C.Motion by Richard Kleijn, Automotive Design TU Delft, Netherlands

2004: China.

Scale Model and Illustrations on Display at Michelin Challenge Design™


The architect and the car designer have always been involved in some kind of hate/love relationship. As much as they respected and admired each others work, they envied each other as well. As a student of architecture at the Technical University of Eindhoven I came to realize this myself when I managed to for fill a dream by arranging to participate in an internship at Fiat Auto in Milan. I had always been passionate about cars in general and car design in particular, but this internship has left me with a much broader definition of what mobility is all about. For mobility is not just a matter of vehicles and infrastructure, it has a much greater influence on our everyday life. Mobility has given us the possibility to explore the unknown and has given birth to the networked society in which we live in today. The concept of place has less significance, since nowadays it’s no more than just a snapshot of where we are and, more important, where we’re going to. Thus we spend more and more time in a mobility landscape, instead of in our residences. This development calls for a need to give shape to mobility in a more integral way, not just as a way of getting from A to B, but as a means of improving the quality of everyday modern life. After having enjoyed the privilege of designing both cars as well as buildings I consider myself to be a mobitect, a designer of mobility solutions. Currently rounding of my thesis and taking part in the automotive design course a the faculty of Industrial Design at the Technical University of Delft I am looking forward to putting this theory in practice by virtue of a profession.


C.MOTION – “To kindly go where no man has gone before”

For centuries China stood as a leading civilization, outpacing the rest of the world in the arts and sciences. But in the 19th and early 20th centuries, China was beset by civil unrest, major famines, military defeats, and foreign occupation until the communistic regime eventually re-established the political stability. For the past few decades this communistic regime has been neglecting the rest of the world rather than trying to keep up the pace with it. Nowadays however, and although the political controls remain tight, the Chinese government is starting to realize the benefits of the free economy and is slowly but gradually opening up its doors to modern technology. China’s recent entry to the WTO is an indication that the Chinese are ready to even the score on the Western civilization.

Mission statement

This means that in China the car as a personal mean of transport can make a brand new start, departing from the current state of the art in automotive technology. This unique chance to reintroduce the car to a large part of the world has been the spark that has lead to the C.MOTION. The intention of C.MOTION is as clear as it is ambitious: to mobilize the Chinese people. Therefore, the Chinese government uses its absolute political power by introducing C.MOTION as the car for the Chinese people. The opening up of the Chinese economy to international trade has caused a tremendous flow of rural workers adrift between the villages and the cities. This development calls for a huge demand for personal transport, since the rural network of public transport is very underdeveloped and will take years to come up to standards. It’s up to the Chinese government to lead the mobilization of the Chinese people in the right tracks.


C.MOTION is mainly focused on traveling between the urban and rural areas. The car will be your companion when traveling through the rough and unexplored rural areas of China; it’s like a compass that allows you to find your way in the unknown. Its characteristics are solid (reliable in every sense) and sympathetic (to kindly go where no man has gone before). This means that the car needs to be a sympathetic appearance, first of all respecting its environment rather than making a statement to its environment like most western cars. This means that the car needs to have a rather neutral and natural image. C.MOTION will become the icon of China’s mobilization, therefore it will have a huge impact on the Chinese culture and society since it will become a familiar appearance in everyday Chinese life. Actually it will not just become part of everyday Chinese life; it will become a member of the Chinese families as well.

Design philosophy

C.MOTION has been designed around the traditional Chinese family values. Chinese families often live together in one house, where each generation (children, parents and grandparents) has its own specific privileges and duties. Since Chinese families have a hierarchic structure these privileges and duties change with the birth of a new generation. The parents are supporting the family by not just taking care of their children but of their own parents as well. The grandparents enjoy a privileged position, whilst the children are supposed to obey their parents and grandparents.

These family values are reflected in the design of the classic Chinese courtyard house. According to traditional Chinese architecture a dwelling always exists of a base, a structure and a roof. The base was usually paved (depending on the status of the family) and acted as a podium for family life. The structure plays an important part and is often left in sight and treated almost as an ornament by decorating and painting it. The construction method of varying cross-sections defining the volume also allows for a curved roof line which has a meaning of importance, as the straight roof line is to be avoided since it had no meaning of importance at all. This typical Chinese dwelling has a rather introspective ground plan. These dwellings are enclosed by a wall and all of the rooms are arranged around one or two courts. The gaze is very clearly pointed inwards, the enclosing wall has no windows and the door in the wall is always sealed of. In classic Chinese architecture walls are used as screens to seal of certain areas. The wall is just there to seal of what you’re not allowed to see, it has no constructional function at all.


The Chinese family values are being reflected in the interior of the C.MOTION; the parents are in the front (literally driving the family), the grandparents are seated in the back and the children have their place in between the two older generations. The grandparents are seated a little higher to express their privileged status within the family and to provide them a wide view overlooking their family members. Since C.MOTION has been designed from the inside out, the exterior visualizes the philosophy of the mobile court yard. The shape of the side windows is meant to prevent people outside the vehicle from looking in, since the inward pointed gaze is not appreciated. As in classic Chinese architecture, each line defines a surface; all together the lines of the exterior define the actual body of the car. The exterior of C.MOTION clearly reflects the classic elements of Chinese architecture; the base, the structure and the roof. The base is formed by the volume that holds the wheel arches and the bumpers. The structure of the car is left in sight, as it also explains the division of the interior in different zones for each generation. The curved roof line expands beyond the rear window, as a reference to its meaning of importance. The body panels seem to be no more than screens held by the structure of the car. These panels come in many diverse shapes and colors, so that C.MOTION can be configured to the taste of its family. A special feature is the “family tag” in the front of the car. This body panel is custom made for the family where the car will belong to. For instance, it can contain the family name, family sign or any other graphic relevant to the specific family. C.MOTION is front wheel driven and has a high ground clearance since about 80 percent of the rural Chinese roads have not been paved yet. This makes that the body of the car seems to float above its wheels and gives it its desired solid character. The shape of the lights refers to the Chinese lantern.


C.MOTION has been designed for the long term. Its key aspects are structure and sustainability. The structure exists of an aluminum space frame with two sub frames mounted on the front and the rear. These sub frames hold much of the technical components of the car like the engine and the suspension. This means that these parts can be easily replaced or repaired by simply demounting the entire sub frame. To make the car sustainable, these sub frames can also be replaced to upgrade the car once a new technology is available. Initially C.MOTION is powered by Toyota’s Hybrid Drive System since this technology is directly available and has proven to be reliable. This means the hybrid drive unit is located in the front whilst the batteries that power the electric engine are mounted in the back. The platform of the car leaves room for these technical components and has been designed to leave enough room for future fuel cell technology. Sustainability is not just a technological issue to keep the car up to date with the latest technologies, but mainly serves the intention to let C.MOTION be a part of the family and witness the generation shifts that will take place as time goes on. This will enable it to for fill the role of a reliable and dedicated member of the Chinese family.