16 Mar
Turbines, recycled wood from Venice canals & projection artwork: quite possibly the most innovative luxury EV ever

Sure it’s very early in the Auto Show season, but it would be hard to beat Pininfarina’s brilliant Cambiano concept. Moreso than most concept vehicles, the Cambiano is Pininfarina’s authoritative statement of purpose. One of the preeminent design houses on the planet, Carozzeria Pininfarina has crafted the Cambiano as a very definition of what it stands for — a stunning combination of pure, dynamic design with eco-minded engineering, both in respect to the powertrain and the very materials the vehicle is made of. As they state:

“The Cambiano redefines and reinterprets the ideas that are the basic tenets of Pininfarina design: harmonious proportions, taut lines and fluid surfaces, and a simple element that extends all along the side to underline its dynamism. The result is a very strong visual impact, emphasised by an extremely pure, aerodynamic shape based on essential and purely functional stylistic elements… an enticing combination of pure, cutting edge design and uncompromising engineering that respects the environment.”

The design of the luxury sports saloon features several flourishes, such as a large honeycomb roof and an asymmetric door configuration. Like the Hyundai Veloster, the Cambiano’s driver’s side has a single door to emphasize its sportiness, whereas the passenger’s side has two doors that open from the middle, with no central pillar for easy egress. Even the floor is unique, perfectly flat and made of an incredibly storied recycled wood: Riva 1920 has made the floor and all wood trim elements in the Cambiano out of briccole — the poles of European oak used to indicate the navigation channels inside the Venice lagoon. Apparently thousands of these 12-meter poles are replaced every year, providing a virtual forest of re-usable wood. Manually polished and oiled, the wood is rich in heritage — its surfaces detailed by holes made by Venetian marine molluscs. Now how’s that for legacy?

Interior wood trim from Venice Canal woods, detailing courtesy of marine molluscs…

The interior of the car is upholstered throughout with Foglizzo leather, intermittently customized with a diamond point punched pattern. Other interior elements are lined with polylactic acid — a “green” plastic derived from sugar substances, treacle and milk serum, which reduces petroleum use. On the dashboard rests an exclusive timepiece made by Bovet 1822. The Swiss watchmaker’s “Cambiano” Chronograph was also designed by Pininfarina, and like the Bugatti Galibier concept, the chronograph can be removed from the dashboard and worn as a wristwatch, a sports timer or even a table clock. But despite all those innovative and clever flourishes, perhaps the most unique feature of the Cambiano is its use of light. The Cambiano is the first car ever to incorporate a video-art projection into the passenger compartment. The artwork — a series of manipulated, overlapping images created specifically for Pininfarina by Spanish artist Javier Fernandez — is projected onto the ceiling so it can be enjoyed by rear seat passengers during the drive.

Even the powertrain is special. Each wheel is powered by an independently controlled electric motor, a configuration that allows for more dynamic AWD, torque vectoring and traction control, with a total of 600 kW maximum power (and 640 Nm of torque). But the extended range plug-in electric car has one more trick up its sleeve. Like the Jaguar C-X75, the Cambiano recharges its batteries with a turbine, specifically a diesel-fueled 50 kW Bladon Jets micro turbine which can be calibrated to run on various types of fuel. The micro turbine weighs just 40 kg and is much smaller (and more powerful) than a traditional piston engine, and generates low polluting emissions. And as should be expected for a luxury buyer’s needs, the turbine is outfitted with technical features that make it particularly quiet and vibration-free — moreso than any conventionally powereed luxury vehicle.

Truly, the Cambiano is a remarkably innovative vehicle. With its ingenious use of recycled wood, stunningly clean, minimal design and unique powertrain, the car has embodied all of Paninfarina’s stated goals of luxury, performance, design and sustainability. No wonder they named the car after the town where the company is headquartered.

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