Posts Tagged ‘Automotive X-Prize’


September 16th, 2010 Comments off

This is a real car:

Nissan Leaf

And this is not:

Edison2 Very Light Car

And if you happened to be walking down L’Enfant Promenade in Washington, DC this afternoon, it’s quite likely you would have seen both of them.

The first car is Nissan’s new all-electric vehicle, the Leaf, which you will be able to buy (or at least order) within the next few months at your local Nissan Dealer.  (And if you haven’t seen the new commercial, go watch it now.)

The second is the Edison2 Very Light Car.  It was in town because the Progressive Insurance Automotive X-Prize winners were being announced.  (You can read about them here.)  The Edison2 won the prize – the five million dollar prize – in the mainstream class. …Really?  Mainstream? This car doesn’t look mainstream to me.  It does meet the definition of mainstream as defined by the PIAXP folks.  It does carry four passengers, and is presumably capable of transporting them around on public roads with some modicum of comfort, safety, and practicality.  It’s motivated by a 1-cylinder, E85-capable 40 horsepower motorcycle engine.  And it can do this because it weighs a scant 800 pounds.

The Edison2 will never be sold to the public. But it’s interesting for a few reasons.  It demonstrates that there are ways to build a 100 mpg car that doesn’t use electricity as its fuel – namely, through the use of lightweighting and aerodynamic improvements.  (It also demonstrates what a group of individuals who cut their teeth in auto racing can do when they focus on fuel efficiency.)

The Leaf, on the other hand, is remarkable in that it’s so unremarkable, while at the same time being unlike anything the mass market has seen.  It’ll cost around $24k (after the $7500 federal tax credit), which is pretty inexpensive considering its 24kWh battery that gives it a 100 mile range between charges.  And it’s a nice car – with better tactile feedback and quality of materials than many other conventional cars in its price range.  It’s roomy, handles well, is quick off the line, and is quite fun and intuitive to drive.  My test-drive was brief, but easily enough to convince me that Nissan likely has a success on their hands.  (It should be noted that the Leaf was not an entrant the Automotive X-Prize competition.)

The Edison2 may have won the Automotive X-Prize competition (and the $5 million purse).  But my guess is that a year from now, it will be the Nissan Leaf that will have won consumers’ hearts.  And even the hearts of a few polar bears.


September 5th, 2009 Comments off

I like to think I know most everything that’s going on in the automotive world.  So I was surprised recently when I read an article in Automotive Engineering International about Velozzi‘s new crossover, the Solo.  Velozzi, an Automotive X-Prize contender, plans to develop “practical plug-in multi-fuel hybrid electric vehicles.”  My surprise was due to the fact that I hadn’t actually heard of this company.

Velozzi Supercar

Velozzi Supercar

Currently, Velozzi has plans to build two models.  The first of these, the Supercar, is a 770-hp all-electric vehicle that accelerates to 60 mph in 3 seconds and reaches over 200 mph.  This is a beautiful car, with Ferrari-esque styling and ridiculous performance potential.  The more conventional vehicle, the Solo, is an attractive crossover PHEV with better-than-average acceleration and fuel-economy of 100 mpg.

Velozzi Solo

Velozzi Solo

Two things are particularly striking to me regarding Velozzi.  First, founder Roberto Velozzi has stated that “It is inconceivable and counterproductive to manufacture efficient vehicles using antiquated types of construction.”  To that end, he plans to incorporate novel materials such as carbon-fiber nano-tube-based components, leading to simplified construction and reduced manufacturing costs.  I applaud this effort, as it represents a fundamental shift from the traditional manufacturing techniques that are so entrenched in auto industry, and I believe such a change is necessary for the industry to reinvent itself.  Secondly, instead of a conventional internal combustion engine, the Solo will use a micro-turbine in charge-sustaining mode, allowing for much greater efficiency and fuel flexibility.  Again, this is the break from traditional thinking that the industry needs.  (I do have to question, however, why their Supercar needs 700 hp to achieve its performance targets, assuming that the use of carbon fiber has indeed resulted in significant weight-savings.)

Velozzi has partnered with some well-known (and deep-pocketed) suppliers to make the Supercar and Solo a reality, and plans to start mass-production by early 2012.  Unfortunately, all we’ve seen so far are CAD drawings, and no prototype for either car exists.  But now that Velozzi is on my radar, I will certainly be following their progress.  And their chances of success can only be increased with a name like “Velozzi”!