The slope of the track at the Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn, MI is playing a role in how the teams in the Automotive X-Prize are driving their vehicles. During the tests where the cars need to accelerate to a set speed and then slow down repeatedly (the city and urban drive tests), some drivers used the angle of the road to help brake the car and then get to speed again. From the starting line, they angle the car to the higher side of the track, then swoop down and back up to the next stop sign. Rinse, repeat, repeat, repeat (see what we mean in the gallery below). Will they ever make up the extra energy used to get up the slope that first time? We'll let the math and physics majors chime in on this one.
We saw the Very Light Cars from Edison2 and the Amp'd Sky use this trick (strategy?) On the one hand, swerving high and low is not a legitimate way to drive on public roads so this isn't exactly in the spirit of building high efficiency vehicles for everyday use. On the other hand, good eco drivers always look for ways to maximize efficiency, and this is one of those moves. Plus, since the option is available to every team in the X-Prize, so it's not like it's an unfair move. We don't think any vehicle will be able to "beat the system" and win the 100 mile per gallon equivalent challenge with a car that really only gets, say, 75 mpge, but it does show that even in a competition where the rules were written and rewritten as much as they were in the AXP there is still room for creativity.