Edison2 Unveils Latest Version of Very Light Car in Michigan

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Businessman and car lover Oliver Kuttner created Edison2 in 2007 to produce cutting-edge vehicles. Kuttner brought together top designers and engineers from around the world to develop the Very Light Car (VLC), an unconventional gas-powered model that achieved fuel efficiency equal to 110 miles per gallon. The VLC won the 2010 X Prize sponsored by Progressive but went back into the laboratory for further improvements. Edison2 unveiled the latest version of the VLC last week at the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, Michigan. A bare-bones version of the VLC showed Edison2’s efforts to turn this prototype into a production electric vehicle within the next few years.

The original VLC shown alongside the next-generation version at the Henry Ford Museum inspires visions of the distant future. Edison2’s original VLC design features a tall cockpit akin to a small plane along with four wheels aligned far from the body. The VLC design team reconfigured the latest model to align passenger comfort, aerodynamics and fuel efficiency. A cockpit with a lower profile does not sacrifice the original’s four seats but reduces drag at high speeds. The design sketches from Edison2 show better sightlines for drivers trying to deal with impatient commuters. Attendees only saw the new chassis and mock-ups but these intentions could improve the VLC’s commercial appeal.

Edison2 realizes that an automotive startup cannot succeed without considering vehicle design from all angles. The new VLC swaps in aluminum for steel tubing for chassis construction, a move necessary for lower production costs and lighter curb weight. Designers have installed a suspension system in each wheel well to improve wheel performance and stability. The floor of each VLC is built from carbon composite panels that further reduce weight. Edison2 notes that the chassis presented at the Henry Ford Museum totals about 1,089 pounds.

Performance metrics and pricing were tentatively offered during Edison2’s presentation in Dearborn. The target price for the next-generation VLC is $20,000 though production is far in the distance. A maximum speed of 150 miles per hour was estimated based on early tests. Edison2 is hoping to replicate the 110 MPGe performance of the X Prize model using a highly-efficient 67 kW electric motor. We can’t put too much stock in these numbers at the moment as Edison2 did not present a production version of the VLC. If the production VLC meets Edison2’s standards, we should expect the vehicle to perform well compared to other EVs heading for the market.

The VLC gained credibility by performing well during the 2010 X Prize competition though Edison2 is facing difficulties in bringing an EV to market. The X Prize-winning VLC used an internal combustion engine rather than hybrid or electric system because of weight as well as cost. We should be skeptical about a target price of $20,000 as other automakers have seen green vehicle costs grow from early estimates. The latest incarnation of the VLC is also entering a marketplace where consumers are struggling to buy used vehicles and new EVs are flooding the market in the near future. Edison2 should not let these issues deter bringing the VLC to market though we must temper expectations about the model’s chances until EVs receive higher demand.

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