Can you imagine driving a ultra-lightweight, solar-powered plastic car? If designer Harsha Ravi has his way, the lean, green Globetrotter car will be the future of transportation. Winning him the coveted Young Designer of the Year Award, Ravi’s car design for 2017 is independent of fossil fuels, packed with eco-friendly technologies, and cuts back the weight and bulk of today’s gas guzzlers. His design employs a carbon-neutral, bioplastic body that is 12% petroleum-based and 88% corn-based, which cuts manufacturing energy by 30%. And there’s more: a zinc-air fuel cell, a nano-paper battery, airless tires, nanopaints to absorb solar energy while parked to charge its batteries, and woven seat material. The Globetrotter is, indeed, the ultimate “tread lightly” automobile for the environment-savvy consumer.

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Ravi designed his first car at the age of 13. His childhood penchant for sketching people and landscapes finally earned him accolades when he was honored with the Young Designer of the Year Award in October for the Globetrotter . The award is instituted by the magazine Wheels, in conjunction with the Australian Design Awards. It recognizes and rewards Australia’s outstanding young automotive designers.

Ravi is a Chennai-born NRI and a part-time student at Monash University in Melbourne, Australia, where he is pursuing a bachelor’s degree in industrial and product design. His exceptionally eco-friendly car was selected out of 17 entries at this year’s competition. The eight-judge panel included experts like GM Holden design director Antony Stolfo, Australian International Design Awards executive director Brandon Glen, Nielsen Design Associates managing director Sandy McNeil, and Newcastle University industrial design head Graham Paver.

This year’s competition marked the 50th anniversary of the Fiat 500, and the designs were required to be 2+1, 500 cc, and 500 kg. The judging criteria included innovation, intelligence of design, visual impact and form, functionality, quality, as well as design for manufacture and maintenance, ergonomics and semantics, safety, and environmental considerations.

The award entitles Ravi to a $50,000 three-month internship at GM’s North American design studio in 2008, where he will work with a team of international students on an advanced design project. He will also get a $15,000 trip to a major international motor show in 2008, funded by aXcess of Australia. Other designs that were highly commended at the competition were H500 by Tanveerul Islam and Roll up by Edwin Yi Yuan.

+ Globetrotter at Economic Times + Globetrotter at The Hindu + Wheels Magazine