A few months ago, three teams split $10 million in prizes, finally claiming the Progressive Insurance Automotive X prize. They're all at CES, and we got a chance to speak in detail with one of the men behind one of them, Edison2's Oliver Kutter, about the design of the car and, ultimately, what's going to come next thanks to that $5 million in cash the company walked away with. Read on for the details from that conversation, including why this tiny thing could actually be safer than a traditional car, as well as a video walkthrough, and pictures of the winner of the two-wheeled X-Tracer too.
The Very Light Car appropriately weighs a few ticks over 800lbs and is powered by a 250cc motorcycle engine (the same one used in the funky little Yamaha WR250X). That may not sound like a lot of power, and indeed it isn't, but the idea here is of course efficiency. The team managed 102mpg during the competition, but have elsewhere scored 109, and that's just the beginning.
This is the third iteration of the car, and the company is already hard at work on the fourth, with electric power coming. That won't be the end, though, with more revisions to be made and, hopefully, a production version that could, believe it or not, seat seven. Part of the reason why it has so much room is because the suspension is entirely built into the wheels, a layout we unfortunately weren't allowed to see (it's hidden under the white bits of paper) but enables the axle to be completely rigid and the interior to stretch right to the corners of the body.
If your first thought is that this layout plus its tiny, low-rolling-resistance tires give it crummy handling, prepare to be humbled: the VLC pulled 1.18g on a skidpad, matching a $300,000+ Pagani Zonda C12 S. If your second thought is that it's a deathtrap, we'll be happy to dissuade that too. It's made of carbon fiber, for one thing, which is incredibly hard to damage. For another, its diamond shape gives it incredible rigidity from either frontal or side impacts. Finally, the placement of the wheels and tires outside of the body means they can be shed in a crash -- throwing off kinetic energy and reducing the overall force of the crash.
Ultimately the Virginia-based company is still a ways away from a version that you or I can try to go break our own records in, but with a fleet of experienced racing engineers fiddling with CAD files and laying up the carbon we'd like to think good things are coming. But, then, we are optimists.
A tour around the X-Prize winning Edison2 Very Light Car (video)
Tim Stevens|January 12, 2011 10:48 AM
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