It’s hard to believe that with its dramatic, organic shape and unique synchronized door and roof opening, that the original designs for the Dendrobium were first drawn-up over 20 years ago, back in 1996.
Always conceived to be an electric car, the technology simply wasn’t available at the time to turn the vision into a reality. However, helped in no small part by the lessons it had learned in designing and building the Formula E battery, a partner was found in Williams Advanced Engineering, that had the capabilities to give the Dendrobium the motivation it needed.
Launched earlier this year at the Geneva Motor Show, the Dendrobium is the work of Vanda Electrics, a Singaporean company that wants to use the hypercar as a halo demonstration of its design and production capabilities.
“We are extremely happy that this has finally come to life,” says Larissa Tan, the CEO of Vanda. “We plan to [put it into production] depending on the reception from Geneva, but if we do it’s going to be a limited run. This is already a dynamic show car, so it does move, and it’s planned for production in the future.”
The performance targets for the car are impressive with a top speed in excess of 200mph and 0-60mph in 2.7 seconds. The synchronised door mechanism is inspired by a genus of orchids native to Singapore after which the car is named.
Craig Wilson, Managing Director of Williams Advanced Engineering, said: “We were delighted to be a technical partner for the development of Dendrobium. With this project, Vanda has really pushed the boundaries of automotive design and Electric Vehicle technology. As technical partner we were able to utilise our core capabilities to deliver the concept.”
illiams was brought into the project in late 2015, and used the knowledge and expertise it has gained of running batteries in the white hot environment of Formula E racing to help it achieve its bold performance goals.
“We started the project with them early last year so it’s been about 15 months from finalised design to actual dynamic show car,” says Tan. “Communication has been really, really good and they know what they are doing. Before we engaged them, they understood what we wanted in terms of the message of the car, in terms of the design philosophy and what we had to keep. And they were able to work around it – there was a bit of back and forth, but it was very quick. I think building a dynamic show car in a year is pushing it! When we were designing this car there was a lot of motorsport inspired functionalities, a lot of the features that we said could not be changed was the exposed suspension, the teardrop shape and the way the doors open.”
While the Dendrobium stole the headlines, Vanda had one of its other electric products on display in Geneva, the MotoChimp, a funky looking mini electric motorbike that uses the company’s fast-charging battery. Not on display, but another element of its EV line-up is the Ant Truck, which is a logistics truck and that charges from a normal factory wall plug in under half an hour and has a range of 100km (62 miles) and carries a one-ton load.
Given the tiny numbers in which it will be made, you will probably never see a Dendrobium drive by you on the street, but the process of Formula E helping to improve the technology of everyday electric cars is already well underway.