The car is the ubiquitous symbol of the twentieth century. It has transformed our lives but despite huge improvements it still pollutes and clogs our cities. Governments are already taking action, preparing to introduce legislation which will ensure emissions are kept to a minimum.

Electric powered cars are the obvious solution but need a radical image change if they're going to sell. RICHARD SEYMOUR and DICK POWELL have come up with award winning designs for kettles, cell phones, motorbikes and trains. At the invitation of Pivco, an electric car manufacturer based in Oslo, they're gearing up to tackle the electric car.

Despite huge improvements over the years there remain fundamental design features of the car which are out of step with modern living. Apart from being dirty and noisy, current designs don't make domestic tasks such as shopping and ferrying the kids to and from school any easier. The development of an electric powered car designed have mass appeal and be mass produced presents Richard and Dick with the ideal opportunity to break with convention and right some of the wrongs of modern car design.

Richard and Dick's first port of call is Norway - bastion of all that's eco-friendly. At the airport they get their first experience of the City Bee, a Pivco produced prototype electric car which is already attracting attention abroad. Pivco plan to launch their first production car, the Piv 4, in a few months but they want Richard and Dick to come up with a design which will appeal to a world market.

The designers are given an extensive tour of the Pivco factory so they can understand the thinking behind the prototypes. Pivco is keen to keep down the costs of the structure because the batteries are very expensive, but Richard and Dick want the freedom to think more radically in order to give the next Piv a dramatically new image. They believe the key to this lies in celebrating the differences of the electric car rather than adhering to the conventions of being 'car-like'.

In a brainstorming session Richard and Dick come up with a list of design innovations they believe will cultivate a funky, urban, utilitarian and above all fun image for the new line. But they are about to encounter what Richard calls "an absolutely classic design dilemma".  Pivco are adamant that costs should be kept to a minimum because of the cost of the batteries and also the investment they've made in the current Piv 4 development.  Fresh from a visit to Detroit, the birthplace of mass produced cars, Dick is inspired by the American manufacturer Chrysler's irreverence for convention and sophistication when it comes to design and believes Pivco could learn a thing or two from them.

Back in Oslo, the boys present two new concepts to Pivco. The General Purpose Vehicle or GPV uses the versatility of Pivco's plastic body technology to make up a range of different vehicles by simply locking on a different back section. As delivery vehicle, convertible or practical pickup, the rugged 'utility' identity of the GPV is designed to appeal to private lifestyle customers. Meanwhile, the Domo is born out of the needs a family vehicle, incorporating an easy access baby seat and a sliding tray at the back onto which shopping can be loaded.

It's the GPV which appeals most to Pivco but chairman JAN RINGDAL seems insistent that the existing frame is retained. Richard is skeptical - "don't expect the look without the change" he advises. Dick believes that if Pivco make too many compromises the project is in danger of becoming a missed opportunity. Richard sees the potential impasse as part of a bigger picture which illustrates the responsibilities of designers - " Design needs to fight the battle that makes the product as good as it can be for the people for whom its intended."

Dir/Series prod: Anne Laking
Prod: Richard Reisz
Prod co: TV6R
C4 Comm ed: Sara Ramsden

Mags Patten
Group Publicity Manager, Factual Programmes
tel: 0207 306 8140
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