Over the past several decades, the promise of the "car of tomorrow" has remained unfulfilled, while the problems it was supposed to solve have only intensified. The average price of a gallon of gas is higher than at any time since the early 1980s. The Middle East seems more volatile than ever. And even climate skeptics are starting to admit that the carbon we´re pumping into the atmosphere might have disastrous consequences. To these circumstances, automakers have responded with a fleet of cars that averages 21 miles per gallon, about four miles per gallon worse than the Model T.
Yet hope is coming faster than that hydrogen economy you've been hearing about. Several small companies are developing new engine technologies and advanced automotive designs that promise to deliver 100 miles from a single gallon of gas. The proposals run from the simple-reduce weight, improve aerodynamics-to the incredible (one company wants to borrow a few tricks from jet engines).
The race should heat up further when the X Prize Foundation-the group that kick-started the space-tourism industry with its $10-million competition to produce a reusable private spacecraft-announces in the next few months a competition for the first car to break 100 miles per gallon and sell a yet-to-be-decided number of units. The prize money hadn't been finalized at press time, but X Prize officials are discussing figures in the $25-million range as an appropriate incentive. They hope the prize will urge people to completely reconsider what a car should look like and how it should function. "We need a paradigm shift," says Mark Goodstein, the executive director for the automotive X Prize. "We need to change the way people think about automobiles."
Here are three technologies that auto-industry insiders we consulted think could raise the bar for automotive fuel economy-and quite possibly secure the X Prize's huge purse.
Smaller, Better, Cheaper
By far the most obvious approach to achieving ultra-high mileage is to dramatically cut weight and wind resistance, the chief enemies of highway mileage. This is the gambit you see in student engineering competitions, in which teardrop-shaped microvehicles on bicycle wheels regularly achieve hundreds of miles to the gallon. But these vehicles are all expensive prototypes. The challenge is to make a light, highly aerodynamic vehicle that´s reliable, crash-worthy and, most important, inexpensive to mass-produce.
Steve Fambro may have tinkered his way into the solution. His Aptera, which he designed in his garage in Carlsbad, California, is a three-wheeled, bullet-shaped two-seater that minimizes drag and weighs only 850 pounds (the Toyota Prius weighs 2,890 pounds). He cut bulk by using a carbon composite frame, a race-inspired solution that should help with crash absorption.
Fambro´s company, Accelerated Composites, is drawing the attention of several venture capitalists, and he hopes to have the Aptera on the market in less than two years. "Everything I had been doing was with an eye toward manufacturability," he says. By using novel composite-construction techniques, includinginexpensive molds and automated fabrication processes, Fambro says he can keep the cost per vehicle under $20,000. And when combined with a hybrid engine that burns diesel, the Aptera could break 300 mpg.
For more on the race to build the 100-MPG car, listen in to Episode 13 of the PopSci Podcast. Subscribe below via iTunes or RSS, or download the MP3 file.
The trick to fuel economy is the air to fuel ratio. Old style carburators were very effective at this, as they came in models from a single barrell fuel saver, to duel 4-barrells that could snap a driveshaft as soon as move the vehicle. The new ECU chips are nice, but they need to be used to their full advantage,and constantly tune themselves for the best fuel economy. Larger ranges on transmissions also help, if you can keep the RPM's low, then naturally you get better fuel mileage. When you go to putting out 200 horsepower and not needing but 50 to keep the truck moving, you're wasting gas. Auto makers need to rethink the whole point of chips, and develop a system to track and adjust the a/f ratio in addition to keeping your car at a perfect 70 degrees, giving you directions, and playin music at the sound of your voice.
or that other monthly, that offered instructions on converting a Pinto to a Diesel Centurion?
How fast does this car have to move? I have a bicycle that gets way more than 100 miles per gallon.
Number of units required, I'd have to check NASCAR Rules, but I recall a figure of 500.
Do you hear what I hear, then you might be selling flowers too.
Gas companys have monopolized the energy industry. Did anybody know that the Model T got 20 mpg, and the Model A got 25-30. Look at all the advancements technology has made in other sectors and look at the car industry. Its because people want to make money and they dont care about anything else. The first electric car was made in the late 1880s, but many gas cars today cant get more than 30 mpg. I hope somebody sees the problem with this. If people can spread the word about this than something will get done.
It is true that auto manufacturers could do a lot better with current technology to produce an efficient car. The big problem is that too many Americans are sucked into the media hype that we "need" bigger SUV's, or faster sports cars. And these Americans spend a LOT of their income on these inefficient vehicles. Look at where all the money goes, and think about who drives the media.
The fact is that most Americans could get where they need to go without using ANY petroleum for 95% of their trips. When we begin walking or using a bicycle, it becomes obvious that these methods of transport are not only fun and functional, they also cost little or nothing, improve our health directly, and improve the environment by reducing our personal carbon footprint.
High fuel prices are GOOD! They are helping us to wake up and take responsibility for the unconscious or irresponsible decisions that we made in the past. More and more Americans are now making smarter choices - living closer to where they work, using mass transit, bicycling, walking, demanding more efficient vehicles, and making all sorts of good decisions that will ultimately leave this world in tact for generations to come.
First of all, high fuel prices are NOT good for society. I am in the trucking business and fuel prices are killing us and putting people out of business. This is a way of life for us. We deliver just about everything that you purchase. The thing that people do not understand in this country is that everytime fuel prices go up, so do your everyday items that are at your favorite store. Items such as groceries, clothing, etc. These items go up in price because the price to deliver them goes up. Normal everyday middle and lower class people have a hard time keeping up financially because of this. Second of all, the government would confiscate anything from anyone that would allow you to achieve 100 mpg. It has happened in the past with a specialized carb. , and believe me would happen again. Bottom line is that you are not going to take money away from the American governments pockets without a fight.
"The average price of a gallon of gas is higher than at any time since the early 1980s. "
I do NOT remember gasoline ever being over $3 per gallon!
Where, when was 'The average price of a gallon of gas ...higher ..in the early 1980s.?'
In the later part of the 90's i was buying fuel for 87 cents a gallon. The average price for a gallon of gas was NEVER higher at any time than it is now. Especially in the 80's. Some of you seem as irritated as myself with these outrageous prices. The U.S. should have started drilling off the coast of the communist state of California years ago. The same thing goes for Florida and Alaska. The people of California, and Florida do not want to look at oil rigs that are 10 miles off the coast. Wwwaaaahhhh!!! They would rather let someone like China come in and cross-drill and take the oil that is rightfully ours. We need to tell the tree huggers to chill for a while, and we need to start building new refinery's and drilling for our own oil. This country needs to become self contained so that we can take care of ourselves and not depend on these other countries. The greatest country in the world is using China as their lender. What a Joke! We need to stand up and become real Americans again. If we do not take care of our own first, we will continue to fall.
What most people don't seem to understand is a few things. The first is that by the 1980's comment includes there being inflation no just the cost of it. Second is that yes the government would take away any object that would do 100 miles per gallon and be able to sell because they get so much money off of the oil industry, and finally the main reason of the price being so high is not just the supply of oil it is also the stress on refineries and that no new ones are being built
The hydraulic hybrid is interesting. If the StarRotor idea works out is there any reason it wouldn't work StarRotor/Hydraulic hybrid?
The people in the U.S. are the most innovative and hardworking chaps in the world. Most of us are just too greedy and selfcentered to channel that energy. into somthing that might help us all. Most people are reactive instead of proactive. I thank the powers that be for the tool of the internet to combat this shameful state of denial most are living in. And Popular Science is the most proactive publication I have ever come accross. Maybe that is why I have subscribed since I was old enough to read.
Thanks for the theme dear
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I found this article on a similar subject - interesting stuff! Looks like you can actually do this now, and it's legal. I don't know if it really works though.
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