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Avion car goes border to border on one tank of diesel


September 15, 2010

The fuel economy record-setting Avion automobile

The fuel economy record-setting Avion automobile

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Back in 1984, Craig Henderson and Bill Green built a one-of-a-kind super fuel-efficient car called the Avion. In 1986, it set the Guinness world record for fuel economy by averaging 103.7USmpg (2.27L/100km) while driving from the Mexican to Canadian borders. Unlike most autos from that era, the Avion is still on the road... and breaking its own records. In October 2008, Henderson and Green achieved 113.1mpg (2.08 L/100km) on a 263-mile (423 km) trip in the US Pacific Northwest. Then, this August 29th, they departed from Blaine, Washington (adjacent to the Canadian border) and drove 1,478 miles (2,379 km) to the Mexican border. They used just 12.4 US gallons (46.94 L) of diesel and set a new record of 119.1mpg (1.97L/100km).

In highway tests prior to this latest cross-America trip, the current incarnation of the Avion has managed a reported 80mpg at 70mph (2.94 L/100km at 112.65km/h), and 114mpg at 55mph (2.06 L/100km at 88.51km/h). On this trip, said Henderson, they averaged 55mph. They did stop to rest at night, but never refueled – on reaching Mexico, there was still approximately 6.1 gallons (23.09 L) of fuel in the car’s 18.5-gallon (70.03 L) tank.

The Avion is powered by an 800cc, 67hp diesel engine. That engine is transversely-mounted behind the two seats, in a monocoque 6061 aluminum chassis. The outstanding fuel economy is due to an aerodynamic lightweight design, low rolling-resistance tires, and a body made from lightweight composites including carbon fiber, Kevlar and "S"-Glass. Only three to six horsepower is required to maintain highway speed, which gives the car a top speed of over 100mph (160.93km/h).

If you’re thinking that you would like an Avion of your own... it’s in the works. Given that the car will reportedly be hand built in a limited run, however, it probably won’t come cheap.

About the Author
Ben Coxworth An experienced freelance writer, videographer and television producer, Ben's interest in all forms of innovation is particularly fanatical when it comes to human-powered transportation, film-making gear, environmentally-friendly technologies and anything that's designed to go underwater. He lives in Edmonton, Alberta, where he spends a lot of time going over the handlebars of his mountain bike, hanging out in off-leash parks, and wishing the Pacific Ocean wasn't so far away. All articles by Ben Coxworth

What it needs is some cool corvette style flush headlamps (LED of course to save generator power). It\'s a very cool vehicle, but a bit of a \"cyclops\" in appearance from the front. I run the same \"Moon Eyes\"wheel covers on my car. Probably good for a 1 MPG increase at Hiway speeds. mooneyesusa dot com


I had often thought of taking a 1982 Mazda RX7 I owned, lightening it up where possible, and installing a turbo-diesel in it for economy. The Avion shape from the nose clear to back edge of the doors looks exactly the shape of the RX7! If they didn\'t use that shape, at the very least they were on the same good design track as the Mazda engineers! I called the wife in, covered the back of the Avion and asked her what kind of car that was. She did not hesitate and said the RX7 we used to own!

Will, the tink


Didn\'t the Opel Eco Speedster achieve higher MPG?


The Eco Speedster, with its surprisingly diminutive 1.3-liter ECOTECH CDTI, tops out at 155 mph and clocked an average fuel economy of 113 mpg over a 24-hour road test.


Well, it is faster :-)

William Volk

It\'s great cars like this that would be ripe for \"kit car\" construction, if a company was only willing to sell the kit pieces (frame, bodywork, motor), and the rest one could purchase off-the-shelf or recycle yards for steering, dash, gauges, lights, axles, etc.


This technology offers the possibility of improving emissions problems and fuel shortage issues. Why has it not been developed into a commercially viable product? It\'s been around for 25 years. If it were produced on large scale, it would have improved greatly during that time. Yet the auto industry fools around with hybrids, all electrics, and very expensive electronic fuel control gizmos. What am I missing here? Is there a catch to this that is not apparent?


I wonder why the Avion supermileage car was not awarded one of the X-prizes


Good question, ndrwknght. See today\'s issue of Gizmag and my comments on the funky looking underpowered car that won the prize. There\'s something wrong with this picture. Avion has been around since the mid 1980s and has been getting 100 mpg all that time. It should have won the X prize many times over. Why has it languished in the shadows all this time?


@ ndrwknght and biscuitcutter:

According to the company newsletter, the Avion team chose to withdraw from the Automotive X-PRIZE. See http://www.100mpgplus.com/newsletter/nn4.pdf

Ben C.

Volk\'s wagon (see Opel above) and the comments by Underwear Knight and biscuitcutter are spot on. I\'d also like to see vegie oil, which is discarded by sushi restaurants, cleaned up and re-used in these cars for a fraction of the price of refined diesel. Maybe the transparency of Gizmag will help bring this about.

Rich Mansfield

Ben C. Thanks for the link. I think their economic reasons are rather lame, but their comments about the X Prize rules make it obvious that they felt they couldn\'t win. It looks like this car only gets its really high mileage on the highway. Apparently, the X Prize rules place a premium on city driving.

In spite of that, I still think this car should be developed commercially. If that were to happen, I strongly suspect that its city/highway mileage ratio would improve. It might even turn into some sort of hybrid that would get the best mileage in both worlds.


Correction: The Mercedes direct-injection engine produces 54 HP. For a 699 cc diesel engine, that is 67.6HP/Liter.


Originally, they just used a Rabbit Diesel.

Google "RQ Riley Centurion" and build your own.

Up to 128mpg at 45mph.

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