Science Matters/Environment: Virginia Team Competing for $5 Million
The X-Prize Foundation will hand out awards to teams that built a new kind of super efficient cars. A team from Lynchburg expects to win big.
The X-Prize Foundation will award $5 million to the team that has come up with the most viable car that will travel more than 100 miles on one gallon of gasoline.
Kuttner: One of the really distinguishing features, which is great, is that they don't tell you how to do it. They only tell you what the desired result is, and that allows a lot of opportunity. In the automobile industry and a lot of government programs today, they prescribe the path, and when you prescribe the path, you limit the options.
Oliver Kuttner leads the Edison2 team from Lynchburg.
Kuttner: They really help people by bringing in a serious panel of experts, I mean, the people that we ended up having to present to and convince that what we're doing is viable, are a long list of who’s whos.
There were university teams, some from auto makers and private individuals.
Kuttner: 136 cars in the beginning and at the end, the only thing left were a small handful of ground-up out-of-the-box vehicles, but they all achieved efficiency over 100 miles per gallon in the combined EPA cycle, they all achieved unprecedented low CO2 emissions, and they did all of this while giving room for real people and, in my case, I am six foot four, 250 pounds, and four people my size can sit in our car.
The Lynchburg team, Kuttner noted, was the only survivor with an internal combustion engine.
Kuttner: Our car can be fueled up at any gas station, which is a very good feature. I will say that the electric car surprised me, the ones that did survive, how good they are.
The contest ends tomorrow but, he says, the race to perfect and commercialize a car with such high gas mileage is really just beginning.
Kuttner: Let me first say, that people will buy such cars is a certainty. We believe that you're probably looking at five years because it requires rescaling of every component and the X-Prize race cars, we made our own transmissions, all the internal parts for the 250cc turbo-charged engine were made by us and the cars were very, very light.
Their car weighs only 800 pounds.
Kuttner: In the normal automobile industry, every car leans on a predecesssor; it's very rare that all-new, ground-up new cars come out. We've tasted the goal, we've seen it. Our cars handle better than most cars; in the majority of accidents, I believe our cars will be safer and our cars will get unprecedented efficiency. If you want a large car with a big trunk, you might only get 65 miles per gallon, but an equal car today might get 18 miles per gallon.
A smaller car, Kuttner added, may get up to 130 miles per gallon.
Kuttner: We have demonstrated 129 miles per gallon on the highway cycle, and we know where we made some mistakes. We know we can get another ten percent. We are proposing a new approach that moves the entire range of possibilities. What we're proposing can probably cut our oil consumption down to one-quarter of the current consumption for those who decide to buy those cars.
Kuttner and his team of engineers at Edison2 would like to buy an empty factory in Virginia and turn it into an incubator for super-light, efficient vehicle technology. Tomorrow night, they find out if they’ve won the prize and they’ll get started.
Learn more at Edison2.com.
John Ogle, WCVE News