The world can’t seem to get enough of the VW camper. Here to send hearts aflutter yet again from Berkeley to Woodstock — with a stopover, this go-round, in Silicon Valley — is the Ecco concept car, a wacky futuristic camper for tech-horny hippies.
The designers, Nau, bill it rather dryly as a “zero-emissions mobile living solution.” Really, though, it’s a Microbus, an Airstream, and an EV rolled into one sleek, shiny aluminum pod that either resembles a giant Brancusi or sperm. But sperm for a reason! The shape cuts back on wind resistance and the elongated profile makes the whole thing hover close to the ground, the better for zooming along the wide open road like some kind of latter-day, techie Peter Fonda.
A solar array juices the battery. When Ecco’s parked in lurve machine mode, a PV cell-studded “membrane roof” folds out like an accordion (see above), sucking up additional solar power. The membrane roof also replicates the function of a camper pop-top, expanding to accommodate a sleeping loft. The rest of the interior manages to squeeze a kitchen, a living area, a toilet and shower, and an extra bed into a space only 8 feet wide and 15 feet long.
Obviously, Ecco is something of a lark — an exercise in pure design fantasy. But the ideas it gets at aren’t especially far-fetched; in fact, they’re downright old. As the designers write: “Since their introduction, automobiles have been a source of passion and meanings as individual as their drivers. Today they are often associated with luxury, performance or safety, but the Ecco aims to remind us they can still be about freedom.” Right on, man, right on.