Edison2 Introduces New Iteration of its Very Light Car

By · April 11, 2013

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The latest Edison2 Very Light Car offers a top speed of 150 m.p.h. and efficiency at 150 m.p.g.e.

On Thursday, the chief executive and founder of the X-Prize winning Edison2 presented a refinement of the company’s Very Light Car vehicle. Oliver Kuttner claimed that extremely low-weight vehicles, like the new design, would be a disruptive technology that could “change the entire automobile industry.”

The key element in Edison2’s Very Light Car is a new lighter suspension system that uses less fuel and requires less material to build. The architecture gives automobile designers more flexibility in creating vehicles built for specific purposes.

The suspension system resides in the hub on which each wheel is mounted, rather than on the axles. The traditional McPherson Strut system results in 12 or more structural connection points and takes up a lot of room inside the car. The VLC suspension system has only four structural connection points, and the wheels are positioned outside from the car body—like in a Formula 1 race car.

The Edison2 team includes race car designers, who have more than 20 combined wins at LeMans, Sebring and Daytona. In 2010, the company won the “mainstream” division of the Automotive X-Prize, a competition to inspire a new generation of super-efficient vehicles. The team earned a prize of $5 million.

Kuttner explained that the automakers have focused most of their efficiency programs on engine and powertrain improvements. In order to meet tougher new efficiency and emissions standards, the industry is being asked to essentially double the miles-per-gallon on vehicles. “This is very difficult to do," said Kuttner. What hasn't been done in the automobile industry, he believes, is to change the fundamental architecture that has been in place for the better part of a century.

The fundamental shift brought about by lighter vehicle design, according to Kuttner, is to reduce the required resources—such as metals, plastics and fuels—needed to build and operate cars and trucks. “Efficiency comes in many forms," he said.

A New Platform

The innovative Edison2 suspension system fundamentally changes vehicle design. “Since strut towers are eliminated, it becomes possible to make flat floors, which opens up the central area of the car,” said Kuttner. “It creates energy-absorbing space that improves safety and is well-suited to composites, while providing aerodynamic benefits.” Plastic body panels are used for further weight reduction.

Kuttner described the suspension units as "bookends" at the front and rear of the car. Designers can insert passenger compartments of any length, width or height.

Edison2's safety strategy also takes cues from race car design. Rather than create crumple zones, the Very Light Car deflects impacts from other cars. The suspension system also increases the size of crumple space.

Edison2 unveiled its concept on Thursday, using a car that can be driven—although it is by no means a finished product. It has a top speed of 150 miles per hour. Its electric drive train is 67 kilowatts (80 horsepower). The 10.5 kilowatt-hour battery pack is small, but according to the company, offers between 70 and 100 miles of range—yielding an estimated 150 MPGe.

Kuttner described Edison2 as a "platform company" that intends to sell technology designs—for both the suspension and entire vehicles—to carmakers. But the company has not ruled out manufacturing its own cars, which would depend on interest from potential investors.

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