Thursday, September 23, 2010

Tell me something I don't know: Why I love the X Prize-winning car

Edison2 Very Light Car - Subcompact Culture
I love it. The vehicle that won the X Prize runs on gas and ethanol. No fancy hybrid or electric drivetrain; no super-ultra-sophisticated space-age engine. To put it simply, Edison2's "Very Light Car" uses already well-established technologies to get more than 100 MPG: aerodynamics and weight reduction. FYI, the Very Light Car weighs a very light 800 lbs., has a top speed of 100 MPG, and a range of 600 miles. It has a heater, air conditioning, and could allegedly be sold for about $20,000. I think it's awesome. Edison2 won $5 million for their efforts, speaking of awesome.

Don't get me wrong, I know a metric ton of engineering went into this vehicle—this victory wasn't a simple feat. However, one of the car's core components is something the auto industry used to do: keep things lightweigt. These days, I know there are more safety features, more sound deadening, and more power than the 1980s econoboxes. But look back to those cars. Low-horsepower vehicles with low curb weights that got 50 MPG+. No heavy, expensive, toxic-to-manufacture battery pack needed. These cars were plain, simple fuel misers. Heck, if some of them were more aerodynamic (Chevrolet Sprint, anyone?), they probably would've achieved even better mileage than they did.

Frankly, I love the fact that this single-cylinder, gas powered, lightweight vehicle (that is painstakingly aerodynamic, if something can be painstakingly aerodynamic) claimed overall victory against electrics, the hybrids, and the crazy-high-tech vehicles. It's a well-done, modern take on old, well-established, simple principles. It's just kind of funny and ironic that when these long-known principles are employed (coupled with outstanding engineering) old ideas become new again. Designing a lightweight, low-powered, aerodynamic car can yield more than 100 MPG? Tell me something I don't know ...


No comments: