Highlights from the 2014 LA Auto Show

Beyond the car: Ultra-fast, ultra-efficient motoring with the Acabion Da Vinci

By

September 1, 2014

The low-drag aerodynamics of the Acabion Da Vinci give it a huge efficiency and top speed ...

The low-drag aerodynamics of the Acabion Da Vinci give it a huge efficiency and top speed advantage over traditional car designs

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Peter Acabion, of Acabion GTBO fame, has released details of his next concept vehicle – an ultra-efficient, 1,200 mpg, 650 km/h, solar electric successor to the car. With four enclosed wheels, a transforming aerodynamic tail, a jet fighter style cockpit and a self-loading trunk capable of storing a whole washing machine, the four- to six-seater Acabion Da Vinci would use extreme aerodynamic profiling to squeeze vastly more speed and efficiency out of its available energy than any car currently available.

When we first heard from Acabion in 2007, excitement and expectations were high. The small Swiss company had produced a prototype of a road-registerable streamlined motorcycle with a turbocharged, 700 bhp motor claimed capable of eclipsing the top speed of a Bugatti Veyron at just 20 percent throttle. It also looked like a jet fighter cockpit on wheels.

The Acabion GTBO did not, as promised, make it through to production, and as far as we’re aware, only a few prototypes were ever built. But Peter Acabion (born Peter Maskus; he changed his name to reflect his commitment to the project) has kept busy in the intervening years.

In 2011, he released his roadmap for a fast, efficient transport future: first, elevated roadway platforms where super-streamliners like the GTBO could achieve their 600 km/h (373 mph) plus speed potential without being held up by other, slower traffic. Later, vacuum tube transport networks where air resistance could be eliminated altogether and mag-lev pods could blast along at up to 20,000 km/h (12,427 mph) and circle the globe in just under two hours.

Acabion’s latest venture is to build a four- to six-seater car that takes the ultra-aerodynamic shape of the GTBO and reinvents it as a practical four-wheeler that doesn’t need training wheels.

The Acabion Da Vinci is roughly the shape of a blue whale that’s been on a diet. Its four wheels are extended away from the body and almost completely covered by aerodynamic shields. "Wheel wings" allow the suspension to move up and down while leaving a small, more flexible curtain of aerodynamic material to move up and down with the wheel and follow the road surface as closely as possible for minimal drag.

Passengers can enter via a hinged jet-fighter style cockpit cover that lifts off and extends small stairs for entry and egress, while the tailwing section of the vehicle is hollow and in place for aerodynamic purposes only. When parking the Da Vinci in a regular sized spot, the tail automatically folds itself up and stows itself under the car’s main body, opening up access to a hydraulically actuated trunk mechanism that can lift and store a whole washing machine. Check it out:

The low-drag body shape, combined with what appears to be a bunch of electric hub motors, combine to make the Da Vinci an extremely efficient vehicle – Acabion claims it should be 10 times more efficient than the most efficient electric cars of today.

At this point things start getting a little fuzzy. Acabion claims it will power itself almost entirely by on-board solar panels, with battery backup. Then there’s a giant, rotating solar charging panel to stick outside your home and the odd claim that the Da Vinci will offer “three times higher comfort than high-end luxury cars” – we're not sure what metric is being used for this claim.

Acabion is shooting for the electric equivalent of 1,200 mpg (0.2 L/100km) efficiency and a top speed somewhere around 650 km/h (404 mph). From my limited understanding of land speed record vehicles, air pressure starts to do some very strange things to steering once you get past 300 km/h (186 km/h) or so – not to mention the extreme stress these speeds place on tires.

Pricing for what's billed as "the most exclusive road vehicle in the world" is "upon request" – though based upon what we’ve seen so far, it may even be excluded from the realms of possibility.

The Acabion has received just €1,270 (US$1,700) of its €30 million (US$39.4 million) Indiegogo fundraising goal, nearly halfway through its campaign.

The heart of all Acabion’s designs is the idea of exceptional aerodynamics. Why not concentrate on realistic ways of moving forward on that goal without trying to reinvent the car altogether? Many would say the world is ready to start looking at extreme aero concepts – take Volkswagen’s XL1, for example.

Far be it from us to discourage an ambitious futurist from reaching for the stars, but in the case of the Acabion Da Vinci, we think the vision might need to be dialed back a few notches towards the terrestrial if investors are to be tempted to dig into their earthly pockets.

Source: Acabion.

About the Author
Loz Blain Loz has been one of Gizmag's most versatile contributors since 2007. Joining the team as a motorcycle specialist, he has since covered everything from medical and military technology to aeronautics, music gear and historical artefacts. Since 2010 he's branched out into photography, video and audio production, and he remains the only Gizmag contributor willing to put his name to a sex toy review. A singer by night, he's often on the road with his a cappella band Suade.   All articles by Loz Blain
23 Comments

Vaporware at it's best.

VoiceofReason
1st September, 2014 @ 01:33 am PDT

Building a streamlined motorcycle out of the front fuselage part of a popular two seater glider is one thing, and it has taken long enough. Has he ever really made it run at speeds even close to the claimed? I see no proof.

Now he claims even more performance and throws in some rough numbers, but no proof. The web site does not even have the text set accurately and all it reveals is images that look like created with some freeware 3D animation package.

When he claims that it is "Notary certified the Acabion is the first succeeding system to cars, worldwide", what does that prove, except a notary took money and wrote the statement down?

I am not convinced. Not at all.

martinkopplow
1st September, 2014 @ 01:55 am PDT

Rather pie-in-the-sky, try getting together with Rinspeed to turn something out

MattII
1st September, 2014 @ 02:13 am PDT

Wow! Even the animations look like they were rendered 20 years ago on a cheap PC running an early 3D CAD in preview mode The graphics are unnecessarily low res and amateurish. Makes me wonder about the 'supercar' reality potential.

Advertising is a pain, but its sole purpose is making the product sizzle. If the ad sucks, especially using CAD 3D animation in 2014, then the talents and even the motives of the designer are highly suspect.

Robert Walther
1st September, 2014 @ 03:50 am PDT

I'm surprised...

...that anybody funded this at all...

...and that Gizmag devoted a story to it...

The website feels like I'm watching a middle school science fair presentation...

Come on Gizmag... You can do better than hyping this silliness...

Don Wright
1st September, 2014 @ 03:56 am PDT

My friend in the biz remains unconvinced about this guy's bike being even rideable, let alone fast. It is nice to see that he has learned to use enough wheels for a good static display to con people with too much money and not enough imagination.

Bob Stuart
1st September, 2014 @ 06:08 am PDT

His design is a pipe dream but may raise a valid talking point. Motorcycles have a fraction of the weight and frontal area of a regular automobile but they generally have god awful aerodynamics which is one of the reasons they don't get better gas mileage.

I think most motorcycles have a drag coefficient of between 0.6 and 1 vs cars like Prius at .29 or Model S at 0.24.

Drag is mostly (cD * frontal area * speed^2). If motorcycles had automobile level drag coefficients they would get 2x to 4x the gas mileage at sustained speed. It makes me wonder why more aerodynamic motorcycles aren't more common.

Daishi
1st September, 2014 @ 06:53 am PDT

Try a Monotracer Daishi!.. > 200MPGe

And if he really wants an efficient fast vehicle he'd cut the rolling resistance in half using bogied pairs in an 8 wheel configuration.

Hey they have been doing that on the rail lines for over 100 years. Why is the dawn breaking so slowly in the Automotive world?

The lemming instinct!

Bill

Island Architect
1st September, 2014 @ 08:43 am PDT

And there is also the Dymaxion car. Nothing new here...

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dymaxion_car

DemonDuck
1st September, 2014 @ 09:29 am PDT

Ludicrous pie in the sky. I find it reassuring that so little money has been raised for financing; I think the public at large must have more common sense than the designer who apparently is a day dreaming amateur. I say amateur because there are a number of fundamental mistakes made in the design which are evident even in this superficial description of the vehicle.

Furthermore, "4-6 seats and a trunk capable of accommodating a washing machine" is not feasible in the configuration shown without the outboard wheels having too wide a track to be road legal, not to speak of parallel parking difficulties - or does this vehicle go sideways into a spot?

Oh, and try to find a spot long enough to take the 2 seater shown, let alone a 4-6 seater.

Even reporting on this as anything but an example of imagination run riot is to diminish the credibility of Gizmag. I'm on the verge of unsubscribing (again).

RussellD
1st September, 2014 @ 10:19 am PDT

He should just design fantasy cartoons instead.

So many people now use technology to build pie-in- the-Sky pipe dreams without any real steps to get there.... JUST MORE MONEY!

If we could just run the world on BS, CG computer images would solve all of our energy needs....

Actually, we could use biomass gas generators

to do that but the emissions would be unacceptable... too bad we can't acknowledge the excessive computer BS emissions and do something about them...

I have nothing against projects of this type, I just HATE all the stupid "fish story" claims.

If you make ridiculous claims, don't be surprised with what happens when you cry wolf again.

The actual statement of his design is that

it didn't work, needed 4 wheels and so they just loaded up with more people and made more vapour ware claims about fuel mileage instead of performance.

If you want to see people achieving REAL Speed or Fuel Economy, look into Bonneville & other Landspeed events and also the various hyper-mileage contests&events.

"When the green flag drops... the BS stops."

That's an old racing cliche but it sure makes me want to carry around a green flag these days...

Griffin
1st September, 2014 @ 10:35 am PDT

When it comes to higly areodynamic cars Aptera made sense. Especially fact that two passengers were sitting side by side.

Piotr Radziwoński
1st September, 2014 @ 11:21 am PDT

For a very similar general concept (aircraft-styled body, with separate streamlining for outboard wheels) designed for the 99% rather than the 1%, check out the Edison2 Very Light Car. It's a delight, and economical!

- http://www.gizmag.com/edison2-new-very-light-car-architecture/27089/ - Ed.

markroest
1st September, 2014 @ 12:35 pm PDT

I have been looking for some such fantastic venture to invest my life savings. It's between this one and the ITER fusion reactor. Hmm, conundrum.

JimD
1st September, 2014 @ 03:52 pm PDT

@Island Architect Sort of like the Monotracer but maybe not entirely closed up. For me if i can't put my feet down I would just opt for more than 2 wheels, Something along the lines of this (with a smaller back wheel) which may be a Monotracer concept: http://i.imgur.com/PONWihc.jpg

A feet forward design like Honda NM4 with a full roof maybe or something with a design a bit like the Akira motorcycle http://www.gizmag.com/akira-replica-motorcycle/22105/

It's hard to publish a cD for a motorcycle because so much depends on rider and their seating position but the result is that motorcycles never seem to focus on aerodynamics.

Daishi
2nd September, 2014 @ 04:48 am PDT

Well, if the figures are true and tested by the ETH Zurich, Acabion is not so vaporware. The CV of the designer it's not vaporware either. It's quite impressive IMO. Anybody around here has a similar CV?

I think the designer knows perfectly how to make a car.

Alex Lopez
2nd September, 2014 @ 05:20 am PDT

The usual suspects have been listed regarding more sensible approaches to a more fuel-efficient car. Might I add Elio? In terms of practicality there are only a couple of options. Crowdfunding success (or lack thereof) may not be a reliable indicator of feasability (think Solar Roadways) but the results of the Indiegogo effort are better than I would have expected.

Bruce H. Anderson
2nd September, 2014 @ 08:35 am PDT

There is no way that thing will stay on the ground at speed since it's got the shape of a lifting body. There are good reasons why F1 cars are very low to the ground and have a specific ground tunnel profile.

This thing is basically shaped like a plane wing, for lift not downforce... Sure it has low drag, but above a certain speed, it will just take off....

Chris Maresca
2nd September, 2014 @ 09:28 am PDT

@ Island Architect

You might want to consider that railroad cars are significantly heavier and have to keep the tires properly alined with the track and a single axle bogie does not naturally do this.

There is also cost effectiveness to be considered.

Slowburn
2nd September, 2014 @ 11:17 am PDT

I'm not really pleased with the way Acabion is going. The first GTBO idea was the best, with the big Suzuki engine, I would have liked to see them try to achieve that. Particularly if they had the Lit Motors self-balancing technology. That would be brilliant!

Personally I'm thrilled with the tandem / streamliner concept, but again with Volkswagen, I have not been pleased with the progression. For instance Volkswagen XL1, which was preceded by L1 of 2009, which was preceded by the "1 litre" of 2002. That original idea seemed to me to be the best, and every succeeding idea seemed less interesting.

There's another way to reduce drag, besides lowering Cd - and that is to simply reduce the speed!

I'm on the waiting list to buy an Elio, hopefully that happens. I would far prefer to try a Tango, but the purchase price is absolutely unrealistic for what is essentially fork-lift technology.

Not one of these cars seem likely to amount to anything, like the Aptera.

Grunchy
2nd September, 2014 @ 11:22 am PDT

@Grunchy I feel pretty confident that Elio is probably vaporware too. I did some math based on this formula ( http://physics.ucsd.edu/do-the-math/2011/07/100-mpg-on-gasoline/ ) and my best guess for Elio is far below their 84 MPG and I think the price is unrealistically low. I think they are toast if they don't get the $200m government loan and even if they do I still think they will under deliver. I expect them to miss their 2015 production date either way.

Daishi
2nd September, 2014 @ 09:25 pm PDT

@Chris Maresca do you really think a Porsche engineer don't know that? Someone with more than 20 years experience in the car industry? Do you think he would design a 600Km/h vehicle without knowing that? Uff!!

Alex Lopez
2nd September, 2014 @ 11:18 pm PDT

I understand the skepticism about this project but ...

...these kind of innovations are very interesting regarding mobility; especially when different approaches really are offered in designs, not purely aesthetic, but for what they can bring to a severe redefinition of vehicles that might bring truly sustainable and affordable mobility in the future.

Really interesting project. In Prestige Electric Car is another interesting article on this project :

http://www.prestigeelectriccar.com/reportaje-1282-Acabion

Niko Domínguez Guillén
17th September, 2014 @ 02:41 am PDT
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