Automotive

A closer look at Automotive X-PRIZE winner Edison2

The Edison2 team, with Oliver Kuttner beside the Very Light Car
The Edison2 team, with Oliver Kuttner beside the Very Light Car
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The Automotive X-PRIZE-winning Very Light Car
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The Automotive X-PRIZE-winning Very Light Car
The Edison2 team, with Oliver Kuttner beside the Very Light Car
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The Edison2 team, with Oliver Kuttner beside the Very Light Car
The Automotive X-PRIZE-winning Very Light Car #98 (right) at the Finals stage
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The Automotive X-PRIZE-winning Very Light Car #98 (right) at the Finals stage
The Automotive X-PRIZE-winning Very Light Car #98 at the Finals stage
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The Automotive X-PRIZE-winning Very Light Car #98 at the Finals stage
Edison2 team leader Oliver Kuttner
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Edison2 team leader Oliver Kuttner
The Very Light Car's 250cc gasoline engine
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The Very Light Car's 250cc gasoline engine
The Automotive X-PRIZE-winning Very Light Car #98
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The Automotive X-PRIZE-winning Very Light Car #98

The Edison2 team took away US$5 million for winning the Mainstream class of the Automotive X-PRIZE last week with its 100+ MPG car of the future – Very Light Car #98. Gizmag caught up with team leader Oliver Kuttner after the ceremony to find out what's next for Edison2.

The Progressive Automotive X-Prize required vehicles to attain a fuel economy of at least 100 miles-per US gallon equivalent (2.35L/100km), while also remaining practical for real-world use. The Mainstream class of the event was particularly significant, as vehicles had to attain twice the range of vehicles in the Alternative class, and would presumably be the vehicles most likely to find acceptance with a large number of consumers. and the vehicle that made it possible, the Very Light Car.

First, a little about the car itself. Edison2 began with four versions of the Very Light Car entered in the competition, two in the Alternative class and two in Mainstream. The rear-wheel-drive four-seater car that won the Mainstream, #98, attained 102.5MPGe (2.29L/100km) and weighs just 830 pounds (376.48 kg). All of the Very Light Cars are powered by a rear-mounted, 1-cylinder 250cc turbocharged combustion engine. In the case of #98, that engine generates 40 horsepower, for a reported top speed of over 100mph (161km/h) and a maximum range of over 600 miles (966 km) on one tank of E-85 ethanol.

The reason it won, Kuttner explained, was the “brutal efficiency” of its light weight and aerodynamics.

“Insulation for the building industry is what we are for the car industry,” he told us. “It takes three-and-a-half horsepower for our car to go 50 miles an hour – that’s very little energy... We can build a brutally more efficient electric car, with a smaller battery, and we can build a brutally more efficient gasoline car.”

The Automotive X-PRIZE-winning Very Light Car #98
The Automotive X-PRIZE-winning Very Light Car #98

With the vast majority of the X-PRIZE vehicles being electrically-powered, however, one might wonder why Edison2 chose to go with a gas engine.

“Because the results are much more meaningful,” says Kuttner. “Anybody in the industry knows that you can get 100 miles per gallon by building an OK car with a good electric drive. Everybody in the industry also knows that if you can do 100 miles per gallon while meeting emissions with a car with four people in it, that’s almost impossible. So we did it because the real money isn’t the prize, the real money is what happens from now on. This is the starting line of our company.”

That point made, the production version of the car could very likely be a hybrid, or even a pure electric.

The Automotive X-PRIZE-winning Very Light Car #98 at the Finals stage
The Automotive X-PRIZE-winning Very Light Car #98 at the Finals stage

“By our estimates, we can improve on what we have by about ten percent right now,” he stated. “That said, we would give back a lot to make this car more mainstream, more consumer friendly. So what we really envision is a car that is quite normal. Although it looks very different, it’s quite normal in use.”

Yes, but... what about its “different” looks? Does he worry that consumers simply might not be ready for something that makes such a radical aesthetic statement?

“The three winners are drastic departures from the normal,” he noted. “For me, that speaks loud and clear. It’s not really wise for consumers to think [you can take a normal-looking car], stick an electric motor in it, and say ‘Oh, I’ve done it.’ It doesn’t work like that. In order to build a truly more efficient car, you must be prepared to depart from the normal.”

The Automotive X-PRIZE-winning Very Light Car
The Automotive X-PRIZE-winning Very Light Car

Judging by the reactions, especially from the younger generation, it seems like a lot of people are ready to make that departure. “I did not expect our car to have any consumer appeal in it at all,” he said. “I expected we’d have a lot of work to do in that direction, and we’re still doing a lot of work, but I can tell you right now, we would probably be able to sell somewhere between five and ten cars per day at this moment.”

Before you get too excited, Kuttner added that Edison2 is still “generations away” from a consumer model.

Congratulations to Oliver Kuttner and the Edison2 team... along with all the other dedicated participants.

26 comments
Mr Stiffy
Something is rong ear. 100 US miles-per-gallon equivalent (2.35L/100km) Ummmmmm That should be 100 miles per US gallon.... AND There is 4.25 Liters in a US gallon and 4.5 liters in an Imperial Galleon.
Mr Stiffy
Actually the only concern I have about this vehicle is the mass and height inequality with other vehicles like SUV and Hummers etc.... If they were all banned, and the lard arse soccer moms made their kids ride bikes everywhere, and all the people transporters were of a similar height and mass - I\'d have one ASAP.
Facebook User
Mr. Stiffy, Don\'t be worried about mass and height disparage between vehicles. Many people like myself ride motorcycles daily and have no issues with these regards. As long as they\'re relatively safe (more than a motorcycle is okay fine), affordable etc they should sell.
bgroicahn
\"remaining practical for real-world use\" doesn\'t that also mean the US government would allow it to be sold in the US? This car could not be sold in the US, it would not meet safety requirements which include systems like air bags, 5 mph bumpers, rollover protection, safety glass, tire pressure monitoring, side impact protection, etc. All would force the weight of the vehicle to a point that 100mpg would be history. Nothing more than boys playing with toys.
Luddite
Actually, a US gallon is just under 3.8 liters.
Kris Lee
Yes, I too like to see what it does in the crash test. I also hope that they will provide model with decent acceleration. Weird looking (well, it\'s ok for me but) and slow car probably is not a too good combination.
yourmomthinksimcool
I do not care what it looks like. I just want to be able to go on the high way and make 100 MPG. There is only a finite amount of petroleum and demand is increasing not decreasing so with a little common sense we can assume that petrol prices are not getting any cheaper. In fact when I first started driving a gallon of gas went for 94 cents. Just ten years later gas is just under three dollars a gallons. That should say something. Either our money has become worthless or like any product that has a higher demand (wells running dry) than production the prices are only on the up and up, or both. Hope you can afford to fill up your hummer in ten years.
froginapot
So here it comes. Instead of seeing this great product and pushing towards making this a worldwide standard. And producing millions of them. Partnering with a progressive auto company like Tata Motors....... This will become another good idea that takes forever to implement............. And these people will all rationalize that their approach is the best. But the end result will be what we always see. Slow real results.
Jerry Peavy
Sorry, this is not a practical car. Aside from the lack of bumper/crush zone and other safety factors, no one is going to want to ride in the back seat for any distance. Lack of view from the back seat would mean that this is actually a single seat car, for the same reason that passengers choose to ride in the front not the back seat. Of course you can make a extremely small, light vehicle with a very small motor and get great mileage, but sales would be to an extremely small market. Cars like the Aptera are far more practical, safer and get close to the same mileage and performance!
waltinseattle
the old ride was a V.W. that got 50 on the road. And so streamlined those beetles! currently a honda civic is giving around 40 in mixed use. Tell me again how hard it is to do 100mpg? Ah, it\'s that too slow to get out of it\'s own way issue- where you must clear the intersectin at a terminal 35 mph or be run over by important people with better things to do and places they should already be. 3.5Hp to do 50mpg? not much more than what a 1900 electric achieved on 3 Hp. But talk about streamlined! brass lanterns, spoked wheels...buggy inspired chasis...and much more convenient seating! Again I am reminded of the tee-shirt: \"this was supposed to be the future.\"