The Frankfurt Auto Show debuted some concept cars of particular interest to us: the Audi Urban Concept, the VW NILS and the Opel RAKe. These have more than a passing resemblance to our 2010 XPrize winning Very Light Car and our new electric VLC. Light weight and low aerodynamic drag are absolute virtues for auto efficiency, and we are pleased to have Audi, VW and Opel on this path with us. But while the similarities are readily apparent, the differences are important.
These cars are all very light. However, the Very Light Car carries 4 passengers (with 12 ft3 of luggage) while the Audi and Opel seat 2 and the VW only one. Also, the Very Light Car achieves its low weight through a new automotive architecture, not expensive exotic materials. It is predominately a steel and aluminum car.
The Audi, VW, Opel and the VLC all have a streamlined fuselage with wheels external to the chassis. But the VLC is supremely aerodynamic, recording the lowest coefficient of drag ever seen for a 4-seat vehicle at the GM Aero Lab. It has less than half the drag (CdA) of a Toyota Prius. Our wheels are enclosed in pods because of aerodynamics, but by doing so, and with our compact suspension, we add crushable space for safety. VW asserts that its NILS concept will meet worldwide safety standards; so will the Edison2 Very Light Car. Computerized simulations at Roush show us already meeting some US standards, and we will begin actual crash testing in the upcoming months.
Edison2's approach results in unprecedented platform efficiency. The VLC requires only 5.3 hp to cruise at 60 mph. While any drivetrain benefits from this, it's particularly important for electric cars, allowing small battery packs, realistic range and charging times, and high MPGe.
Although our 10 kWh eVLC has not yet undergone EPA-certified testing, our internal results (detailed previously on our blog) indicate greater range, shorter charging time and much better MPGe than the 24 kWh Nissan Leaf.
We believe the Very Light Car, the Audi Urban Concept, the Opel RAKe and the VW NILS Concept are the inevitable future of the automobile, in which efficiency is essential and weight and aerodynamics are taken seriously. This approach will not be limited to "urban vehicles", however, but will extend to all cars.
Here is a photo of our new eVLC prototype. The shape of things to come, perhaps?