By on September 16, 2010

The Automotive X-Prize is over, and the Edison2 Team has won the “Mainstream” class with its Very Light Car. It may not look like any mainstream car you’ve seen recently, but it does fit four passengers, offers air-con, heater, an audio system, and a 200 mile range. And using a 250 cc ethanol engine, it got 102.5 MPGe, while accelerating to 60 MPH in 14.2 seconds. But this was not necessarily a hard-fought victory: Edison2 was the only team that even made it into the finals in the “Mainstream” class. Meanwhile, the X-Tracer motorcycle shown above won the “Alternative” class. In fact, it won the whole damn competition with 197 MPGe while accelerating to 60 MPH in just over 6 seconds. So, despite the ego-boosting rhetoric from Nancy Pelosi, and the other politicians speaking at the awards ceremony, the Automotive X-Prize didn’t so much advance America closer towards a fuel-efficient future as it proved that motorcycles are way more efficient than cars are. The much-maligned gas guzzlers that we know as “mainstream cars” are in little danger from this lot.

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19 Comments on “What’s Wrong With This Picture: The Very Model Of A Modern Mainstream Automobile Edition...”

  • avatar

    “The much-maligned gas guzzlers that we know as “mainstream cars” are in little danger from this lot”…until gas prices increase dramatically, which may or may not be coming.  But I’m glad somebody’s doing R&D just in case.  As for the motorcycle, I don’t know of any that get close to 100 mpg, let alone 197.  In my book that’s a significant achievement.
    Sure, we won’t see these on the road tomorrow, but that’s not the point.  It’s about pushing the envelope to demonstrate what’s possible.  If you think destroying the Gulf of Mexico and adding to our ever expanding trade deficit are great ideas, by all means keep belittling their efforts.

  • avatar

    I’m sure those pass crash and safety standards too, right?

    The real scary thing here is the poor showing of Aptera.  I had high hopes for them.  I suppose the two seats and three wheels puts them into the alternative class though, and they aren’t going to compete with a faired motorcycle.  Still…I heard they had some pretty bad handling issues.

  • avatar

    As you can surmise from my username, I’m a motorcycle enthusiast. Agree with Russycle that the “mainstream motorcycle” manufacturers haven’t put much effort into developing high mileage bikes. Mostly they have mimicked the car industry in trumping one another year after year with more hp and technology. My Ducati 1000 gets 42 mpg around town, which is way better than any car with its speed, but still pretty disappointing in terms of efficiency. You can buy a Ninja 250 or a scooter if you want mileage, but I’d guess around 80mpg is the best a real motorcycle could achieve with existing technology.
    As to what’s wrong with the picture, based on the lean angle of the bike, I’d say it is about to crash into one or both of the cars.

    • 0 avatar

      I assumed “onewheeldrive” would be a unicycle enthusiast!
      Make a motorcycle with a wrap-around body like in the picture and my wife might let me drive it.  (Her brother-in-law died on a bike and she’s pretty paranoid.)

    • 0 avatar

      You’re absolutely right: the motorcycle industry in this country exists almost solely to serve the recreational market. Nobody takes the idea of Americans using two wheels for daily transport seriously. If anything, the lesson of the X-Prize is that this is a mistake. The X-Prize’s impact on the actual automobile industry, on the other hand, will be negligible. The problem, as proven by the fact that only one team even made the finals in the “mainstream” class, is that consumers expect features and performance from cars that just isn’t compatible with super high efficiency. I don’t see how the X-Prize was able to address this issue.
      On the other hand, at least it was entirely privately funded… no major OEM EV coming onto the market can claim that.
      Finally, it’s only fair to admit that an X-Tracer would probably be in my fantasy garage if I won the lottery. The X-Tracer team also had the most realistic attitude: it builds its enclosed motorcycles as limited-production luxury toys and charges accordingly. No “saving the world” twaddle from these guys, just a cool product that blew the competition out of the water on efficiency and performance. Too bad this isn’t a motorcycle blog….

  • avatar

    There are some motorcycles out there with high mileage potential. My V-Strom (semi-sporty bike) routinely gets 50 mpg, under moderately hard driving. Hypermilers report close to 70 mpg with the same bike, using tire, gear, and computer flash changes. There are scooters that get over 100 mpg, easily. Of course most scooters top out around 55 mph, so your limited on any highway driving.

    I’d think you can get a “real” motorcycle, 400cc twin engine, designed to hit 100 mpg using current technology without any real problems. Other than no one would actually buy it. At that point, you’re off the end of the bell curve. I actually calculated the cost savings if I went the hypermiler route. Taking the bike from 50 to 70 mpg didn’t save enough to justify spending any money on it. So, not too much practical application. At least for me.

  • avatar

    It will be interesting to see how much of this technology gets into vehicles any time soon.  While motorcycles are far more efficient, adoption will be very very slow unless safety improves dramatically.

  • avatar

    Am I alone in thinking the Edison2 is very impressive? Sure, with gas prices what they are now, these things aren’t exactly likely to take off, but should the price of the magic fuel soar, it’s nice to know there’s potentially an alternative that won’t cost a mint to drive, or have short range and long refueling times. 14 seconds to 60 may sound like a lot, but that was certainly decent during my youth (The Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, and Nixon administrations), although  I can imagine that with four people inside, this thing would turn into a slug. STILL, this is just a start. With all the different avenues for improving ICE, as well as further decreasing weight, I can well imagine that something like this will begin to be fun. btw, the weight on this thing is under a G in lbs.

    • 0 avatar

      It all depends on what it costs to buy and maintain one of them.  I wouldn’t mind driving something “weird” if it were reasonably safe and didn’t cost much more than a normal car.
      If you read their blog you see the reason they didn’t go the electric route was because they needed to hit the 200-mile range, and the weight of that much battery would kill their performance.
      If I’m doing my math right, 1 Gallon of E85 has 81800 BTU, which is 24KWh.  But an electric motor is about 4 times as efficient as a gas engine, so they would need about 6KWh of electricity to go 100 miles.  Or 3 KWh of electricity to go 50 miles.  Which is about 4 times as efficient as a traditional EV, so this is really a big leap.
      3 KWh of lead-acid battery weighs about 85 kg.

    • 0 avatar

      I like it as well. Their philosophy is that light weight and better aerodynamics are the way to go vs. hybrid drive trains. Here’s their web site:

    • 0 avatar

      I think that cost of ownership is going to be a key factor in the development of the market for these vehicles. People tend to focus on the cost of gasoline or environmental factors, but have you looked at your car payment + insurance + maintenance bill vs gas on a monthly basis? The former dwarfs the latter. So, if E2 can make this car cheap to own and operate, I’d buy it if gas went back to $1/gal (which ain’t gonna happen.)  Right now, there are precious few alternatives in the market for just a dirt cheap, functional automobile. It’s almost impossible to buy a car without power this, power that, auto trans, 22 airbags all over the interior, etc. You see cars like this abroad where people haven’t been brainwashed into thinking that a car is supposed to be a home away from home. I guess my (rambling) point is that I love the simplicity of the E2 and others like it. Just looks like it would be a hoot to own and drive. This is the other reason I like motorcycles; no air conditioning, no power windows, no auto trans (although they are becoming available), rebuildable suspension, engine maintenance is easy and fun even if you are not a mechanic.

  • avatar

    I’d like to see that douche-bag Pelosi ride in any of the competing vehicles!  Boeing 767 at our (taxpayer) expense and its huge carbon footprint is more her style.

  • avatar

    > Too bad this isn’t a motorcycle blog….
    If you clone this site as a sister publication TTAM I’d be all over it! The motorcycle industry has the same problem that you find with cars, only worse: all the mainstream mags are paid for not by subscriptions but out of add money from OEMs and all the peripheral vendors. They know where there bread is buttered and as a consequence the publications aren’t very objective. Motorcycle Consumer News is the only one I subscribe to because they don’t sell ads. All subscription based. There are some good websites, like, but many are not for a general audience. So, somebody grab and get busy!!!

  • avatar

    I still can’t figure out how the heck you’d fit 4 people in that thing.  The website shows stripped versions with a single drivers seat.  Does anyone know where there is a pic showing 4 people occupancy?

  • avatar

    That term is utter nonsense and it needs to die — NOW.
    There’s no excuse for “MPGe”, just tell us how many miles per kilowatt or miles per gallon of which fuel.
    Anything else is just playing games.

  • avatar

    The X-Tracer is great, I remember seeing a show on it once. It has little wheels that come out when you stop, and naturally it’s incredibly efficient. And I am glad the company knows how to make money.
    BUT, and this is the big but that also goes out to companies like Twike, how can this be the future when it costs an arm and a leg? I understand where the difficulty is – these are small companies. If Toyota bought Twike and mass produced them I’m sure the cost would drop like a rock, same if Suzuki bought the X-Tracer company.
    Perhaps more to the point, it is very possible to make cars much more efficient, but nobody wants to make the insanely efficient cars – the closest we get is the Prius and Insight. They are a step in the right direction, but we could do a lot more.
    It may be tempting to dissmiss these vehicles, but look at the reality – in the 60’s, the idea of the I4 being the dominant engine would have seemed silly. In the future, either vehicles will have to be more efficient or people will have to ride more trains. That’s just written into reality, oil is not infinite.

  • avatar

    I think the better way to look at these cars is, when gasoline is $20 per gallon we can still drive a private car.  If you march down to your local car dealer and the only thing they have on the lot is cars like this, are you going to skip car ownership and ride the bus?  Didn’t think so.

    The bigger question is, if people would drive this rather than take the bus, why not do it now and prevent gas from ever reaching $20 per gallon?

    • 0 avatar

      The bigger question is, if people would drive this rather than take the bus, why not do it now and prevent gas from ever reaching $20 per gallon?

      Because that’s COMMUNISM!

  • avatar
    Facebook User

    Motorcycles already CAN get ~ 100mpg+ regularly.  Google for KLR650 diesel.
    If only they’d be mass produced…The military (supposedly) buys a lot of these.  For those of you unfamiliar with the KLR650 it’s (in gas form) a 35hp or so bike that can do 90mph witout much trouble.

    Even stock rebel 250’s can get 85’ish and creep up to 70mph or so.
    If you commute on this for 6k miles/year, the difference between this $2k used 85mpg bike and one that gets 200mpg is not much.
    at $20 gallon, the difference is $800/year.  For that $800 you get (probably) cheaper parts, a proven design (20 years+?) a probably more comfortable riding position and a dealer network that exists everywhere.  Add in cost of tires (special for this “e” motorcycle?) parts (also special?) original cost (??), insurance, etc and it would take forever to make up the difference.  I’d gamble that the rebel is cheaper & a better buy on pretty much all front’s.

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