Beyond the car: Ultra-fast, ultra-efficient motoring with the Acabion Da Vinci
Peter Acabion, of Acabion GTBO fame, has released details of his next concept vehicle – an ultra-efficient, 1,200 mpg, 650 km/h, solar electric successor to the car. With four enclosed wheels, a transforming aerodynamic tail, a jet fighter style cockpit and a self-loading trunk capable of storing a whole washing machine, the four- to six-seater Acabion Da Vinci would use extreme aerodynamic profiling to squeeze vastly more speed and efficiency out of its available energy than any car currently available.
When we first heard from Acabion in 2007, excitement and expectations were high. The small Swiss company had produced a prototype of a road-registerable streamlined motorcycle with a turbocharged, 700 bhp motor claimed capable of eclipsing the top speed of a Bugatti Veyron at just 20 percent throttle. It also looked like a jet fighter cockpit on wheels.
The Acabion GTBO did not, as promised, make it through to production, and as far as we’re aware, only a few prototypes were ever built. But Peter Acabion (born Peter Maskus; he changed his name to reflect his commitment to the project) has kept busy in the intervening years.
In 2011, he released his roadmap for a fast, efficient transport future: first, elevated roadway platforms where super-streamliners like the GTBO could achieve their 600 km/h (373 mph) plus speed potential without being held up by other, slower traffic. Later, vacuum tube transport networks where air resistance could be eliminated altogether and mag-lev pods could blast along at up to 20,000 km/h (12,427 mph) and circle the globe in just under two hours.
Acabion’s latest venture is to build a four- to six-seater car that takes the ultra-aerodynamic shape of the GTBO and reinvents it as a practical four-wheeler that doesn’t need training wheels.
The Acabion Da Vinci is roughly the shape of a blue whale that’s been on a diet. Its four wheels are extended away from the body and almost completely covered by aerodynamic shields. "Wheel wings" allow the suspension to move up and down while leaving a small, more flexible curtain of aerodynamic material to move up and down with the wheel and follow the road surface as closely as possible for minimal drag.
Passengers can enter via a hinged jet-fighter style cockpit cover that lifts off and extends small stairs for entry and egress, while the tailwing section of the vehicle is hollow and in place for aerodynamic purposes only. When parking the Da Vinci in a regular sized spot, the tail automatically folds itself up and stows itself under the car’s main body, opening up access to a hydraulically actuated trunk mechanism that can lift and store a whole washing machine. Check it out:
The low-drag body shape, combined with what appears to be a bunch of electric hub motors, combine to make the Da Vinci an extremely efficient vehicle – Acabion claims it should be 10 times more efficient than the most efficient electric cars of today.
At this point things start getting a little fuzzy. Acabion claims it will power itself almost entirely by on-board solar panels, with battery backup. Then there’s a giant, rotating solar charging panel to stick outside your home and the odd claim that the Da Vinci will offer “three times higher comfort than high-end luxury cars” – we're not sure what metric is being used for this claim.
Acabion is shooting for the electric equivalent of 1,200 mpg (0.2 L/100km) efficiency and a top speed somewhere around 650 km/h (404 mph). From my limited understanding of land speed record vehicles, air pressure starts to do some very strange things to steering once you get past 300 km/h (186 km/h) or so – not to mention the extreme stress these speeds place on tires.
Pricing for what's billed as "the most exclusive road vehicle in the world" is "upon request" – though based upon what we’ve seen so far, it may even be excluded from the realms of possibility.
The Acabion has received just €1,270 (US$1,700) of its €30 million (US$39.4 million) Indiegogo fundraising goal, nearly halfway through its campaign.
The heart of all Acabion’s designs is the idea of exceptional aerodynamics. Why not concentrate on realistic ways of moving forward on that goal without trying to reinvent the car altogether? Many would say the world is ready to start looking at extreme aero concepts – take Volkswagen’s XL1, for example.
Far be it from us to discourage an ambitious futurist from reaching for the stars, but in the case of the Acabion Da Vinci, we think the vision might need to be dialed back a few notches towards the terrestrial if investors are to be tempted to dig into their earthly pockets.