Car of the Future Open Content Car of the Future Open Content Watch the Program Online

interview > lovins > lovins 21

Lovins 21 (3:11)
Topic(s): Alt Vehicles / Electric & Hybrid / Future Transport
User Comments


© WGBH Educational Foundation

Please watch the clip first. If you plan to use it, review the Rules of Use, then click on the download button.


This clip is licenced under a Creative Commons Attribution Noncommercial 3.0 Unported License.

Creative Commons license: BY-NC

Video Transcript

The most important element of a hyper-car of whatever size and shape it is that it weighs about half as much as a normal car because its made out of very strong, light materials. Those could be light metals like aluminum and magnesium, it could be new ultra-light steels, it could be the strongest and stiffest and lightest solution, carbon fiber reinforced plastic composites, Palmer composites. Those have a matrix of resin reinforced by very thin, finer than hair, carbon fibers running through them and those are stiffer and stronger than steel. So you end up with the mechanical performance of a steel part and a third the density and the cost can be greater for the composite, but the cost per car can be the same, because the cost of your light materials can be paid for by simpler auto making and a smaller propulsion system. So ultra -ighting is free if you do it right.

Now, a hyper-car also has to be very low in drag as it moves through the air and along the road. That doesn't mean it has to look weird, but it means the laminar flow along the body has to adhere as far back as possible rather than detaching it to turbulent eddies. And it'll need very good tires to have low rolling resistance and still good safety and traction. All these technologies, of course, already exist but they haven't been systematically combined in the same car.

Now, once you cut by, it turns out, two-thirds the power that it takes to run the car by improving its physics- once you cut it at least in half, the power needed to run the car, because you made it lighter and more slippery, then how do you propel it? Well, you could use ordinary internal combustion engine, but for a hyper car I'd like to see it at least a good hybrid, which could be up to twice as efficient as that and also it will recover regenerative breaking energy instead of dissipating it as heat, presets about two thirds of its braking energy back again—wheel to wheel efficiency that's really good.

And then I want to see very efficient accessories. For example, our own hyper car design used a very sophisticated suite of technology is to keep heat out of the passenger compartment and then to have more efficient air conditioning so we used about a seventh the normal amount of air conditioning energy to produce the same comfort. And by the way, to move that car at 55 miles an hour, it takes about the same power to the wheels that a normal SUV uses on a hot day to run the air conditioner.



Topic | Interview | Scene

Car of the Future Home | Send Feedback | Image Credits | Support NOVA

© | Created April 2008

Support provided by

For new content
visit the redesigned
NOVA site