Dezeen Magazine

Peugeot Inception Concept

City cars could become smaller thanks to electrification says Peugeot head of concepts

The "global footprint of the automotive in big cities" could shrink thanks to advances in car technology, Peugeot's Philippe-Emmanuel Jean told Dezeen at the European unveiling of the brand's Inception Concept EV.

Swapping the conventional internal combustion engine (ICE) for batteries, which are reducing in size, means car manufacturers will be able to produce spacious interiors in smaller vehicles, the Peugeot head of concept cars and brand planning said.

Front view of Peugeot Inception Concept
Peugeot unveiled its Inception Concept to European media at an event in Paris

"The footprint on ICE cars is not that good because the engine takes up a lot of space, so at the end you have a big footprint and a space for people which is not that big," Jean said.

"For electric platforms the footprint is much better because in the same space you can have a bigger space for people – that's what helps us to create this living-room effect we want in our cars," he added.

"Especially in front of the car you free more space, and that's something which is great for people but also in terms of footprint, because in a compact car you can have a space for people which is as big as a space in maybe a bigger car when you look at ICE cars."

Philippe-Emmanuel Jean at Peugeot
Peugeot head of concepts Philippe-Emmanuel Jean suggested EV technology could make cars smaller

Asked if this could lead to family-sized cars becoming smaller, Jean responded: "Clearly."

"It's also interesting for big cities because you can have more space in more compact cars, and at the end, the global footprint of the automotive in big cities is also less important – which, I think, is the direction that is important for the future," he said.

Jean spoke to Dezeen at an event in Paris where European media were given a glimpse of Peugeot's new Inception Concept electric vehicle (EV) for the first time.

Side view of Peugeot Inception Concept
The Inception Concept is billed as a design "manifesto" for Peugeot

One of the concept car's defining features is a sweeping windscreen that extends down within a foot of the front, made possible by the battery sitting on the floor of the vehicle instead of under the bonnet.

Described by Jean as a design "manifesto", the five-metre-long Inception Concept has a dramatic, angular form that was partly informed by brutalist architecture.

The concept vehicle is said to forecast the direction of Peugeot's production cars from around 2025, with the French automaker aiming to move upmarket and place a greater emphasis on the "driving experience".

Rear of Peugeot Inception Concept
The car has an angular form

Among the features in the Inception Concept expected to shortly be rolled out more widely by Peugeot is the Hypersquare, which replaces the steering wheel.

This is part of Peugeot's plan to introduce electronic steering – also known as steer-by-wire – by 2025, which will be more sensitive than conventional analogue steering.

The Hypersquare, which was informed by video games, is a rectilinear device with circular holes in each of its corners that mimic the feel of a steering wheel and also features a tablet-type touchscreen.

It replaces mechanical links with digital electric controls and is controlled by movements similar to how we use a smartphone.

In a nod to self-driving technology, at the touch of a button the Hypersquare and a cylindrical dashboard unit fold away to be replaced by a screen nearly the full width of the car.

Peugeot Inception Concept Hypersquare
A rectilinear steering device called the Hypersquare is expected to be rolled out in production cars

The car is dominated by a glass roof with dichroic Narema glazing that reflects warmer colours externally, but more blues on the inside.

Peugeot's design team took cues from the François-Mitterrand Library and Institut Français de la Mode in Paris when selecting the glass.

Other motifs expected to make it to mass-market Peugeot cars include chunky air vents and triple-strip headlights with a starry-sky effect panel.

The Inception Concept also has oversized wheels with tubeless tyres, with a colour-changing marque that stays upright as the wheels turn.

Suicide doors on Peugeot Inception Concept
Architectural glass dominates much of the car

The wheel hubs are made from a carbon-fibre-like material produced from textile offcuts leftover in the Peugeot design studio from a previous concept car project. The same material also forms the chassis.

It is one of several examples of experiments with materials used in the vehicle.

The matte finish uses less varnish than typical car paint, giving it a smaller carbon footprint while also accentuating the shine of the glass.

Peugeot Inception Concept open doors
The interior is intended to respond to advances in car engineering such as self-driving technology

Inside, brushed steel is left exposed alongside matching silvery velvet. The seats have been designed to leave parts of their materials exposed in a technique Peugeot calls "air quilting", which it claims assists recycling.

The floor is made of 3D-printed resin bumps laid over velvet. This same process was used by Emeric Tchatchoua of fashion brand 3 Paradis to produce a Peugeot-branded jacket that accompanied the Inception Concept launch.

The lower parts of the car body are also 3D printed, producing a perforated effect.

Interior of Peugeot Inception Concept
Brushed steel is juxtaposed with silvery velvet inside the vehicle

Many aspects of the Inception Concept's design, such as the amount of glass at the front and the heavily reclining seats, would not pass safety checks.

But Jean said the two-year project had enabled Peugeot's design team to try new things that would otherwise not have been possible.

"You have to think about a concept car like a laboratory for our designers," he said.

"It's really pushing the boundaries of creativity with a concept car, testing solutions in terms of design, in terms of technology, and then in parallel, adapting it for the next generation of production cars."

Rear seats of Peugeot Inception Concept
Peugeot said the design of the seats makes the materials easier to recycle

"So a concept car has really a great role to play in the future of Peugeot and yes, it's a lot of time, it's a lot of energy for the whole team, but it's really important if you want to really push the boundaries and design attractive products for the future," he added.

On the subject of using recycled materials in mainstream cars, he indicated that fully circular design remains a long way off.

"The car industry is a world of constraints so clearly it's a long process," said Jean. "What's interesting for us is to test solutions with concept cars and then work with the engineers to bring the solutions into production, but of course it also takes a lot of time."

Floor of Peugeot Inception Concept
The floor is made of 3D-printed resin bumps laid over velvet

"But it's definitely something important to us," he continued. "Today it's a matter of responsibility and it's clearly something that Peugeot wants to push forward for the future."

Peugeot, which is part of the transnational car conglomerate Stellantis Group, has made a commitment to be carbon net-zero by 2038 with all its cars sold in Europe to be electric by 2030.

Other concept cars featured on Dezeen include the colour-changing BMW i Vision Dee, the Polestar O2, which has a built-in drone, and Hyundai's electrified remake of its 1980s Grandeur saloon.

The photography is courtesy of Peugeot.

More images

Peugeot Inception Concept
Peugeot Inception Concept
Peugeot Inception Concept
Peugeot Inception Concept jacket
Peugeot Inception Concept jacket by 3 Paradis
Peugeot Inception Concept by 3 Paradis
Peugeot Inception Concept
Peugeot Inception Concept
Peugeot Inception Concept
Peugeot Inception Concept
Peugeot Inception Concept
Peugeot Inception Concept
Peugeot Inception Concept
Peugeot Inception Concept rear taillights
Peugeot Inception Concept wheel
Peugeot Inception Concept skirting