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Meet the Virginia-Built 110MPG X-Prize Car 370

Posted by timothy
from the just-some-good-old-boys dept.
tcd004 writes "Instead of using Detroit engineers or Silicon Valley bitheads, Virginia-based Edison2 relied on retired Formula 1 and Nascar engineers to build its entry for the X-prize. Relying on composite materials and titanium, the team assembled an ultra-lightweight car that provides all the comforts of a standard 4-passenger vehicle, but gets more than 100 mpg. The custom engineering goes all the way down to the car's lug nuts, which weigh less than 11 grams each. Amazingly, they expect a production version of the car should cost less than $20,000." Earlier today, in a Washington, DC ceremony, Edison2 received $5 million as the X-prize winner. Writes the AP (via Google) "Two other car makers will split $2.5 million each: Mooresville, N.C.-based Li-Ion Motors Corp., which made the Wave2, a two-seat electric car that gets 187 miles on a charge, and X-Tracer Team of Winterthur, Switzerland, whose motorcycle-like electric mini-car, the E-Tracer 7009, gets 205 miles on a charge. Both of those companies are taking orders for their cars."
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Meet the Virginia-Built 110MPG X-Prize Car

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  • Huh? (Score:5, Funny)

    by fiannaFailMan (702447) on Thursday September 16, 2010 @02:35PM (#33602612) Journal

    "Two other car makers will split $2.5 million each"

    What does that mean? Does it mean they get $2.5 million each or is it split between them?

    • Reading the Wired article, linked below, the total prize was $10 mil. Edison2 got $5 mil, the other two got $2.5 mil each.

    • by mdm-adph (1030332)

      Considering the other team made a car that got 187mpg (and it looks like a real car, to boot), I hope it's for each.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by jolyonr (560227)

      It's grammatical nonsense.

      I'm glad I'm not the only one who read that and went "huh?".

  • by fiannaFailMan (702447) on Thursday September 16, 2010 @02:37PM (#33602644) Journal

    The story at Wired [wired.com] has pictures.

    • by jgtg32a (1173373)
      Why the in hell does it look like that?

      For the love of God make one of these cars look like a damn car.
      • Physics is not a slave to style.

        The problem with cars is we expect them to look a certain way. This shows we could make more efficient vehicles with a radical new design.

      • by Abstrackt (609015)

        Why the in hell does it look like that? For the love of God make one of these cars look like a damn car.

        I bet a lot of people said the same thing when they stopped putting fins on cars.

        Personally, I think it looks pretty neat and would love to take one for a spin.

      • by Culture20 (968837)
        "All the comforts of a standard 4-passenger vehicle" my ass. No wonder the TFA didn't have pictures, everyone would see the lies.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by cynyr (703126)

        it looks like a car, i see 4 wheels, and a steering wheel... what more do you want?

      • by h4rr4r (612664)

        You want an iCar this model instead has function over form.

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by rwa2 (4391) *

        Why did the Model T Ford look like that?

        For the love of God make one of these horseless carriages look like a damn horseless carriage.

    • VW has been doing some interesting stuff with high-milers

      http://www.thecarconnection.com/marty-blog/1035176_preview-170-mpg-volkswagen-l1-concept

  • by Locke2005 (849178) on Thursday September 16, 2010 @02:40PM (#33602670)
    I believe the statements "Relying on composite materials and titanium" and "should cost less than $20,000" are contradictory.
    • The car's only 830 pounds, so they don't really need much of either.

      • by Locke2005 (849178)
        Even if the titanium was free, the cost of forming parts out of it would still be very high. It's not it's easy to weld that stuff together.
        • by h4rr4r (612664)

          So use lots of flat pieces and bolt it together. Not saying they did that just a possible alternative.

        • by cynyr (703126)

          why weld? just form/machine the parts and then bolt together, see "billet aluminium car" by kirkham motor sports.

          • by name_already_taken (540581) on Thursday September 16, 2010 @04:14PM (#33603922)

            why weld? just form/machine the parts and then bolt together, see "billet aluminium car" by kirkham motor sports.

            Machining is the most expensive way to produce a metal part. You start with a block of metal and grind away everything that isn't the part. It's very wasteful, in terms of energy, even if you recycle the waste metal chips. The cheapest methods are stamping or casting. Guess how most metal car parts are made?

            Robotic welding is cheap, repeatable and produces strong assemblies. Bolting tends to be labor intensive, and adds more weight (bolts weigh more than welds).

            It's not like the existing car companies haven't analyzed these alternatives more than a few times over the last 100 or so years.

    • by Fred IV (587429) on Thursday September 16, 2010 @02:49PM (#33602818)

      It looks like they opted for non-scarce materials according to the official site: [edison2.com]

      The Very Light Car is a more sustainable vehicle. Not just efficient to drive, but cradle-to-grave environmentally responsible. Less mass means fewer material inputs. Energy intensive materials and hazardous or scarce materials are largely avoided in favor of conventional materials, such as aluminum and steel, that are readily available, easily made in volume, and completely recyclable.

    • by compro01 (777531)

      Depends on what composite material. Plywood is a composite material.

      Though being serious, this isn't a large vehicle. It seats 2. That's the reason why they think they can make it that cheap.

      • by NetNed (955141)
        Is that why TFA says a "the team assembled an ultra-lightweight car that provides all the comforts of a standard 4-passenger vehicle"?
      • by cynyr (703126)

        it seats 4, if you RTFA. but yes, it isn't very large.

  • With carbon fiber body and a titanium frame, it costing less then $20,000 sounds not even possible.

    Add to it the 800lbs GVW and if the thing gets hit by another vehicle in the 2000lbs range it will certainly fly off the road. Good start, just not very believable in the statements made.
  • by jpstanle (1604059) on Thursday September 16, 2010 @02:49PM (#33602806)

    Does it have air bags, side-impact beams, crumple zones, etc? It seems like an impressive bit of engineering, but it will never make it to production in the US unless it meets all the government crash and safety standards.

    Safety standards are one of the main reasons a 2010 Honda Civic gets nearly the same mileage in practice as a 1990 Civic. Although the more modern car has made strides in improving drive train efficiency, it weighs over 600 lbs more resulting in nearly the same fuel efficiency. Things like side-impact beams, air bags, and ABS make cars safer, but they also make them a lot heavier.

    • by Volante3192 (953645) on Thursday September 16, 2010 @02:51PM (#33602832)

      Does a motorcycle have air bags, side-impact beams, crumple zones...?

      Maybe we need a new class of driver's licence.

      • Low Speed Vehicle (Score:5, Informative)

        by rsborg (111459) on Thursday September 16, 2010 @03:21PM (#33603170) Homepage
        There is a category rapidly emerging between the motorcycle and full-on automobile: the Low Speed Vehicle [wikipedia.org] (if electric, also considered the Neighborhood Electric Vehicle [wikipedia.org]). The relevant sections of the two similar articles are:

        A low-speed vehicle (LSV) is a legal class of 4-wheel vehicles that have a maximum capable speed typically around 25 mph (40 km/h), and have a minimum capable speed (typically 20 mph (32 km/h)) that allows them to travel on public roads not accessible to all golf carts or neighborhood electric vehicles (NEV). The vehicles operate under very similar restrictions to but without the specification of battery electric power.[citation needed] See the NEV article for general vehicle requirements.

        The NEV article states the safety requirements:

        Regulations for operating an NEV vary by state. The federal government allows state and local governments to add additional safety requirements beyond those of Title 49 Part 571.500. For instance,the State of New York requires additional safety equipment to include windshield wipers, window defroster, speedometer, odometer and a back-up light. Generally, they must be titled and registered, and the driver must be licensed. Because airbags are not required the NEV cannot normally travel on highways or freeways. NEVs in many states are restricted to roads with a speed limit of 35 mph (56 km/h) or less.

        In addition, some states have increased the MPH limit (owner can easily mod this) to 35MPH, allowing them to travel on 45MPH roads in the slow lane:

        The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has published safety guidelines in the United States which apply to vehicles operating in the 20-25 mile-per-hour speed range.[4] As of January 2007, twenty-five of the fifty states of the United States had passed legislation legalizing the use of low-speed vehicles on highways in the state.[4] By 2009, nearly all 50 states allow LSVs, also called NEVs, to drive on their roads. Either they follow FMVSS500 (25 mph top speed on 35 mph limit roads), or make their own more aggressive law. as of end of 2008, 9 states had made it legal to drive them 35 mph speed, most on 45 mph streets. In 2009, Texas has passed a new law (SB129) allowing them to drive 35 mph on 45 mph roads; California and New Mexico have proposed laws in their respective legislatures.

        All of this adds up to a vehicle that is good for local commuting (if allowed on the 45MPH "expressways") and grocery grabbing, with minimal safety requirements and if it's non-emissions, also benefit from tax incentives.

        I'm definitely keeping my eye on this, it'd be great for those days when I don't want to ride the bike to work (i.e., have to pick up the kid). The Edison2 car would fit nicely here (though it wouldn't get tax credits).

    • by h4rr4r (612664)

      The 2010 also produces 140 horsepower vs 108 for the 1990 model. Let's not bullshit ourselves fuel economy comes way after power and safety in modern car design.

    • Not really (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Kupfernigk (1190345) on Thursday September 16, 2010 @04:02PM (#33603724)
      The real reason is that US buyers mostly want unnecessarily high power ratings from engines, and don't want to pay for expensive engineering. A small number do, and rather more Europeans do, which is why you can buy so many fuel-efficient cars in Europe.

      The truth is that weight mainly affects acceleration, outside towns, while aerodynamics affects fuel consumption rather more. That's why the latest hybrids have such interesting shapes, especially around the rear end where the airflow detaches from the body.

      As a real world, example, the Econetic Ford Fiesta is now available in the US, meeting full US specs. It produces 120BHP, more than European versions, but the NYT review mocks it for its low power and suggests it is slower than a rowing boat. That's nonsense, but it's the sort of thing rednecks like to believe. It does about 40MPUSG. It would have been hard to achieve that in a 1990 Fiesta, which would typically get around 28-33MPUSG. Yet it is much safer and much faster.

      To be blunt, the real problem for economy cars in the US is the US mindset, which so often sees mere size as better than quality engineering. The mindset won't change until gasoline reaches about $5 per USG, and given the number of AGW-deniers among the current crop of Republican candidates, and Koch funding of the Tea Party, it's more likely someone will get invaded for their oil first.

      Sorry if this is a bit of a rant, but my point isn't anti-US. It's complaining that the US has many of the world's best engineers who could fix all the problems of peak oil and overconsumption - but their own countrymen won't let them.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Selfbain (624722)
      It had to in order to win the contest: http://www.progressiveautoxprize.org/prize-details [progressiv...xprize.org]
    • by Idarubicin (579475) <(moc.liamtoh) (ta) (teiuqslla)> on Thursday September 16, 2010 @05:33PM (#33604806) Journal

      Safety standards are one of the main reasons a 2010 Honda Civic gets nearly the same mileage in practice as a 1990 Civic. Although the more modern car has made strides in improving drive train efficiency, it weighs over 600 lbs more resulting in nearly the same fuel efficiency. Things like side-impact beams, air bags, and ABS make cars safer, but they also make them a lot heavier.

      Well, no. Yes, airbags and side-impact beams do add weight -- but putting an extra 600 pounds of curbside heft at the feet of safety equipment stretches the limits of credibility.

      Compare the 1990 Civic [wikipedia.org] with the 2010 Civic [wikipedia.org]. The new Civic has a wheelbase roughly eight inches longer. The overall vehicle is roughly a foot longer. The 2010 model is about three inches wider, and about three inches taller. The smallest-displacement (non-hybrid) gasoline engine offered for the 2010 model (a 1.6 L straight-four) is the same displacement as the largest engine offered in 1990.

      The trim has gotten fancier, the soundproofing has gotten better, the seats have gotten cushier, the engines have gotten more powerful, and Honda has been targeting more affluent buyers. The 2010 Civic isn't heavier because of safety standards; it's heavier because it's quite a bit bigger. The 2010 Civic isn't just an otherwise-identical super-safe variant of the 1990 Civic -- it's a different car.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday September 16, 2010 @02:57PM (#33602894)

    Does this mean the car can only turn left?

  • Before we get all excited about this car's potential to solve our energy problems, we should give some thought to practical matters like crash safety.
  • Sad thing being... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Bill_the_Engineer (772575) on Thursday September 16, 2010 @03:02PM (#33602942)

    I had a "Popular Mechanics" magazine from the early 80's that had an article on how to make a 100 MPG car with a spitfire car frame, molded fiberglass, and a Kubota tractor engine.

    It's sad that it would take a X-Prize contest with a 10-million dollar purse to get us back to using the technology discussed in a old magazine.

    Congrats to the teams. I'm just commenting about the automobile industry as a whole.

    • by couchslug (175151)

      "It's sad that it would take a X-Prize contest with a 10-million dollar purse to get us back to using the technology discussed in a old magazine. "

      The components you listed are essentially delicate junk powered by a good tractor motor.

    • by llZENll (545605) on Thursday September 16, 2010 @04:05PM (#33603778)

      If that were true don't you think one of the over 100 teams who spent millions of their own money would have done that? Its easy to get 100mpg when you gloss over all of the details and rules, but the X-Prize setup many tests to ensure the car actually got 100mpg in many scenarios. Your alleged PM 100mpg car may not even be true.

      "While it isn't terribly hard to build a vehicle that will propel itself 100 miles on only a gallon of gas, the X Prize rules call for a car that can carry four adults and sip gas while traversing all kinds of terrain and negotiating real-world traffic. And the car builder must demonstrate that the vehicle can be profitably offered for sale in volumes of 10,000 units in a form that meets federal crash safety and emissions requirements. If this weren't enough, the competition really is a race, because the money goes to the fastest car that can do all of these things."

      http://www.xprize.org/news/automotive-x-prize-seeks-100-mpg-car [xprize.org]

      • If that were true don't you think one of the over 100 teams who spent millions of their own money would have done that? Its easy to get 100mpg when you gloss over all of the details and rules, but the X-Prize setup many tests to ensure the car actually got 100mpg in many scenarios. Your alleged PM 100mpg car may not even be true.

        Oh come on. VW sells a three-cylinder diesel model in Europe that gets over 65 miles per gallon. You don't think someone could get more than that out of a lighter car with a much smaller engine?

        I read this article, not that that's a definitive citation or anything.

        The 1980s PM car used a diesel engine that made about 17 horsepower. It was extremely slow to accelerate, but because the engine size was matched up to exactly how much power was needed to keep the car moving, and because a tractor engine can b

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        I found the magazine issue!

        Nothing slower than going through the magazine covers and getting distracted...

        Anyway it wasn't Popular Mechanics, it was:

        Mechanix Illustrated, February 1982.

        It was the Quincy-Lynn Centurion that was advertised to have 128 MPG.

        Now that I found that issue, that is one less thing floating around in my head. Now if only I can get that stupid song I heard on the radio out of my head...

        If that were true don't you think one of the over 100 teams who spent millions of their own m

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Idiomatick (976696)
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Volkswagen_1-litre_car [wikipedia.org] ? Why VW didn't get in on the competition is probably rules disallowing corporate competitors.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday September 16, 2010 @03:05PM (#33602972)

    Unfortunately, after the added weight of an average American the car only gets 50 MPG.

  • That's cutting edge, but I rather go with the current "state of the art"? [insideline.com]

    More practical and way more fun to drive.
  • by edxwelch (600979) on Thursday September 16, 2010 @04:54PM (#33604414)

    Seat ibiza gets 97.4mpg and it's a real car:
    http://www.autoexpress.co.uk/carreviews/firstdrives/237415/seat_ibiza_ecomotive.html [autoexpress.co.uk]

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Shadow99_1 (86250)

      It's nearly impossible to get diesel cars in the US.

      Chrysler made a variant of almost every car they sold in the 2009 model year with a diesel engine, all cars gained about 10 MPG from being diesel alone (Most of which were getting 32 MPG on gasoline, so 42 MPG on the switch). They wouldn't sell to the US though, either direct or through a dealer. I'd have to drive to Canada to have boughten one and have it imported home...

      Ford won't sell any of their performance diesels in the US either citing no demand an

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