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Edison2's Very Light Car gets packed with ice – Click above for high-res image gallery

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.


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Photos by Sebastian Blanco / Copyright ©2010 Weblogs, Inc.


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    • 1 Second Ago
  • 41 Comments
      • 4 Years Ago
      If they used natural gas to power the car they could use the gas expansion in the fuel line to cool the cabin.
        • 4 Years Ago
        Nice! I like you're thinking there!

        But to adequately cool a hot vehicle on a hot day, it would need to be an AWFULLY long fuel line.
        • 4 Years Ago
        Personally I think that using ice is cheating, the x-prize people included the deduction for excessive heat because they wanted teams to engineer cabin air flow and temperature control systems powered by the vehicle fuel.

        They want a car that can get 100mpge and without cooking its occupants. Using ice which contains stored energy is like adding a propane refrigerator & a propane tank and not counting that towards fuel used. The amount of energy required to make the ice should be deducted from their efficiency.
      • 4 Years Ago
      Pathetic and hilarious. And all for nothing.

      Increased gas mileage is useless, because demand for fuel rises faster than rising efficiency. In the US alone, even a huge increase such as the one from 13 to 20 average MPGs from 1976 to 1990 was accompanied by an INCREASE in fuel consumption from 89 to 103 billion gallons a year. Now add in China and India growing at breakneck speeds. Fuel efficiency just can't catch up.

      Even if somehow through draconian regulation, or a sudden change in human nature combined with herculean effort and brutal self-sacrifice, enough people who could afford better end up buying tiny humiliating fragile slow cars instead of their normal cars, and we reduce gasoline usage by say 10%, it would make no difference. OPEC would just cut production to match, spike the per-unit price much higher, and make just as much as before on reduced sales volume.

      What matters is not how much fuel you use, but WHAT fuel. If the fuel is clean-burning, renewable, affordable, doesn't hand control of our economy to a greedy foreign cartel, and doesn't fund terrorism and related extremism, isn't that much more important than an abstract MPG number?
        • 4 Years Ago
        Umm actually all 4 cars made by Edison2 run E85 and 3 of them are still in the competition. So Carney the E85 shill should be lovin the x-prize competition.

        http://www.progressiveautoxprize.org/teams/edison2
        • 4 Years Ago
        Ethanol zealot attacks anything that isn't ethanol. News at 11...
        • 4 Years Ago
        Snowdog, WilliamInPDX, while I will defend ethanol (including corn ethanol) from the misinformed or mendacious who attack it, I also support methanol and all other alcohol fuels (although I'm critical of cellulosic ethanol). If you want to label me, label me an alcohol fuel "zealot".

        And it's great that the Edison team is using E85, which I was unaware of, but that's frankly irrelevant. It's not the point of the competition. The competition is about fuel efficiency, reinforcing and further spreading the false meme that our problem is that we use too much fuel, NOT that we use the wrong fuel.

        Quite frankly, I'd far rather we all switch to cellulosic ethanol, compressed natural gas, biodiesel, battery-electric vehicles, or some other technology that I'm critical of or less enthusiastic about than alcohol, than continue this mindless obsession with fuel efficiency.
        • 4 Years Ago
        LOL@ Snowdog!

        Oh Carney- save your well worded preaching for a competition between FUELS. This is an efficiency competition and ALL propulsion systems and fuels are allowable. Just because none of them chose ethanol is no reason to get upset and call the competition pathetic.
        • 4 Years Ago
        @ paulwesterberg-

        Good catch man! I had completely forgotten that all the Edison2 VLC's were running E85. Any and all the ICE entrants could easily use it as well, making Carney's diatribe even LESS relevant.

        Well done you!
      • 4 Years Ago
      @gvoll here is what you were talking about.
      8.4 Production Capable
      In general, vehicle designs entered by Teams must be “production capable” and be designed to
      reach the U.S. market. This means that they must be designed to be fully-compliant with the
      Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards (FMVSS) and other applicable National Highway and
      Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) requirements but are not necessarily required to have all
      the associated equipment on board for the Competition. Resulting design and equipment
      requirements for vehicles are discussed below.

      The Edison 2 Very Liquid Car must be production capable. The potential market in the US Market for this car is not likely to if the cooling problem continues. I would be curious about the crash survivability versus a direct broadside hit from a Harley Davidson. Looking more like an Edsel too!
        • 4 Years Ago
        I bet Ralph Nader would have a field day with this car design. I haven't seen a rear engine production ready car since the 1970s when "Unsafe At Any Speed" written.
        • 4 Years Ago
        To look like Edsel too, you would to have to factor in Ford's research and cash reserves backing the Edison2 entrants.

        I understand that people WANT to see a flawlessly developed and "normal" car that gets 100 MPGe at a price they can afford. But such a vehicle IS NOT in production, and NONE of the Majors have the guts to bother funding such "outside the box" thinking. So let's stop comparing Apples to Orangutans.

      • 4 Years Ago
      Here's another angle that I have not seen mentioned yet: it would be best for efficiency if a car was designed to try and avoid the need for A/C altogether, I think? Thinks like thermal insulation, vigorous passive ventilation, low-e coating on the windows, mesh seats (which weigh less and take less space as well) to let the air circulate *all* around the passengers, and passive evaporative cooling (of water, not ice) -- would go a very long way to solving this, without "costing" much efficiency.

      After that, if more cooling is needed, then how about regenerative cooling, that would only run the A/C when slowing the vehicle down, or at least not when accelerating or climbing a hill.

      Sincerely, Neil
        • 4 Years Ago
        I totally agree -- electricity is the nexus of most renewable energy sources. When you are using renewable energy, it is less critical to be as efficient as possible, and it makes it okay to splurge on keeping cooler, too! ;-)

        Sincerely, Neil
        • 4 Years Ago
        ...or, dare I say it, we learn to accept a little sweat? We are talking about a car, after all, that is a tool to transport us over great distances with very little effort from us, so if circumstances are such that we get a little hotter than we'd like, we sweat; just like our bodies are evolved to do!

        Neil
        • 4 Years Ago
        We don't need to embrace an austerity agenda of imposed, chosen poverty. We just need to get off petroleum.
      • 4 Years Ago
      A/C seems to be a hot topic at this site. Seems to me that if you buy a car, especially if it costs over $30k USD it wouldn't be too much to expect it to have an operational air conditioner when you buy it. Cars are more than just transportation, otherwise we would all be riding bicycles or driving horse drawn carts. A car should be fun to drive, air conditioned when we want it to be, not air conditioned when we don't want it to be, dependable, have a heater and defroster in Winter, and still get some good mileage. 100 mpge isn't easy to get with a car that must be able to haul around 4 sweaty people who need the A/C turned up, but you should be able to do that now if you can get by with a little less than 100 mpge. The 100 mpge can come with more break throughs later. There are times when even big tough guys like to cool off on the drive home from the cement plant, or when his main squeeze is hot and crabby while on a trip down Texas way. You also shouldn't have to keep stopping at all the streams you cross enroute to cool off your engine, nor should you have to stop at the ice houses to pick up another block. Just my 2 cents worth.

      Even before Ralph Nader found that rear engine cars were detrimental to the longevity of their occupants early pilots where found squished by sudden stops in rear engine airplanes. Sooo, we started putting the engines up front. Nothing new here and we learned these lessons long ago. DIdn't we?
      • 4 Years Ago
      What birdogx didn't post is that the vehicles have to carry extra weight to simulate the AC and air bags. Considering the X-prize committee has to judge this as it happens they seem to be doing reasonably well. It also helps that the teams also understand they are working for a higher cause which is why they are helping each other.
      • 4 Years Ago
      There is always an unnatural and artificial element in racing and record attempts.
      I don't think the the pioneers of EV's should be frowned upon more for pushing the envelope and stretching the rules more than others, often illustrious names in the record books of history!
      Try checking out the history of power boat racing between the wars for real chicanery, for instance!
        • 4 Years Ago
        This isnt a competition to see who can go around in circles fastest, it is a competition to build the most efficient highway vehicle that could be mass produced and sold to average citizens.

        Your average joe could be persuaded to plug in his car in liu of stopping by the gas station, but he is not going to build himself an icehouse so he can store ice in the winter and drive in air conditioned comfort in the summer.
      • 4 Years Ago
      Using ice certianly should be legal. But to be fair, the amount of electricity that is needed to freeze the water into that block of ice should be calculated and deducted from their MPGe rating.

      When used this way, the blocks of ice work as stored energy being released in the form of cooling. For it to be reused, the melted ice (water) would have to be re-frozen. Similar to recharging a battery. Then MPGe should account for all the energy consumed, including what is released by the ice.

        • 4 Years Ago
        @Nixon:

        Right on with your comment that the energy to freeze the block of ice must be deducted from the mpge of the cars using that method of cooling to keep everything fair and unbiased for all entries. To do otherwise is blatant favoritism. Perhaps another last minute rule change to cover this??? Nah, just kidding!

        "Since the rules don't expressly forbid using ice, Edison2 was allowed to put its plan into action......"

        Well, the rules didn't expressly forbid the use of a helicopter hovering over Edison 2 to keep it cool either. And the chopper could have dumped some water on it's radiator for good measure. Not to make light of this but you can see where I'm going. It shouldn't matter, as long as it's legal, what you do to meet the rules as long as you account for the additional energy that is put into the fix. Some cars had a/c compressors installed, just like most cars we drive on the road today. If they needed to turn on the a/c to maintain a certain temperature then they paid for it with lower mpge figures. Edison 2, and some others, found a way around the intent of the rules and must also have found some sympathetic officials to have allowed them to do this with no fuel penalty.

        So I agree with your comment 100%! And no amount of arguing otherwise will make what was done fair to all competitors.
        • 4 Years Ago
        Good point.
        • 4 Years Ago
        @Nixon:

        Right on with your comment that the energy to freeze the block of ice must be deducted from the mpge of the cars using that method of cooling to keep everything fair and unbiased for all entries. To do otherwise is blatant favoritism. Perhaps another last minute rule change to cover this??? Nah, just kidding!

        "Since the rules don't expressly forbid using ice, Edison2 was allowed to put its plan into action......"

        Well, the rules didn't expressly forbid the use of a helicopter hovering over Edison 2 to keep it cool either. And the chopper could have dumped some water on it's radiator for good measure. Not to make light of this but you can see where I'm going. It shouldn't matter, as long as it's legal, what you do to meet the rules as long as you account for the additional energy that is put into the fix. Some cars had a/c compressors installed, just like most cars we drive on the road today. If they needed to turn on the a/c to maintain a certain temperature then they paid for it with lower mpge figures. Edison 2, and some others, found a way around the intent of the rules and must also have found some sympathetic officials to have allowed them to do this with no fuel penalty.

        So I agree with your comment 100%! And no amount of arguing otherwise will make what was done fair to all competitors.
        • 4 Years Ago
        Yep, the energy needed to freeze that ice should be figured in. I must note that at least one of the competitors, Aptera, does have A/C, and could use it instead - except it would reduce their fuel economy.

        On they other hand, they could allow all the competitors to do the same, so they wouldn't have to rely on A/C.
      • 4 Years Ago
      they already have ICE onboard : )
      and it was a big mistake
      cabin ventilation should do the trick though

      painting the car white doesn't hurt either. maybe solar film on the windows
      • 4 Years Ago
      This competition is becoming more and more of a joke with each story.
        • 4 Years Ago
        Yeah... :|

        It's an improvement over last year though.
        Hopefully they still continue to have the x-prize next year. Because it sorta seems like a colossal waste of money right now.
        • 4 Years Ago
        A joke? Most of the vehicles and their teams are operating on a shoestring budget and STILL managing remarkable efficiency and reliability. They are driven by sheer will and determination to advance vehicle efficiency in a way the MegaCorporations won't.

        Call it a joke if you feel confident about doing so. But their lofty accomplishments and hard work are obvious to anyone other than bored goons blathering one line insults from the sidelines.

        What have YOU done to make the world a better place, and at what personal costs? Without an answer to that question, you should simply bow out of the conversation and find your cheap entertainment elsewhere.

        • 4 Years Ago
        +1

        Considering the 2002 Toyota RAV4-EV meets the 100 MPGe with a/c in the traditional class of vehicle, the only question is one of getting more range through lower cd, lightweight materials, and better batteries. All of these techniques are already known to major manufacturers, but the cost makes putting carbon fiber or lightweight alloys AND lithium batteries in the same vehicle are cost prohibitive to the average consumer--for now.
      • 4 Years Ago
      There should be no penalty as this was a rule change sprung on the teams and apparently most are using this solution.

      "Xprize rules were modified less than 24 hours ago from “No AC required,” to, “Temperatures cannot exceed X amount in the cabin”, sending teams scrambling for solutions."
        • 4 Years Ago
        @snowdog, the rules were in place over a year ago regarding the air conditioner being available in the competition cars. They were not required to use them unless cabin temp exceeded 95 degrees F. This comes from the competition guidelines on their website.
      • 4 Years Ago
      If the rules don't expressly forbid it and other such chicanery then they should next time around.
      It's fine that they are 'proof of concept' and not 'production ready' vehicles.
      But what concept are you proving here?
      People are not going to stop and constantly load their EV with ice so it does not overheat in the real world.
      If your 'concept' requires that, then it is a failure as a practical concept.
      If you have some reasonable way to correct that flaw then enter it in the next competition.
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