Although electric cars are becoming more common, we’ve barely scratched the surface of what they’re capable of. Removing the need for traditional fuel and relying on batteries opens up new possibilities, and not just in terms of power sources. It can offer a bit more flexibility when it comes to the form and function of the vehicle, like cars with completely digital interfaces or screens all around. There might even be room for a modular design, as this concept for a tiny Japanese electric van tries to show, allowing the manufacturer or even the owner to switch out certain parts both outside and inside to match their needs, just like pieces of a puzzle.
Designer: HW Electro
To be fair, a modular car might be a bit far down the road considering the industry is hyper-focused on standardizing electric vehicles and making self-driving features more acceptable to the masses. That’s not to say that the design is a distant possibility only, especially when the features are made to be more practical rather than fantastical. Switching out panels is probably more feasible than switching out whole car parts or components, which is the kind of modularity that the Puzzle concept embodies.
At first glance, the boxy shape of the Puzzle will already look strange to those not used to so-called “Kei cars,” but this kind of van design is popular in Japan for striking a balance between large interior capacity and small compact size. It’s a design that screams practical efficiency, and making it modular is taking it to the next level. But unlike what you might be imagining, the Puzzle’s pieces, pardon the pun, are limited to swapping out certain panels at the sides, corners, and even inside. It’s a bit of a generic system that opens up quite a number of possibilities but, more importantly, it also doesn’t tie them down to a specific design or part. It also makes replacing damaged panels easier and more economical, something that you can only dream of with regular cars.
The Puzzle van also has secrets to reveal inside its extremely spacious cabin. The interior door panel has slots that make it possible to add and remove different modules, such as containers, cup holders, and the like. Even the dashboard has this kind of design, yielding a clean yet flexible space for expanding the van’s capabilities, especially in the infotainment aspect. The cargo space, which is practically a cube, is also more space-efficient for storing boxes and all sorts of large objects, making the EV a potential delivery vehicle.
Thanks to the boxy form of this Kei car, it’s possible to put a solar panel on the roof to really maximize its battery mileage. Modular and sustainable, the Puzzle minivan concept offers an extremely simple yet effective solution to the future of electric vehicles, one that espouses the Japanese spirit of minimalism and practicality where form clearly follows function.