November 21, 2009

[r]3volution - Seat Leon2049

The Leon2049 is a 3-in-1 leisure vehicle. Thanks to electro-responsive materials, the glazed surface changes shape according to user's needs. 3 modes are available: Coupé (1+1 seat), Standard (5 seats) and Cruiser (6 seats facing eachother). Thanks to Plasmagnetic Levitation, it doesn't need wheels or asphalt to move. And to tracks, for that matter. Huge streches of lawn will replace today's anti-ecological streets.

This is my Personal Project developed during my 6-month internship at SEAT Design Center in Barcelona. The full name of the Project is: "[r]evolution: Leon2049 - designing the 50 year anniversary edition of the Seat Leon: materialization of technology developments and evolution of SEAT's line of concept and aesthetics, in a context of a hypothetic urban reality".

My warm thanks to Luc Donckerwolke and everyone else involved in the Project - Xavier Villanueva, my internship tutor (who gave me an outstanding support), Chris Axe, Juan Perez, Jorge Diez, Amin Sadek, Sergi Garcia, Carlos Bartolomé, Richard, Albert, David for the invaluable help, for believing in the project and relentlessly "pushing" me forward. To René Mathis, Richard Mohos, David Risueño Tienro, Rafaele, Victor, Eliel. To Frank, Anon, Gary, Carlos, Uli and Sergi Vidal for the support during the clay modelling phase.

Feel free to comment. Enjoy!


Barcelona, 2049. SEAT releases the Leon2049, the 50 year anniversary of the Seat Leon.

Cars no longer exist.

Nowadays we have, on one hand, single or multiple passenger specialized transportation vehicles, automatic or controled by the user. Everything designed for efficiency in an urban tissue that keeps getting denser and more complex.

To use a personal means of transportation to go to work in the city makes no sense. A car, as we knew it in the past, does not meet the efficiency requirement of today's metropolis anymore. Hence the mandatory use of the public transportation system, like monorail maglev trains or shuttles but also 1 person community vehicles - these programs started around the beginning of the 21st century with completely manual bicycles and today we have scooters and other single seat electric vehicles.However, today's way of life is not just about complicated cities and stress.

We also have leisure vehicles for the enjoyment of a trip, family environment and/or the vehicle itself and that is where the Leon2049 comes in.

There is a progressively growing concern with the urban experience. Gradually, priority was given to the pedestrian through rational and sustainable urban planning.

Environmental and sustainability issues began to arise in the 70's of the 20th century. Since then, the concept "Think globally, act locally" has been applied more and more, connecting the individual polluter with global problems.

In 1992 a conference was held in Rio de Janeiro by the UN - "Earth Summit" - in which strategies to apply this concept were outlined, through the program "Agenda 21".
Five years later the situation was reviewed - "Rio+5" and flaws in the program were identified and new strategies were defined in order to better its implementation.50 years after Earth Summit, in 2042, the "Rio+50" conference was held and Sustainability measures became stricter in all sectors and transportation was no exception. 


There are several technologies that were nothing more than dreams in the beginning of this century, which were developed by SEAT and used in the Leon2049 to cope with increasingly stern environmental regulations. 
One of them is Hydrogen. Although the was a rise of Hybrid Gas/Electric cars in the beginning of the century, we all soon realized that they were just a passing phase towards an efficient use of hydrogen fuel cells. It started in the USA, in California, but then hydrogen fuelling stations appeared like mushrooms throughout the world. In 40 years, it became something quite common.

Glass with Solar Concentrator Membrane is also a common and accessible reality nowadays. With constant research, it became possible to efficiently capture sun light in the glazed surface and intensify it on the edges where PV cells are located, transforming light into electricity (more about Solar Concentrator).

With the extensive use of glazed surface, classic controls and dashboards became obsolete. Holographic HUD controls with gesture recognition for driving were the perfect solutions. 

While these features are rather common in our vehicles today, SEAT still managed to take the research a step forward, developing completely new technologies, making the Leon2049 a pioneer

Electro-deformable materials - thanks to nano-scales that change their global shape through electric current and acquire a predefined structure given the electric frequency, it is possible to use a material that changes its shape between a number of fixed memories.

Plasmagnectic Levitation System - it was a mere theory in the beginning of the 21st century: a system that would allow levitation without using any kind of track with enough efficiency to make a large body float at an acceptable height with acceptable stability. Research began with small steps but achieved maturity some years ago. The Leon2049 is the first vehicle to use this system efficiently.
[more about Plasmagnectic Levitation: HoverTech]

All these technological developments meet the global desire of having a pleasant urban experience, of rendering our cities more sustainable, of returning the city to the pedestrian.

But the Leon2049 took this concept a little further: the day will come when all vehicles use its levitation system and the asphalt that contaminated our cities for more than one century will become obsolete. We will have long stretches of lawn - why not? - instead of a heavy dark layer of asphalt.

The SEAT Leon2049 is not only an evolution of the brand, but also a revolution in car design.


The buyer of the Leon2049 is a young family with a lifestyle that justifies owning a private vehicle. They can work at home or in the office but they like to spend quality time together. They like to travel not only by aircraft but also in their private vehicle.

To meet the demands of a family the Leon2049 has to be a flexible to cope with the needs of each member - whether it is daddy that wants to drive a little faster, or the family that wants to take a short or long trip with the kids.
But above all, the vehicle experience should be pleasant and lively.

Design: behind the scenes


To design a vehicle for the year 2049 it was necessary to think not only about the concept of a car for that time, but also about the environment - the city, people's lifestyles, and so on - and how this would influence automotive design. A whole Reality was created, as described above, and imagine how the SEAT Leon would fit in that reality.SEAT's DNA was rather important in the design of the 50-year anniversary edition of the Leon. Starting with the Seat 600, touching the Toledo and ending in the Leon.
Besides the context of technology evolution, two images were relevant in the design process: the hands holding a planet, suggesting protection and the image of a highway at night with its dynamism. These pictures were interpreted and used in the shaping of the Leon2049.

Design Process

As the design process of the Leon2049 advanced, the design of the car itself kept advancing in time. One of the main changes was the substitution of the wheels with the Plasmagnetic Levitation System. This change occurred because at one point it became coherent with the reality that was constructed. It made sense, considering the context. 

first and second phase sketches of the L3on2049

It was visible from the start the shape of the concept in the first sketches: a definition of two different materials/transparency levels - something solid protecting a live core; the evident intention of meeting the brand's values and characteristic design features, such as the lower part inspired in the Seat 600 and a reinterpretation of the SEAT Line which had its origins in the Seat 600 itself but was successfully redesigned by Walter de'Silva on the Altea and on the Leon2005.

Feedback received from my Tutor and other designers made the design of the Leon2049 evolve. The intermediate presentation was extremely useful and enabled an important conceptual jump

The Leon2049 thus became more dynamic than aggressive, establishing a more coherent balance with the defined concept.

third phase sketches of the Leon2049


The Leon2049 uses an electro-deformable material that enables modification of the shape of the cockpit. With 3 different shape memories it can change between 3 different modes:

1- Coupé mode: 2 seats (1+1), shaped for speed and performance;
2- Standard mode: 5 seats, shaped for a normal use, short trips;
3- Cruiser mode: 6 seats (turned to each other), for long trips.

This feature allows unprecedented versatility. The result is extremely pleasant driving experience regardless the situation.

The clay model was made after the mode that expresses more dynamism, the Coupé mode.

Clay model

Although the clay model was milled after a basic 3D model, significant changes were made that made the Leon2049 a more coherent and more mature, project.

Changes like connecting all body features in a dynamic way and adding a surface cut along the whole side of the car helped to better define the main theme and concept of the Leon2049.

-->Advancing the highest point of the cockpit and shaping a faster tail window and connecting it with the rest of the body, making the Leon2049 “more SEAT”, also improved its silhouette.

In the end of the process I had the invaluable help of SEAT's professional modellers to finish the model for painting phase.

Here are some photos of the finished model.

Towards 2049 - a reality

The Leon2049 is not only a product of a dreamed reality, but also responsible for shaping that reality. The technology it uses and the way it materialises flexibility makes it a pioneer, changing urban experience radically.

... but if such a reality is still 40 years away, the “seeds” could be “sowed” right now with the Leon2049 Scalextric racing model and the Leon2049 CUPRA Ipod game. Why not? ;)

The Seat Leon 2049 
electric racing model... the Leon 2049 CUPRA Ipod game and the Leon2049 in the Wipeout game.

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