Gas wins (again)

Edison2 Very Light Car

So much for alternative energies as the immediate future of the automobile. The solution that beat out steam and electricity a hundred years ago wins again -- and not just by using a high-energy-content liquid (in this case E85) to fuel an internal-combustion engine, but also by embracing the formula espoused by Henry Ford, Ettore Bugatti, Colin Chapman, and many others: keep vehicle weight low. Add greatly reduced aerodynamic drag, and you have the whole philosophy, as most elegantly expressed by Felice Bianchi Anderloni, founder of Carrozzeria Touring: weight is the enemy, air resistance the obstacle.

The Edison2 team took those words to heart, winning the $5 million mainstream class of the Progressive Insurance Automotive X Prize by demonstrating 100-mpg capability with a four-passenger, four-wheel car. At 830 pounds, the Edison2 Very Light Car gets by with a 40-hp single-cylinder engine. No, it's not a "real" car, not yet. Give it 5-mph bumpers, an adequate HVAC system, a radio, and a navigation system, and you might have to accept 1000 pounds. Then add a second cylinder to get 60 hp, and you might have to accept "only" 80 mpg in normal use.

Think of the weight and size reductions we have all seen in electronic products. The Apple iPad weighs less than 26 ounces and can perform many of the functions we expect in cars, including navigation. The passenger compartment of the Very Light Car is easier to heat and cool than those in SUVs or minivans, but it will also seem cramped to people who aren't accustomed to light-airplane cabins, which is clearly the model for the payload nacelle of this vehicle.

The very low -- 0.16 -- drag coefficient is admirable, but not completely without precedent. Back in 1924, the open-wheel Rumpler Tropfenwagen yielded a 0.28 figure -- the same as the new Chevy Volt. Barnaby Wainfan, well known in aeronautical circles for his iconoclastic approach to design, was Edison2's aerodynamicist. He faired the wheels of the Very Light Car in a manner highly reminiscent of Frank Lockhart's brilliant 1928 Stutz Blackhawk Special land-speed-record car, another triumph of intelligent design over convention and brute force.

1 of 2
loopless
Nice work, but VW did it before and better with the L1.
tscurt
I don't expect to see another comment. Autodesigner got it all.
Autodesigner
Low drag auto body design is a key ingredient to good, real-world gas mileage.From a manufacturing standpoint, it is essentially free.There is no excuse for car companies not to do it.Many cars are now measuring Cd's in the mid to high 20's.Very good IMHO.Personally, I hate covered wheels, so I don't like that design trait, but from a strict aerodynamic standpoint, it helps.And good aero never wears out.It lasts the life of the car.

buyer's guide

Find vehicle reviews, photos, & pricing

our instagram

get Automobile Magazine

Subscribe to the magazine and save up to 84% off the newsstand price

subscribe

new cars

Read Related Articles

TO TOP