Ex-BMW designer still has a knack for shock-and-awe

REDS, a Smart ForTwo-sized electric car designed by Chris Bangle, has been unveiled in Los Angeles.

Commissioned by China Hi-Tech Group Corporation (CHTC) in 2014, REDS is the work of Chris Bangle and his design consultancy firm. The former BMW head of design, in his role from the 1990s to 2009, seems to have maintained his touch for controversial and striking designs.

The company says the "key to REDS success comes from understanding that if an electric vehicle is to function in new ways, it cannot be designed using the visual language of traditional cars", and that it rises to the challenge of "making [space] the primary selling point of a sub-three-metre car".

The REDS EV measures 2997mm long, 1663mm wide, 1759mm and rides on a 1441mm wheelbase, and is said to be "crafted to get the most out of life in Chinese mega-cities", where people spend many hours trapped in traffic.

According to Bangle and his crew, the car was designed around the "90/10 principle", where most vehicles spend 90 per cent of their life sitting still. Although it is small, REDS has permanent seating for four. There's also a jump seat in the boot for a fifth person to use when the car is stationary.

The interior is said to be optimised for socialising, watching TV and playing video games. It comes with a 17-inch screen, which retracts to a third of its full height when driving.

Its creators have not given any details about the car's potential drivetrain, although they have claimed the fully electric rear-wheel drive car will have "best-in class 0-50km/h acceleration". Despite its upright stance, REDS is said to be aerodynamically similar to a small SUV or van, and range will also be "top of its class" – with the on-board battery helped out a "largest solar panel roof in its category".

The car displayed in Los Angeles was built in Turin, and is said to be a working alpha prototype. Although no further details have been provided, CHTC aims to "start manufacturing in the near term".

CHTC is a company owned by the Chinese government, and its various arms produce textiles, construction equipment, engines, heavy-duty trucks and buses.