Consumer prototype first drive!

Working tirelessly since their X-Prize victory, Edison2 reaches a coveted milestone February 27, 2013. 

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Wednesday
Jun092010

E85

For the X Prize the Very Light Car is powered by a one-cylinder, 250cc internal combustion engine running on E85. As the name implies, E85 is an 85% ethanol, 15% gasoline fuel blend.

To understand why we chose an internal combustion engine and E85, we need to explain why we did not chose a hybrid or electric drive. Our early studies on efficiency and the X Prize competition showed that car weight can be the main determinant of a vehicle’s energy consumption.  

With weight being of paramount importance, the energy content of gasoline vs. batteries comes into play. A 6-pound gallon of gasoline contains the energy of a 500lb battery. For the 200-mile range required by the X Prize for the mainstream class that translates into 1000 lbs of batteries. Our 4-seat mainstream entry weighs under 750 lbs, so the Very Light Car would more than double in weight if electric. That’s huge in terms of overall efficiency.

An electric car has to work extra to accelerate because of the added weight of batteries. All cars require less power to maintain highway speeds than to accelerate up to them, and this is especially true of electrics. An advantage of electrics is that the motor can be throttled back to cruise without losing efficiency.

A gasoline engine may accelerate more efficiently without the added weight of batteries, but when throttled back to cruise power it loses efficiency, because of internal friction and pumping losses.

Pumping losses led us to E85. Pumping losses come about at low load because the engine is trying to draw in a cylinder’s worth of air past a throttle that’s trying to stop it. Our solution for this inefficiency is to “throttle” the engine with exhaust gas recirculation. For practical purposes exhaust gas is inert, so if we send a cylinder full of exhaust gas and fresh air mix into the engine instead of a partial fill of fresh air only we can reduce power while also reducing pumping losses.

However, there is a limit to how much you can dilute the incoming fresh air with exhaust gas before the engine starts to misfire. E85 is significantly more tolerant of charge dilution than gasoline, allowing us to run the engine at close-to-peak efficiency at cruise power.

E85 has other attractive qualities. It (ethanol) runs cleaner than gasoline. It is renewable. As ethanol production moves from corn to cellulose-based sources ethanol becomes more energy efficient to produce and competes less with farmland.

As our last post noted, we are energy-source agnostic. The Very Light Car increases auto efficiency regardless of power source. But for the X Prize, at least, E85 makes a lot of sense.



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Reader Comments (19)

It makes sense perfectly. Here at TTW we've had a different approach, as you know. We have a Hybrid ICE-Electric powertrain, which gives us the chance to optimize an existing engine using it to power a crash proof vehicle for urban commuters needs. I agree with you that batteries are the key problem in EVs, hopefully we'll see a new generation of lightweight accumulators in the future.

June 10, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMirko

Yes, electric vehicles will never really be marketable because of their lack of storage capacity for the price of the battery. Who wants to own a car for 5 years or even 10 years, only to have to replace a ten thousand dollar battery pack. If that's true, then why not just buy gas? It would have been cheaper over the average of the whole time. Also, what about resale, can't sell an EV with an old battery. Without that new battery it's useless in ten years. Each car me or any of my family has owned, new or used, bought it and drove it until the wheels fell off. In other words, I am well aware of the price of ownership of an EV, and in the end, it's still not as cheap as a diesel powered car which lasts an average of 3-5 times longer than a gasoline powered car. So until they figure out how to cheaply get solar cells to conduct electrolysis of water into hydrogen, I am not getting sucked into the EV bandwagon. Regardless of a 100,000 dollar "green" car, of which half of that money is the price of the battery, which you would need to buy another in at best, ten years ($50,000), for most of us average payed Americans, no matter how bad we want it, we can't buy it! No battery to my experience of: Radio controlled cars when I was a lad, watch batteries, remotes, cell-phones, and even space technology has ever actually lasted ten years, so where on earth are they going to find even a ten year lasting battery. Imagine all the hot and cold your EV will be exposed to. Try freezing your lap-top battery and see how many hours it's average charge gets reduced to. I'm just saying it all doesn't make sense in the real world of us workers that are on a budget and need things to last. If it lasts, it's sustainable by definition. Thank you Edison 2 for considering those of us out there who are smart, care about our future and our children's future for average people's income.

June 10, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterbiologist 111

biologist111:
"Thank you for considering those of us who are smart"?!? A bit full of ourselves, are we?
Edison2 has a great solution--one of many.
1) There are very few people out there who look for big resale value on their ten-year-old car.
2) BetterPlace has a business model where the consumer does not buy the battery at all-- rather, the consumer buys the miles used, just like minutes on a cellphone, and swaps batteries as they deplete just as we refill gas tanks today. Their system will be deployed in Israel, Denmark and in Tokyo (for electric taxis only at first) within the next two years and will be a very interesting experiment.
3) The Prius gets about 50 real-world mpg currently. It costs $23,000. The Nissan Leaf costs $30,000 (though it only gets a bit over 100 miles per charge I think). So there are hybrid and electric versions that do not cost $100K and are available today. When a production Edison2 is actually available to buy-- in two years? three? -- electrics will have yet longer range and be still cheaper. Even Tesla's will have gained two seats and be down to $50 K in cost in two years, as the Model S. So, there are plenty of options for we so called "dummies" while we await the Edison2.

4) Currently, we can't buy E85 many places. So Edison2 runs on gas. Gas is not what we want to run on.

In conclusion, I love what Edison2 is doing. If there were one available today I would buy it. But there isn't. Let's see what the competition looks like when the car is actually available. Meanwhile, there are a lot of "smart people" who are helping other technologies advance as well.

June 10, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterdoc3osh

Doc3osh: Perhaps I owe you an apology, because I should have made things a little more clear. I wasn’t attacking you or anyone on this page. What I am saying is that, being an undergraduate college student, I don’t make a lot of money, and even when I graduate the first round, I still won’t make anything decent. Now, while although I may be in the low middle income for a while, I, in difference to some of my classmates, understand what the x-prize is for and understand why someone would want to have better energy efficiency. Some of my classmates, along with other people around the deep South, will say; “Well if the car is light weight for gas mileage, why not just make it go faster instead?” An intelligent person should know that, there is only a finite amount of resources the planet can offer, and that just because you’re in college and probably soon will be wealthy enough to afford a new car, does not give you the right to just buy the biggest engine gas hog, all because, you can. So sir, do see what I am saying now about “smart”?, I wasn’t saying EV’s are dumb, but just because you are poor or average income, does not mean you didn’t know how to be smart with money, and right now, battery EV’s have some real world costs over the lifetime of ownership associated with them.
Indeed it will be an interesting experiment, but I would still have a few concerns, and questions.
#1 Would now be a good time to trust to the manufacturers how much a mile costs? Maybe, but it certainly seems to leave greed a wide open gap along with some history of things like this being taken advantage of. At least that is the first thing in my mind, is am I going to get ripped off once I am dependent on it? Oil, credit cards, cell phone companies, and opium trade. None of these are an attack by the way, just a question I pose to you and others reading, that are frankly, like us.
#2 What about recharge time, and I know what you’re going to say about average daily road mileage, but it just seems to me like we would be taking a step back in technology instead of a step forward. It would be opposite of a cell phone’s convenience that you’re paying for. With a battery car that requires any hours worth of charging, it is a time sacrifice at any time you are charging that you aren’t sleeping. That is one advantage of the hydrogen fuel cell electric, like the Honda Clarity for example. Perhaps, the reason it could be the car of the future is because it can still act like a car of today.
So what if we don’t figure out how to make hydrogen easily? Well maybe then it’s a necessary sacrifice of convenience we should take on and so we should change.
Question #3 How many times can they recycle a battery?, vs. how many times can an engine be rebuilt? This is a serious environmental concern as well. These are just questions I’m asking that I don’t have an answer for.
The Tesla’s $ 50,000 MSRP is contingent upon the government living up to paying off purchasers just like how, they were supposed to pay dealers in the “cash for clunkers” and they kind of, didn’t. So, as far as I’m concerned, it costs $57,000, unless Tesla offers the rebate up front.
Indeed, let’s see how Edison 2 can match up to other manufacturers in a few years. I really hope they come through though. I really like their open minded positive attitude, and it just goes to show how much the people of the company can impact their purchasers, even if they’re only potentials right now.

June 11, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterbiologist 111

biologist 111-- thanks for your explanation, I understand what you meant now.
Check out www.betterplace.com Their goal is to make recharging a non-issue. The comparison to cellphones is not in that we charge cellphones-- it's that you pay for your phone with a discounted price (sorta) in return for a two-year agreement to buy minutes from them: similarly betterplace would sell you the car relatively cheaply because it would be sold WITHOUT the battery and then you would buy battery mileage from them. Meaning, every time you drain the battery you will either charge it overnight from home or while at work, OR pull into a "battery swap station", like a gas station, where an automated machine will pull out the drained battery and plug in a charged one-- this takes about 5 minutes. You'd be charged for the "miles" on the new battery. Then you'd go along your merry way. So it would be as fast as filling up is now.

The Tesla Model S is projected at this point to cost $50K: the $7500 government subsidy is irrelevant once you consider that ANY car you buy today is based on HUGE government subsidies to the oil companies. Currently we're subsidizing them to the tune of entire ecosystems and tourism/fishing/ shrimp industries in the gulf of Mexico, but prior to that we were subsidizing them with billions spent in the Iraq war... oil is infinitely more expensive than electric cars no matter how you view it. But keep in mind too that that $50K is then followed by "gas" (electricity) that costs about the equivalent of $1/gallon. Also maintenance costs are much less than in an ICE car (fewer moving parts, no oil changes, etc). So over a ten year ownership period the Model S saves roughly $10,000 over owning a gas car that gets 30mpg. $40,000 is a pretty decent deal for a luxury car going 0-60 in under 6 seconds these days... That said, yes, it's still out of reach for the just-out-of-school crowd.
Incidentally the Model S is supposed to include compatibility with a battery swap system.
Tesla's next car after the model S is supposed to be much more affordable, if they make it that far...
Anyway, your points are well taken.

June 11, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterdoc3osh

doc3osh: Boy that would sure to ease up the "lead foot" wouldn't it?, because if you goose it, then there goes your miles, lol. Yeah, when I used to run radio controlled cars that I built as a kit, they had batteries that would clip in to the chassis. So, when I was a kid and my parents would take me on a hike, I would have on cargo pants to carry all the pre-charged batteries I needed, and swap them out as I went.
So I took a look at the website, very cool, but... I still have one question.
Ok, they said their goal is to reduce or eliminate oil dependence for transportation. Now the economic question I have is;
Just like oil, there are geographic locations where there is a lot of oil, so the question I have is would future wars be fought over the elements, and materials that are required to make batteries?, and isn't it easily possible for people extracting those materials to get greedy?

One thing though about oil being infinitely more expensive than electricity. As I was driving yesterday I saw how big an SUV is compared to the occupants head(s). Having recently been to Germany, I have also seen how small an Opel 7 seater is, and was getting just over 40 mpg. Their Volkswagen polo blue motion diesel gets over 74 mpg. The reason their cars are more efficient is because they are smaller, have pointed noses, and they have smaller wheels. (in general much smaller).Of course it could be argued that it's a good thing that the amount of energy in batteries compared to gas is low. The reason it's a good thing is because it forces the engineers behind it to make the car more efficient in order for it to work. So, in America, the current obstacle or perhaps our biggest enemy MIGHT not be the fuel, but perhaps the efficiency of the automobile and transportation in general.
What is important to remember is that renewable bio-diesel, and ethanol, are from the same source as fossil fuel, and natural gas. They are all made from dead organic matter. So I personally think, that which ever one is the greenest could be debatable. Although I have to say, if OSHA and hardware stores let a forklift operate around customers and workers in a building, that it is likely that natural gas is the cleanest burning of them all. So as far as current power plants go, moving away from coal to natural gas would seem to be the next step. Of course once we figure out how to replicate the efficiency of plants in obtaining their/our energy from the sun, our civilization might be able to become truly advanced in the sense that, now we can return to equilibrium by harnessing as much energy as we are consuming.
I'm just saying it's good to remain realistic, because where the power comes from is also a huge issue as far as oil, dependence, renewable, and ultimately saving us from ourselves which, if you can't already tell, I'm all about.

June 13, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterbiologist 111

How is E85 rated by the Xprize folks relative to gasoline in the MPGe system? Do they use the 'utility factor' as the EPA dictated back in 2001? Or is it a straight heat value equivalent that is used?

I realize that the real merit of the car is that it works on an energy 'agnostic' basis.

June 14, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJim Bullis

There are some good talking points from each of you (doc / biologist), but I think there are additional facts that possibly you guys have not considered. First, I think we ALL agree that the world really needs to get off of fossil fuels ASAP. Unfortunately in the short term – electric cars are just not a viable answer to this problem, X-Prize zeal notwithstanding. Even without getting into a detailed discussion of practical limitations of batteries, costs, etc. – the fact is that the bulk of our electricity is produced by burning fossil fuels of one type or another. So although an EV may have zero emissions from the car – a lot of CO2 (and potentially other pollutants) come out of the power plant.

Also, a typical EV actually uses about the same, or even MORE total energy than a well designed internal combustion driven car. This is why the X-Prize rules were carefully “stacked” to allow EV’s to have 200 g/mile CO2 emissions (as calculated by the DOE’s power grid analysis), whereas a fuel burning car is only allowed 116 g/mile (the amount created by burning gasoline at a rate of 100 MPG). This ratio (200/116 = 1.72) is the source of the 72% advantage I’ve been saying the X-Prize rules favor EV’s.

So…in the NEAR term (until the power grid is largely converted to energy sources that do not burn fossil fuels, which could easily be 25+ years) the best solution is to create cars that are maximally efficient (and other behavioral changes such as car pooling, telecommuting, mass transit, minimizing travel – esp. air travel). The Edison2 car is a shining example of this approach. The fact that it can be made to burn gasoline, ethanol, or even CNG keeps more options open – and gets "greener" as the sources of fuel change to renewable sources over time.

Some day, when the power grid is “green” (and battery technology more advanced) – then EV’s may make sense for mass market vehicles. However, EVEN THEN it may be found that a better overall solution is to not burden the grid with millions of charging EV’s and keep the existing infrastructure of tanker trucks, gas stations, etc. - but use a liquid or gas synthetic fuel which is created by renewable bio-processes or possibly solar conversion. This would retain all of the convenience benefits of today (5 minute refueling, long range, low car weight) but completely eliminate fossil fuel usage and greenhouse gas emissions. And….in that future 25 years hence, you could probably buy a conversion kit from JC Whitney to burn that “fuel of the future” in your “vintage Edison2 car” !!!

July 2, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterKevin

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August 16, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterreplica watches

One thing though about oil being infinitely more expensive than electricity. As I was driving yesterday I saw how big an SUV is compared to the occupants head(s). Having recently been to Germany, I have also seen how small an Opel 7 seater is, and was getting just over 40 mpg. Their Volkswagen polo blue motion diesel gets over 74 mpg.

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I also would like to know how is E85 rated by the Xprize folks relative to gasoline in the MPGe system? Do they use the 'utility factor' as the EPA dictated back in 2001?

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April 9, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMary Jane

I would like to know when will Edison2 available in the market? I think there will be other options when we are still waiting for the Edison2.

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April 18, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterworkout routine

Indeed it will be an interesting experiment, but I would still have a few concerns, and questions.
#1 Would now be a good time to trust to the manufacturers how much a mile costs? Maybe, but it certainly seems to leave greed a wide open gap along with some history of things like this being taken advantage of. At least that is the first thing in my mind, is am I going to get ripped off once I am dependent on it? Oil, credit cards, cell phone companies, and opium trade. None of these are an attack by the way, just a question I pose to you and others reading, that are frankly, like us.
#2 What about recharge time, and I know what you’re going to say about average daily road mileage, but it just seems to me like we would be taking a step back in technology instead of a step forward. It would be opposite of a cell phone’s convenience that you’re paying for. With a battery car that requires any hours worth of charging, it is a time sacrifice at any time you are charging that you aren’t sleeping. That is one advantage of the hydrogen fuel cell electric, like the Honda Clarity for example. Perhaps, the reason it could be the car of the future is because it can still act like a car of today.
So what if we don’t figure out how to make hydrogen easily? Well maybe then it’s a necessary sacrifice of convenience we should take on and so we should change.
Question #3 How many times can they recycle a battery?, vs. how many times can an engine be rebuilt? This is a serious environmental concern as well. These are just questions I’m asking that I don’t have an answer for.
The Tesla’s $ 50,000 MSRP is contingent upon the government living up to paying off purchasers just like how, they were supposed to pay dealers in the “cash for clunkers” and they kind of, didn’t. So, as far as I’m concerned, it costs $57,000, unless Tesla offers the rebate up front.
Indeed, let’s see how Edison 2 can match up to other manufacturers in a few years. I really hope they come through though. I really like their open minded positive attitude, and it just goes to show how much the people of the company can impact their purchasers, even if they’re only potentials right now.

April 24, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterreverse phone lookup

didn’t. So, as far as I’m concerned, it costs $57,000, unless Tesla offers the rebate up front.
Indeed, let’s see how Edison 2 can match up to other manufacturers in a few years. I really hope they come through

April 26, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterBeats By Dre

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