Earthgarage’s Sam Rubinoff interviewed Brad Jaegar, Director of Research for Edison2‘s Very Light Car, a strong contestant in the X Prize competition. Brad spoke about the design and development of the Very Light Car and gave his own personal insight on fuel efficient vehicles.
What is your background? What sparked your interest in creating an ultra efficient car?
Honestly, the entire background of Edison2 comes from motorsports and auto racing industry. The founder, Oliver Kuttner , was a fellow racer and a classic car collector, seller and manager. It was really Oliver that had the dream, he was working on lightweight parts for racing and when X Prize got his attention he wanted to go for the 10 million dollar prize. So, he created Edison2 and pulled a lot of us from the motorsports community and put us to work on this.
How many people were involved in this project?
About 100 people total, that includes contract employees all over the U.S. that we’ve hired for certain tasks. The main group of personal is about 15 in the shop, but the people that have their fingerprints on this vehicle is at or over 100.
Can you tell me a little bit about the philosophy behind the Very Light Car?
It’s pursuing efficiency through lightweight and low aerodynamic drag, which are the only two virtues of platform efficiency. When we designed this we tried to look at the problem holistically. The best answer for any form of powertrain, whether it’s electric, gas, diesel, compressed natural gas, is to have an efficient platform, which is to be lightweight, low aerodynamic drag and little rolling resistance. The energy required to accelerate the vehicle and maintain a speed is what it all comes down to. We started analyzing the EPA city cycle with a range of different platforms, different weights and coefficient of drag with cars that are already out there and we plugged in numbers that we thought we could hit and then saw how it compared to the rest of the vehicles.
This car was submitted as part of the X Prize, a competition that encourages independent breakthroughs in fuel efficiency, what do you think are the obstacles that major car companies have faced in creating a very efficient car?
There are a couple of issues. One is that, in the car industry the companies have become so large and in order to make a profit they rely heavily on different parts from already existing vehicles. So, they may be launching the new 2011 Chevy Malibu. It draws from parts from a previous vehicle or it might have the same air conditioner as a GM SUV and it makes sense from a business perspective, but when you’re really trying to break the mold and come out with an ultra-efficient vehicle it’s hard to do. Another reason is political and some laws and getting caught up in the whole bureaucracy.
Are consumers going to see the Very Light Car in the future?
We hope so. We are talking to a few companies in helping us to carry this forward and we’ll need to wait and see how everything unfolds. We need to see how we do in the X Prize and how some of the business deals go forward.
Where do you see the future of fuel-efficient vehicles? Is it gas, diesel, electric, lightweight or a combination of these things?
I think it’s a combination, what this country needs is energy diversification. So, you’re not going to see the entire fleet of vehicles in the U.S. move to electric. That being said you’re going to see electric vehicles becoming more popular. You’re going to see alternative vehicles becoming more popular, running on E85 and biodiesel and compressed natural gas. We are definitely in some interesting times seeing the auto industry being shaken up…there is definitely going to be a transition.
Do you mind if I ask, what do you personally drive?
On the street I drive a 2001 Audi S4. It gets decent mileage, has the six cylinder engine, but it’s a sporty vehicle. You can put the pedal to the metal and have fun with it.
I wish you the best of luck at the X Prize