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KATOMA - 3 WHEELED PERSONAL VEHICLE UL Lafayette Industrial Design - Spring 2011

Project Brief During the spring of 2011, our junior design studio class was given the opportunity to explore a junior thesis project. Also during this period, Michelin was holding its annual design challenge, so this project wasn’t just a junior thesis, but a competition

piece as well. The challenge was called “City 2046,” and asked entrants to pick one of six cities and come up with a transportation solution for it that could be made in 2046. Katoma’s designed was aimed at Shanghai as a new means of safer personal transportation.

Research and Goals



Research for the Katoma project was extensive, and analyzed many areas of interest like technologies, lifestyle, cost, popular trends, city layout, and many other things. Michael Buquet, a design intern who lived in Shanghai for 3 months, was able to inform much of the needs for the people of the city, and assisted in contributing and verifying the research used. By compiling all of the notes and statistics, two charts were put together to better hone in where this design needed to go. Popular methods of transportation were compared and contrasted within the most important varying qualities, and then the Katona project was plotted into the mix to see what needed to be done.


Bus Small





Bike Risky

The two most popular forms of transportation in Shanghai are bicycles and scooters. Both of these options are extremely affordable and readily available. However, they also have several drawbacks. They both don’t have any sort of weather protection, and both leave the consumers open to the possibility of receiving life-threatening injuries. Cars and taxis are not much better due to the fact that

automobile traffic is not well regulated, and usually the drivers aren’t exactly qualified to pilot these machines. The bus and subway system are right now the two best options. Katoma aimed to be small enough to travel in bike traffic, and safe enough to be used on the roads along side cars and busses.


Traffic Laws not well enforced

Subway Bike


Income is equivalent to $4,000 (USD), but rising slowly


Katoma Common





Citizens’ income in Shanghai is significantly lower than people in the United States, but the rise in income is continuing to go up causing car ownership to become more commonplace across the area. Despite the lack of Congestion in the city is still bad though, and in a city that’s the size of New York city, but with twice the population, street real estate could mean everything

for traffic flow. If the car is to become more common, then perhaps a smaller, cheaper alternative to the car could play a positive role in Shanghai’s traffic problem, as well as give people the opportunity to own a personal vehicle.

1 Shanghai bike lane equals the width of a 2 lane road in the US

Bikes are the preferred method of transportation

Lifestyle similar to that ofAmericans

Scooters can travel on the same roads as cars

1. Ideation To get things kicked off, a round of ideations was created to explore the function of this new small car. Wild things came up like a giant ball that was steerable, electric charging lanes, new ways of steering, and even a rocket powered skateboard! The idea of a simple 3 wheeler was chosen as the most practical thing to go with, so this and a few other ideas led the way to the next step.

2. Style and Packaging The next step was to pick a package base and a style direction. Some of the designs were more unorthodox than others, some more tame, and some of them incredibly small. The most popular form among our class was one in the shape of a sort of jet, so that general silhouette was taken and the package was laid out based off of it. Further styling explorations were made over this layout to investigate possible design cues and features to make the car unique.


3. Interior development After developing the exterior, the interior went through some styling experiments. The seat and steering wheel were the biggest areas of focus since there wasn’t much else to design with. The design of the wheel was made to be the command center of the vehicle, fitted with several buttons to operate the computer system and anything else that made the car go. The goal for the seat was to make it look as futuristic as possible while maintaining a good visual sense of comfort and security.

4. 3D Experimentation The final step in designing Katoma was to put it into Rhino 3D. A package Layout was first made to determine the seating arrangement, and then the body shape was molded around it. Along the way, mechanical issues were also assessed and designed, like steering, suspension, battery placement, and drivetrain development, all of which were a massive undertaking because the vehicle had a very specific space limit it had to fit into. The final design in terms of aesthetics became a mixture of many of the sketches from the previous page.

Final Product

The final product became an electric 3 wheeled personal vehicle that could be used both in the bike lands and main roads in Shanghai, much like the popular scooter, but provides more comfort and protection against outside elements like a car. Most of the features in the vehicle were inspired by fish, which

is why it’s called Katoma. The name is a mash-up of the two words that make up the scientific name for the flashlight fish (anomalops katoptron). The flashlight fish was chosen because of the way the car lights up at night, which can be seen on the next page

Mechanical Features 129.5 cm

246.4 cm

132.1 cm

Drivetrain Because of Katoma’s compact size, many of the technical aspects of the vehicle had to be re-worked in order for it to fit within its pre-determined size limits. The wheels on Katoma were designed to fit all major driving components

in order for the vehicle to work. To move the vehicle, Katoma uses a similar propulsion system to magnetic bullet trains, except the track is bent in a circle instead of having a start and end point. This system is called Linear

Induction, and uses a series of oscillating magnets on the hubs to push and pull the tire in the desired direction. Because of this, no rim was necessary to support the wheel, which left space in the middle for other vehicle needs.

Suspension The suspension system is mounted in the center space of the wheel to keep the look of the vehicle clean and to also save space in the body. It’s made up of a piston and spring that slides through a support arm that is attached to the body.


STAIR Batteries The batteries are also fitted to the wheel housing. These batteries are called STAIR batteries, which is a type of battery being developed by the University of St. Andrews in Scotland. This battery, when exposed to air, uses the oxygen around it to recharge. There are two of them mounted to either side of the car for maximum air exposure.

Indicating Tires At night, Shanghai is lit up vibrantly like a concert, so as an interesting and functional design cue, the tires were made clear and implanted with colored LED’s that would function as the brake lights and turn indicators.

Hybrid Steering System The front tires act as a tank-style steering system, where power to the two wheels is adjusted to make one move faster or slower, pushing the car in one direction. The rear wheel also turns on a pivot as the car is moving so it doesn’t drag when the car is turning.

Interior The interior of Katoma was designed to act as a sort of eggshell for the driver, being supported by a steel tube frame (similar to the type of frame used in Baja trophy trucks or monster trucks) to provide as much stiffness as possible. The seat is modeled after racing bucket seats to help the driver stay in the vehicle snugly and comfortably. For the dashboard, a small projector was fitted in to the steering wheel assembly to project important data onto the window, which can be controlled using buttons on the front of the steering wheel.

Steel Framing



Turning indicators

Navigation Keys


Projected Dashboard

Navigation modes Katoma is also equipped with GPS and wireless information technologies that allow the car to relay information to other vehicles of its type. Because of this, a group of Katoma cars can actually link up and swap data with each other to do all kinds of things, much like how current electronic devices can connect and work together via bluetooth. Things like location, distance, speed, direction, and other important telemitry data can be accessed and used by multiple cars to make navigation and carpooling as easy as possible.

Friend Tracking

“Schooling” Mode

GPS Navigation

When Katomas are linked into a network, the drivers from each of the linked vehicles can see their friends’ locations on the window in front of them. It can be sort of thought of as a “real time facebook,” where you can add friends to your network registry and then see where they are to meet up with them. The main intent for this, though, is to assist with carpools and make sure nobody gets lost in the pack.

In cases where a carpool has only one driver that knows where the group is heading, or takes on a drive where fatigue can be a problem, Katoma is equipped with a “schooling mode” that allows a carpool to be led by one Katoma in the group. Once a leader in the group is determined, the other group members become drones. In the lead car, the driver becomes the driver of the entire carpool, and the drones follow the lead car remotely by relaying and receiving telemetry data, functioning like a school of fish.

Katoma’s projector dashboard and location features can allow it to have a unique GPS system that displays the route on top of the roads that need to be traveled. Commands for this system can be made by voice and by using the system navigation buttons on the steering wheel.

Trey Petitjean I n d u s t r i a l

D e s i g n e r

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