An ultra-light, energy-saving vehicle that gets 100 miles per gallon is not just a dream - it's reality for a team of engineers working to win the Progressive Automotive X-prize competition. The X-prize, a $5 million cash prize designed to spur innovation, is awarded each year to an invention in a particular category. This year's challenge is to design and build a car that seats four passengers, gets the equivalent of 100 miles per gallon on average in all driving conditions and can travel at least 200 miles without refueling.
Race car aficionado and real estate developer Oliver Kuttner founded the company Edison2 together with a team of engineers to win the X prize. The team didn't start out intending to completely overhaul car design as people know it, but that's what ended up happening as they realized their car had to be as aerodynamic as possible. They came up with a design they call the "Very Light Car."
The Very Light Car weighs under 800 pounds, compared to the average car now on the road, which is over two tons. And, instead of relying on heavy batteries, it runs on ethanol-based gasoline which is extracted from corn.
Even though Kuttner's design looks and feels very different from cars on the road today, he feels people are ready for a big change. After the X-prize competition is over, he wants to focus on marketing the car to the public and drastically improving the efficiency of human transportation.
"We want to maintain the safety of the vehicle, so you have a balance there with downsizing vs. down-weighting vs. safety. So, that is a real important balance that you have there." - Mike Stanton, president and CEO of the International Automobile Manufacturers Association
"We are willing to take a leap, jump to a completely different model of a car and let it walk before it can run. There is no doubt in my mind that, when the General Motors of the world work on a car like that for 10 years, they are better cars than what you can buy today."
- Oliver Kuttner, founder, Edison2
"We don't waste energy accelerating it and we don't waste energy keeping it at a cruising speed. Because it is light and because it has such very low drag, it is just very easy to push. The fact that you can do that is what makes it efficient." - Ron Mathis, Edison2 design team
1. What does it mean when something is aerodynamic?
2. How do we measure a car's efficiency?
3. What is your main mode of transportation?
1. Would you drive a Very Light Car? Why or why not?
2. Do you agree with Kuttner that people are ready for a change in the types of cars they drive and would be willing to buy the Very Light Car? Why or why not?
3. How many miles per gallon does your car or your family's car get? Was its efficiency a big part of the decision to buy the car? If not, what was more important?
4. If you had to design a car that was both efficient and practical, which elements would you focus on?