Striking, bold, radical - words that barely do the Peugeot Inception Concept justice. Revealed at the beginning of 2023, the super-sleek saloon previews Peugeot's future design language and EV technology - and we’ve been to take a closer look.
The 500kW machine doesn’t preview a future model, instead highlighting what the brand’s future ‘BEV-by-design’ models, which refers to cars using EV-only architecture, will look like.
The Inception Concept sits on a new EV platform called STLA Large, one of four bespoke electric platforms being worked on by Peugeot’s parent firm Stellantis.
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Bespoke EV platforms are new to Peugeot, having previously taken the approach of offering its models with a choice of powertrains, such as the Peugeot e-208.
Peugeot plans to launch two new electric SUVs - the e-3008 and e-5008 - by next year, with the firm planning to offer an EV-only line-up in Europe by 2030.
Much of what the Inception concept showcases won’t arrive on production cars until 2025, but what are the main elements of the car, and which innovations are most likely to feature in future models?
We headed to Paris to take a closer look at the radical concept, to learn more about its design and to dive deeper into the concept’s technological features.
Innovation inside and out
Peugeot certainly hasn’t skimped on tech, with the Inception previewing a number of radical innovations, specifically the ‘fusion mask’, 'Hypersquare’ and ‘tech bar’.
The fusion mask light signature incorporates Peugeot’s distinctive claw design, which is merged with the front grille to form a single glass panel. The logo sits in the centre of the fusion mask and is magnified by a 3D luminous effect.
Peugeot’s design team said the new fusion mask would form a key part of the firm’s model line-up moving forward, with the new front end housing radars and sensors to create a more simple design.
The Inception’s small bonnet features a moving bodywork element in front of the windscreen that gives access to the charging socket.
The firm has also integrated a ‘tech bar’ into the doors, which is effectively a thin screen that can display different messages on the outside of the car. The idea is that it could show, for example, information on the battery charge level.
Move inside and the tech continues, with the most notable feature being the ‘Hypersquare’, a new steering wheel inspired by video games. Peugeot claims the ergonomics of the Hypersquare make for a more ‘natural’ control system than a standard wheel.
The reshaped wheel has a tablet-like screen in the middle which is used to show information, with the controls mounted inside four circular recesses that you control with your thumb so you don’t have to take your hands from the steering controller.
Another interesting addition is a steer-by-wire feature, meaning the steering wheel isn’t mechanically connected to the front wheels, instead sending electronic data. It’s similar to the system that will feature on the forthcoming Lexus RZ 450e.
The new steering controller is a key part of Peugeot’s next-generation version of its iCockpit system, which you’ll find on all its current models and basically involves a small steering wheel that is placed lower than in other cars, with the key driver display information mounted high on the leading edge of the dashboard. The new version in the Inception is markedly different, in part because there’s effectively no dashboard any more.
It might look like something from a sci-fi movie, but Peugeot says that it intends to launch a version of it in a next-generation vehicle before the end of the decade.
Peugeot has also added a very clever way to transform the interior into a cinema. By pressing a button on the dashboard, the Hypersquare, ‘Halo Cluster' - which is a doughnut-shaped infotainment screen and digital driver display - and steering column folds away, with a 46-inch flat screen TV rising up from the bulkhead. Now that is seriously neat.
Screens have also been added to the back of the driver and passenger seats, displaying information on the car to the rear occupants.
Style and substance
The Peugeot Inception Concept is 5000mm long but sits just 1340mm high, and the brand claims that it offers a ‘new driving posture’ as part of the reinvented interior enabled by the platform.
The machine is powered by two electric motors mounted on each axle, which have a combined output of close to 500kW that can be delivered through all four wheels. The brand claims a 0-62mph time of less than three seconds.
Those motors are powered by a sizeable 100kWh battery that gives a claimed range of 800km. Notably, the car features 800V architecture, which means that it should be capable of ultra-fast charging.
Peugeot’s latest concept sits on the STLA Large electric platform. As a result the firm has been able to add new ‘technological modules’ which are called STLA Brain, STLA SmartCockpit and STLA Autodrive, and which Peugeot claims are powered by artificial intelligence.
The STLA Autodrive system is essentially ready for Level 4 autonomous driving technology, which basically means the car can control itself in certain conditions on certain types of road with the necessary architecture.
Sustainability at its heart
Many brands transitioning to an electric model line-up are bringing new processes and materials with a sustainable edge, and Peugeot is no exception.
The Inception Concept showcases a number of new materials that have been developed by Peugeot, including what the French brand calls, ‘Forged Textile’. The material is similar to carbon fibre and is formed using layers of waste textile, with the Inception using the Forged Textile for its rims and chassis.
Moving forwards, Peugeot plans to combine both metal and the textile composite to produce future cars, citing that by creating the new material will help the brand recycle its own waste. It might take some time before Forged Textile is seen on production cars, as the firm will need to implement the design process.
Peugeot also looked at its own paint process, opting to move away from a mono layer application in order to reduce the carbon emissions created through this part of the build.
The Inception uses a very thin single layer of metallic coating, but intriguingly is only applied to certain parts of the car in order to create a contrast with the matte finished elements of the bodywork.
Peugeot’s designers plan to bring this varnishing effect to its production cars in order to amplify the car’s bodywork and styling, while also moving away from more carbon-heavy painting methods.
The firm has also used a substantial amount of galvanised steel: Peugeot believes that cars will always be made of at least 50 per cent steel, so by showing it in its raw form onboard it reduces the number of components in the passenger area. So the steel is galvanised with an anti-corrosion treatment.
In addition, the seats and floor are made from recycled polyester, with the fabric on the floor printed with 3D patterns so it can function as a mat. Meanwhile the seats feature electro-welded, recyclable upholstery.
Glass – or smart glazing, as Peugeot phrases it – is a pretty key design feature for the Inception. There’s 7.25 m2 of glazed surface area on the car, and the windows all feature a multi-chrome treatment – basically they’ve been treated with metal oxides, which was a process apparently first users by NASA for astronauts’ helmets.
Peugeot has stopped short of saying that the Inception Concept will lead to a production version, but does say that it wants most of the innovations on it to go into production “from 2025”.
But the firm isn’t waiting until then to ramp up its EV ambitions: from next year, every model Peugeot launches will be electrified, including five full EVs within the next two years.
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