5 Crazy Personal Mobility Concepts—Inspired By Nature

Sometimes, nature is more efficient at coming up with innovative transportation ideas than humans. These designs from an L.A. Auto Show competition prove it.

For strange shapes and exotic ways of getting around, nature has humans beat. The natural world cornered left-field design long before today’s designers unfurled their CAD toolkits.


The L.A. Auto Show recently held a design challenge with this truth in mind. Car designers were tasked with using “biomimicry to increase the efficiency of our human capacity and improve mobility.” You can see here what they came up with. Below are five of the nine entries, starting with the winner.


SAIC Motor’s Mobilliant concept is inspired by ants. Its hooked claw “Cilium Layer Advanced Wheel System” lets this vehicle-beast climb walls. Like an ant, it breathes through an exoskeleton (green lid) converting airborne gases into liquid fertilizer. And, also like an ant, it has two stomachs (or tanks): one for biofuel (generated from an on-board cell), the other for the fertilizer.


E-grus,” from Toyota, is modeled after a crane, and offers both city maneuverability and effortless long-distance travel. For the former, the concept has a tall “urban mode” that resembles a bird standing over a lake. For the latter, the E-grus reclines into a flatter, more aerodynamic position. The car is made of carbon, and covered with a composite fabric that you open with a zipper.


Subaru’s “one-legged, self-contained, wearable mobility vehicle” mimics a kangaroo. The “SUBA-ROO” has a “synthetic tendon” for jumping, a “gyro tail” with a solar panel, fly-wheel, and piezoelectric tip, and a “kinetic energy recovery system” in a central “ball.” You store the vehicle in the closet overnight, and don it like a suit in the morning. It couldn’t be easier.


BMW Group DesignworksUSA’s concept re-imagines L.A.’s waterways as a commuter network. Its “swarms” of fish-like vehicles generate hydrogen fuel from freshwater, saltwater and bacteria, and have a natural bio-luminescence like jellyfish.


Changfeng Motor Corporation’s “La Brea” concept takes after grasshoppers. The concept relies on a “semi rigid torsion reed network” for its body and means of propulsion. “The entire system resembles a grasshopper, capable of running, jumping, climbing, swimming and also the ability to squeeze between narrow openings,” the company’s submission says.


About the author

Ben Schiller is a New York staff writer for Fast Company. Previously, he edited a European management magazine and was a reporter in San Francisco, Prague, and Brussels.