In 2011, Edison 2 built an electrically powered Very Light Car (VLC) and won the Xprize for high fuel efficiency. The four-seat streamliner achieved a record 245 mpg-e in the five-cycle EPA test.
The VLC 4.0 is the result of a move to make commercial vehicles. It replaces the race car-like tube-frame chassis of earlier VLCs with an aluminum sheetmetal center section similar to an Indy-Car tub
Edison2′s Oliver Kuttner, a former Audi, BMW and Porsche dealer, estimates that a road-legal version will weigh 1,400-pounds and could be had for as little as $20,000 with a traditional engine and something in the mid-$20k range with a gas-electric drivetrain.
Edison2 believes that a battery-electric version would limit efficiency because of the weight of the battery. Instead, a small engine would be the best solution for maximum efficiency, with Kuttner claiming that a 250cc engine would be capable of getting the VLC 4.0 safely up to highway speeds and only requiring six horsepower to maintain a 60 mph cruising speed.
Edison 2’s patented “in-wheel” suspension is the most innovative (and likely most commercially attractive) aspect of the project. The suspension could be licensed to other car makers.
The VLC architecture is a “new operating system.” We may see bits of it in entry-level cars of the future.
The new version of the VLC increases the aerodynamic effectiveness seen in previous units while also improving interior space and aesthetics. It’s also claimed that the body height can be raised or lowered, enough so that we could see an mini-SUV concept built on the technology. Currently, the restriction in height is due to a lack of larger skinny, low profile tires which will work with its design — it’s currently fitted with the skinniest 17-inch set available. Kuttner stated a 19-inch version recently demonstrated by Bridgestone would find its way onto future concepts once it’s available.
The patented in-wheel suspension allows an uncluttered design with only 4 structural connection points (instead of the 12 or more in conventional designs), reducing weight and improving packaging. Wheels external to the frame allow superior aerodynamics and create new crush zones for passenger compartment integrity.
It has the lowest coefficient of drag, 0.160, ever recorded at the GM Aero Lab (for a multi-passenger vehicle), and with the best coastdown numbers ever demonstrated at Chrysler’s Chelsea Proving Grounds, the Very Light Car simply requires little energy to move. For example, only 5.3 hp is needed to cruise at 60 mph.
The design emphasizes mainstream rather than exotic materials, extreme low weight (about 450 kg (1000 lbs)) and very low aerodynamic drag. Significant design innovations include safety design derived from endurance auto racing.
SOURCES – Autoweek, Wired, Engadget, Edison2
Brian Wang is a Futurist Thought Leader and a popular Science blogger with 1 million readers per month. His blog Nextbigfuture.com is ranked #1 Science News Blog. It covers many disruptive technology and trends including Space, Robotics, Artificial Intelligence, Medicine, Anti-aging Biotechnology, and Nanotechnology.
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