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Sunday, December 02, 2007

Spotlight on the Automotive X Prize, and the death of my other blog

First, you may have noticed that I have made some changes to the layout of my blog. Frankly, I was wanting to add more stuff to it that was not supported by the current template, so I took the big leap and changed it. The current design and coloration stays true to my particular aesthetic sensibilities while remaining readable. Expect more changes to occur as the mood strikes me, though the layout will probably not be one of those things that changes. Second, I refer to the temporary death of the TechnoAgrarian Musings blog. The last time I posted on that blog was July 18, 2007, and while it was a good idea, frankly, I have times when I barely have the energy to devote to one blog, let alone two. I will be keeping it up for reference, but anything I have to say about the environment will be posted here first and then copied over there for those who just want to see what I have to say about the environment.

I have been keeping up with the Automotive X-Prize and have looked into the various signatories of their Letter of Intent program. Of those who have websites, I have seen a breadth and depth of innovative thought that frankly boggles my mind and gives me hope for the future. Any of these teams, if they are able to execute their respective visions, will be more than worthy competitors in this competition, and more importantly, they will help reduce our suicidal dependence on gasoline and petrodiesel to drive our vehicles and our economy. However, there are a few that I found, in a word, shocking in their ambition and innovation. Foremost among them, at least in my view, is Aptera Motors Typ-1 gasoline/plug-in electric hybrid. On the details screen, the fuel economy at 120 miles after a charge is a mind-blowing 300 miles per gallon. This later reduces to a still highly respectable 130 miles per gallon after 350-400 miles and beyond, which is its minimum efficiency as stated in the Vehicle Details section of their web site. Given an 11 gallon fuel tank, that would equate to being able to drive from the beach at Santa Monica, CA to Broadway, where the stagehands are currently on strike, on only two tanks of gas. The most notable downside, however, is the capacity: It only seats two plus an infant, though it does have capacity for 15 bags of groceries. Its projected sticker price is under $30k.

Another worth mentioning is Loremo, a turbo-diesel vehicle that achieves a fuel economy of less than of 2 litres per 100 km. I knew that Javascript widget I put on the side would come in handy some day. That translates into a fuel economy in excess of 117 miles per gallon without using any hybrid technology. The tank size is a bit smallish by American standards at 20 litres, but with a range of around 600 miles per tank, well, I doubt I'd have much trouble at all getting used to that. :) The projected sticker price of the more fuel-efficient (and slower to accelerate at 16 seconds to go from 0-60 mph) LS version will be less than €15 000, or just under $22,000 at the current exchange rate. The downside is, of course, the slow acceleration rate if and when it is presented to the U.S. market. However, this is still an excellent vehicle.

A third team is ZAP, a company that specializes in electric vehicles. The main concern with any such vehicle is range, and that is certainly a concern for their current offerings with a maximum range of 25 miles per charge. However, their future offerings have a stated range of 350 miles per charge, which is more than enough for daily use. While that would be a problem for extended road trips, it's certainly more than a step in the right direction.

The last team I'll mention is PsychoActive, whose engine design has the potential to be nothing short of revolutionary. With a turbine engine that has only 9 major parts, it could signal a fundamental shift in car engine design. However, since it has not been tested in a real car, it remains only a possibility. Nevertheless, I found it intriguing enough to add to the list of my four favorites.

I strongly encourage all of my very few readers/blogfriends to look closely at the various teams that have already announced their signing with the Automotive X-Prize Letter of Intent program. Ultimately, fuel economy is a free market problem, and it will only be solved with a free market solution. I am grateful for the hard work and innovation of each of the teams involved in this race, and I'm also grateful for the X Prize foundation for spurring this innovation by creating this competition. It is my hope and belief that their hard work and ingenuity will help lead to a better future for our children, our environment, and our world.

I'm posting this video as an indictment of modern America. Enjoy.

1 comment:

Snave said...

Thanks for keeping up on this cool stuff for those of the rest of us who forget to! 8-)> Seriously, this is very good stuff to read. Thanks!

And, go, Crimson Tide! I will be cheering them on with you in mind in their bowl game. As for my Ducks, it's sad that one player (Dennis Dixon) could mean THAT much to a team. Oregon has had its share of injuries, for sure. Now they have lost to their instate rival Oregon State, and although the Beavers are ahead of the Ducks in the Pac-10 the bowl invites were such that the Beavs get to play Maryland (a beatable team) in the Emerald Bowl while the Ducks get to play SOuth Florida... and in Oregon's current configuration (having to use their 5th string QB, 3rd and 4th string receivers, missing their 2nd and 3rd string RBs, missing their starting MLB, etc.) the Ducks will probably get crushed... sigh...