May 28, 2010 6:00 AM
by Heather Hayes
Efforts to improve energy efficiency in vehicles have tended to focus on finding alternative fuels to gasoline, but Oliver Kuttner, a successful real estate developer and auto-racing aficionado, believes that mindset totally misses the mark. He is the owner of Edison2, a company that is building a prototype vehicle called the Very Light Car (VLC) that relies on minimizing weight and aerodynamic drag to dramatically boost fuel mileage.
The company, based in Lynchburg, is a contender for the Progressive Automotive X-Prize. The California-based X-Prize Foundation is sponsoring the competition to build a practical, safe car that gets more than 100 miles per gallon. The winner will receive a $10 million cash prize.
“Our car doesn’t care if you give it an electric motor or a gasoline engine or an engine that is run by natural gas,” says Kuttner. “It doesn’t matter because we’re attacking the problem from the point of view of building a box that requires very little energy to move. And we think that’s the only real answer.”
The VLC uses a high-performing gasoline engine for power, rather than the battery-laden, heavier electric engine, and has a modular design inspired largely by Indy cars. The car nonetheless is relatively roomy and comfortable for passengers, its creator says.
“This is very exciting because we believe there is this opportunity right now for a one-time leap in automotive efficiency that no one has been able to make,” Kuttner says.
Edison2 drew its design team from auto racing and the aerospace industry. They started building the VLC in hopes of winning the X-Prize but are now focused on objectives well beyond the competition. The ultimate goal is to develop and patent technologies, then license them to other auto manufacturers and suppliers. These technologies would include Edison2’s patented suspension system.
“We have no illusions of becoming a large automaker and it is not our intention to become hugely wealthy on this,” Kuttner says. “It is our intention to make our discoveries broadly available. We think that our ideas and technologies will help make our planet better in terms of pollution and resource preservation, and so it is better that more people have access.”
Bravo! Very nice looking vehicle. Weight and drag are the biggest impediments to efficiency, for sure, but it would be interesting to see how this vehicle would look after the DOT got their hands on it. Where are the 2.5 mph bumpers, airbags, door beams, crumple zones, catalytic converters, etc. etc. etc.? It’s worth noting that there were perfectly drivable cars that were getting 50+ mpg available in the 80s, e.g. from Honda, but people seem to want to ride in tanks, because everyone else drives tanks, and this gorgeous piece of engineering probably would not fare too well in a collision with a Hummer or an F250. But Perhaps with intriguing designs like this one on the horizon, and the prospect of $5 or even $10/gallon gas looming, the pendulum will swing back towards sanity.
Tom Bowden of Richmond
Jun. 2, 2010 at 08:11 AM
While designing an efficient car based on the principles of Physics most of our work is exactly about the safety issue you address. A very light Indy car is usually safer than a F250.
We employ similar strategies whereby we substitute space for mass. Essentially our outboard wheels are a crumple zone around the car. While this approach still needs work we believe we will master this challenge. FMVSS is part of the X Prize and we have passed it so far. We are also working on the 2014 EPA emissions and are very close to passing that formidable hurdle while reaching 100 MPGe in the EPA mandated drive cycle. There are details like bumper height, mirrors and others where we still miss the target. However that is a known art and can be met. We concentrate on the hard part. Build a safe car that is mass producible and cheap. Those are the ingredients that matter first. Fine tuning and adjusting to specifics comes later. For now see this as a “proof of concept” and learning vehicle… We believe this can become the underpinning of a new industry “rescaling” the automobile. It is the only path toward more a more sustainable automobile.
Oliver Kuttner of lynchburg
Jun. 2, 2010 at 02:58 PM
This car design is really good and impressive & also this sounds is good that a high-performing gasoline engine for power, rather than the battery-laden, heavier electric engine.
Sep. 23, 2010 at 08:15 AM
Page 1 of 1 pages