatically appears above the vehicle’s surface when a driver or passenger approaches with key in hand. The door can be unlocked and opened smoothly by touching the sensor inside the handle. When exiting the vehicle, the door can be opened by pressing the door-opening switch. An added benefit: LF-Z Electrified’s1 sensors scan the surrounding environment for oncoming and adjacent traffic prior to passenger egress to provide an additional layer of passenger safety.
The panoramic roof, which gives a sense of openness, uses electrochromic glass and is equipped with entertainment functions such as dimming for privacy and shade, or illumination to reflect the night sky. In the centre of the roof is a touch panel that connects the front and rear seats and is used for communication between passengers. The reclining rear seats are equipped with a massage function, while travelling.
The next-generation Mark Levinson®2 audio system can reproduce a concert hall-like audio experience. With the next-generation sound management function, active noise cancellation facilitates interaction or privacy amongst passengers, providing a quiet and comfortable interior space.
Blending future aesthetic with organic materials and bright colours
Kicking off the series is award-winning footwear designer Salehe Bembury, whose interior design concept embraces the future. Bringing his nature-inspired design approach to the LF-Z Electrified, Bembury conceptualised a virtual interior that blends both a futuristic aesthetic with organic materials, alongside his signature use of bright colour.
‘I want this car to feel like a seamless juxtaposition of machine and nature,’ says Bembury. ‘Equally utilising the function of the machine and the benefits and nature to fuel and nurture the passengers to their destination.’
The concept uses colours inspired by sandstone landscapes and other natural tones, setting aside traditionally futuristic materials in favour of natural materials like cedar, cork and granite. These natural materials sit alongside textiles and patterns that reference Bembury’s background in sneaker design, such as a ‘hairy’ suede used on the seatbacks, and a fingerprint motif that is often found in the designer’s work, applied here for a personalised control panel.
‘Just as he has done with footwear, Salehe has pushed the envelope of what design can be in terms of material selection, silhouette and storytelling,’ says Bolain. ‘He is one of the most exciting designers in the sneaker space right now, and he embodies the bold thinking and energy that we see in Lexus’ future.’
Seamlessly embracing future technologies rooted in thoughtful consideration
Forgoing traditional notions of car design and transporting the Lexus LF-Z Electrified further into the future, Ondrej Zunka’s concept car features space-age mechanisms, sci-fi materials and multi-dimensional hues that transcend both time and space. ‘This interior design is purely speculative, so I allowed for free associations and pure imagination and creativity,’ says Zunka. ‘I wanted to make the interior feel as if it wasn’t made by humans, but maybe designed by a sophisticated artificial intelligence. I wanted to go past any known language and design concepts and forget about what is usually used in automotive interior design.’
Looking at Lexus’ commitment to intuitive technology, Zunka, through the lens of his digital art practice, renders a virtual interior that pushes the boundaries of functionality and design. The tech-forward interior imagines intelligent lighting along the car’s panels that emit an entirely visceral sensation that subtly regulates mood. Translucent silicone seat cushions with memory foam-like properties and a panoramic ceiling, crafted from brushed chrome, complete Zunka’s hyper-futuristic vision for the Lexus LZ-F Electrified.
Leather craftsmanship rooted in Japanese heritage
With their deep focus on the natural material characteristics of leather, Tokyo-based fashion label Hender Scheme was a natural fit to reflect Lexus’ Japanese heritage and takumi craftsmanship. For their LF-Z Electrified virtual interior, Hender Scheme imagines an entirely leather interior juxtaposed with the concept vehicle’s ground-breaking technology. The untreated, organic material will develop a ‘patina’ over time, deepening in colour and becoming unique to each vehicle. The concept reflects the passage of time and the driver’s relationship to the vehicle.
In a process that mirrors the 60 000 hours of experience required of a Lexus takumi craftsman, the design is rooted in the work of specialty craftsmen from Asakusa, Tokyo. At the beginning of the process, leather requires trained eyes to identify its natural material characteristics for use on the project such as thickness and elasticity. From there, molding methods would be introduced to shape the leather to the roof, doors and dashboard, beautifully finishing these sculptural parts.