The designs that the teams brought to the design challenge at the L.A. Auto Show were as varied as the car companies that submitted them. However, there were a few common themes. Despite approaching the challenge from several different angles, and in some cases, designing cars for completely different forms of racing, each of the teams focused on alternative design materials as well as alternative fuels and propulsion systems.
BMW may have taken the idea of alternative design materials the furthest: For their entry, the BMW Hydrogen Powered Salt Flat Racer, they used barbeque lids and oil barrels as the main body components. Audi's entry had a dynamic space frame that made the car more flexible. Toyota's entry had photovoltaic panels on its body that supplied the car with extra energy when needed.
Both Mercedes-Benz and General Motors combined unique design materials with alternative propulsion. The Mercedes-Benz entry used a skin that harvested solar energy to power the car; it also had a giant sail to harness available wind power. The GM Chaparral Volt used solar power, gravity and momentum capturing devices, and rear turbines for wind power to win its races.
But those aren't the only alternative ways the designs were powered. The Audi entry used algae for fuel, while the BMW and Toyota entries were hydrogen-powered racers. Mazda's entry was electric, while the Volkswagen racer used biofuel.
Some of these technologies are more feasible than others. For example, hydrogen-powered cars are already on the road today, and technology for electric cars is continually improving, making at least the propulsion systems of some of these outlandish entries possible. Other entries, like Honda's car that effortlessly switches configuration for travel on land, sea and air (the team didn't specify how the car is powered), Audi's flexible frame vehicle or BMW's oil-drum wheels are clearly more farfetched. Still, technology is growing by leaps and bounds, so whether you see the design challenge as a clear look at the future of car racing, or just a fun exercise for the imagination, it's a pretty safe bet that in 2025, race cars will looks a lot different than they do today.