Today, the only two cars left in the mainstream class of the Automotive X-Prize – both Very Light Cars from Edison2 – will be running 200 miles at the Michigan International Speedway, where it's supposed to get well above 90 degrees today. Why does the heat matter? Because one of the X-Prize's rules is that vehicles' cabin temperature can't go above 95 degrees. If it does, the driver will be dinged with lap penalties.
Edison2 is staffed by a bunch of race car veterans, though, and has come up with a clever, if non-traditional, way to keep the cabin temperature down: pack a bunch of ice into the car and run a homebrew air conditioning unit off that. The cars are also kept under a reflective cover as they are pushed from the tent out to the track to keep the sun's heat out until the last possible moment.
Oliver Kuttner, the Edison2 team founder and CEO, said that adding ice was only "common sense" and that the team got permission from the X-Prize judges before doing it. Since the rules don't expressly forbid using ice, Edison2 was allowed to put its plan into action. Now, Kuttner told AutoblogGreen, other teams have followed suit, just like they did with the slope maneuver in the Knockout Stage.
Kuttner pointed out that the cars in the X-Prize are proof-of concept vehicles, not production-ready ones, and that the cars are constantly improving. He believes that if the team worked on the car for another six months, they'd squeeze another 10 miles per gallon out of it. By adding an A/C system, they'll lose two mpg, he said, but that'd be ok, then, and it'd be fine in a production version of the VLC. For now, he's quite adamant that any minus points the judges might throw his way for his clever tactics don't really matter. "In my opinion," he said, "this is about saving the world, so forget the damn penalties."
While the final efficiency results from Edison2's sole entry in the alternative class haven't been released yet, Kuttner is confident the car broke the 100 mpg equivalent requirement yesterday, and probably reached the original goal of 110 mpge combined. Kuttner says using a gas-powered vehicle in the X-Prize was a good idea, and that "this is all about the bridge" from today's technology to the technologies of the future. Electric vehicles have their place, but he wanted to build a "brutally efficient" gasoline (or E85-powered) car. Standing alone in the mainstream class, it appears he's done so.
Blogger Eric Lane has embedded himself with the Edison2 team and has begun a sort of travelogue/continuing report from the Automotive X-Prize. He said he wanted to convey what it's like to be totally immersed in the X-Prize. You can read it all here.