Once again, Geneva offers the opportunity to develop research on form and contents that break away from the industrial approach that Italdesign Giugiaro adopt daily in order to supply their worldwide clients with designs that best suit their markets. The challenging "diversion" this year represents a niche theme meant to be heatedly discussed: a super-sporty extreme two-seater fuelled by hydrogen to meet the increasingly pressing need to promote and develop alternative and environment friendly propulsion systems and to explore the potential challenge offered to design by a more flexible "displacement" of the chassis lay-out in new engine, mechanical, and electronic equipments.
The decision to remove the steering wheel took Italdesign Giugiaro to the creation of a highly innovative driving system: two joysticks are fixed on the armrests of the pilot's seating and pedals unit, where all elements can be adjusted and customized to the driver's needs. The armrest/joystick/ electrical pedals and seating unit is not connected to the chassis. This and its by-wire impulses system allow to adapt the different versions with right, centre and left driving with no onerous works once the vehicle should go into production. This system presents design - construction and performance - characteristics that prompted Italdesign Giugiaro to patent it.
VAD.HO is meant to be an open "work in progress": it has been positively welcome by BMW that accepted to provide for it their series 7 12 cylinders hydrogen powered engine.
One curiosity: the acronym "VAD.HO" is a play on words that uses the name of the Vadò industrial area in Moncalieri where Italdesign Giugiaro headquarters have been located since 1974, and also refers to the hydrogen propulsion system adopted for the vehicle (vado - or "I go" in Italian - on H).
The cockpit This model immediately puts all its ambitions on the line: a longitudinal cockpit in polycarbonate emerges on the left-hand side while the right side houses the engine and hydrogen propulsion devices in the centre. The two Argonauts are seated in tandem in the fuselage, settled into a comfortable and super-equipped ergonomic cockpit.
The joysticks are fixed in the armrests that are integral with the pilot seat (the left armrest can be raised to facilitate getting in and out of the vehicle).
Designers and technicians believe that this solution facilitates naturally comfortable – and therefore stable and precise – steering manoeuvres and activation of all the joystick commands, including driving and secondary devices such as entertainment and other options.
In order to facilitate manoeuvres in curves without having to twist or rotate your wrists, the joysticks were conceived with two grips that help the necessary movements. The joystick moves back and forth along the armrest to ensure driver comfort, as well as the sliding pedal block that, hinged on the lower part, adjusts to the seat, which is in turn fixed to the chassis.
The control group is designed as an IT console with liquid crystal displays designed for aeronautic applications (EFIS – Electronic Flight Information Systems). The digital driving instrumentation is positioned centrally under the rear-view continual video monitors and the navigator; side video cameras project films externally. The surface occupied by the instrumentation is in any case limited, in order to allow the pilot maximum external visibility.
Access to IT data from the console is also available to the rear passenger by means of a dedicated joystick, similar to the driver's, and two monitors built into the back of the driver's seat. The faces of both pilot and passenger are filmed by video cameras and may appear on reciprocal monitors to enhance team interaction.
Thanks to video cameras installed in the frontal optical group, the driver can use the monitors either for parking radar and for an infrared effect for night-time driving, or interactive driving between the car and road infrastructures, when they become available.
Passengers get into the vehicle through two integrated doors/domes that are hinged lengthwise onto the structure and lift gull-wing style. The living space for the pilot and passenger are definitely comfortable because they were calculated at an "OSCAR percentile" larger than 95% and therefore more spacious than those of a luxury sedan. The rear passenger is able to stretch out his legs and change his position by adjusting the footrest platforms on the sides of the front seat. The armchairs are also equipped with four-point belts that can be regulated all around.
Passenger safety in case of collision or overturning is guaranteed by structural side reinforcements, the steel roll bar on which the two semi-domes rest, and the activation of the air bags in the oval strip under the structure at the cockpit base. The cell is equipped with "umbrella" airbags that surround both the pilot and the passenger. The upholstery materials chosen for the interior are in metallic and phosphorescent opaque grey tones: both for the silver leather armchairs and the synthetic pieces in aeronautic styling. Bolder effects were used in areas around the control console.
The package The sporty-racy ambitions of this project have imposed a wedge-shaped volume, backed up by very subtle lines and modulations that are never forced or exasperating, but rather in perfect harmony with those parameters of balance and elegance that distinguish the Giugiaro trademark. The introduction of stylistic features was intentionally avoided on this project, which is undoubtedly oriented towards contents. In fact, the VAD.HO body is characterised by a feasible decomposition with regards to production logics and meets international homologation regulations (including pedestrian accidents).
Even the overall dimensions are "reasonable". The figures are close to those of the Ferrari Maranello, a compact two-seater with similar performances: 4550 mm long, 1980 mm wide, and 1150 mm high, like Enzo model.
Naturally, the aerodynamic penetration requirements are enhanced by the reduction in the main section because the windscreen/cockpit impacts on only half of the vehicle.
The nose presents a screwed-on bumper block with ample air intakes. The lower zone of the bonnet features an adjustable spoiler in between the "pagoda"-shaped ridges formed by the fenders that smooth off into the sides.
The optical devices are housed in a drop-shaped recess that begins with the bumpers and narrows towards the sides: this cavity houses the dual-function projector, the position and direction LEDs, a video camera at the top, and the passenger compartment air intake.
The asymmetric transparent dome gives this car a strong personality; the windscreen wiper is hidden under the small crowl. From the side, the profile of the fender crest is sinuous and dips towards the centre, while a bird's eye view confirms the designer's will to make the front more aggressive and modulated and the tail softer and sharper.
The originality of the cockpit's asymmetric solution is even more visible in VAD.HO central body. The fairing of the engine air system, the filter, and the electronics can be seen on lowered section that houses the engine. Since the cut of the passenger door is repeated symmetrically on the engine side, the engine block can be simply accessed by raising the large panel/trapezoidal door hinged onto the centre line with a gull-wing movement. The recess of the side indicator also serves as housing for the video camera.
The blunt one-piece rear end recalls the Corvette, but is characterised by the line of the bonnet with its asymmetric profile because it must converge with the dipping line of the cockpit and the side/engine line.
The trunk capacity for a super-sporty two-seater is truly remarkable: 550 dm3.
The rear end view is "carved" to emphasize all the aggressiveness of this vehicle's nature. The "G" Giugiaro logo was adopted to house the rear stop LEDs with striking media impact. VAD.HO is following up the content research started by Italdesign Giugiaro with 2004 Toyota Alessandro Volta with hybrid propulsion and the 2005 Mitsubishi Nessie that runs on hydrogen; while the formal aspects evoke the design of the 1988 Aztec, which even then offered driver and passenger a chance to slide into a definitely attractive "aeronautic" atmosphere with a formula that today is much more easily feasible thanks to IT innovations and by wire technologies that have been tested and nowadays are considered to be reliable.
This evocation of the world of aeronautics is shown again in the colours choice for the body - opaque silver-grey -, in the service decals on the engine equipment and the fuel tank, and the use of large 20" solid tyres.