Electric cars are rewriting the rules in every way, and even changing a design tradition that’s been identified with the car since it was invented over 130 years ago: the grille. Not only does it serve an important functional requirement but the grille is the face of a car – an intrinsic part of its identity. However, since EVs don’t require the same cooling demands as an internal combustion engine they don’t need the same airflow or radiators and can do away with the grille.
However, that’s not going to happen with Lexus anytime soon, according to Koichi Suga, general manager of Lexus Design Division, who says the brand’s signature spindle grille is here to stay. “I don’t think this will happen, unless there is some big shift in top management. And if that happens I will fight to keep it.” Suga also believes that spindle grille is what Lexus customers value. “Our customers value a unique identity and we have a responsibility to ensure that we satisfy this requirement.”
But beyond the aesthetic and design role the grille plays, Suga also says that it serves an important functional purpose even in an EV. “EVs also need lots of cooling for the batteries. You may have seen how your mobile phone gets hot because of the battery, so you can imagine the heat an EV’s battery generates. You need proper airflow to cool this. We have battery lifespan that is important to consider and we also have charging equipment, so perhaps our engineers are not at that stage where we can completely eliminate any kind of air-intake duct from the front which is still very important.”
Beyond its primary function as a big air intake, Suga says the spindle grille offers some other practical solutions as well. “Our cars have lots of radar systems and many sensors as well. So when you have a grille like this it’s easy to install such kind of equipment and all the tech bits,” he adds.
However, there is some pressure from customers to make EVs look different from their fossil-fuel burning counterparts. “For us to interpret and create a new kind of look is a challenge and that is something that we are working towards. So even our team right now are working on new designs, trying to answer that question,” says Suga.