A closer look at Automotive X-PRIZE winner Edison2


September 19, 2010

The Edison2 team, with Oliver Kuttner beside the Very Light Car

The Edison2 team, with Oliver Kuttner beside the Very Light Car

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The Edison2 team took away US$5 million for winning the Mainstream class of the Automotive X-PRIZE last week with its 100+ MPG car of the future – Very Light Car #98. Gizmag caught up with team leader Oliver Kuttner after the ceremony to find out what's next for Edison2.

The Progressive Automotive X-Prize required vehicles to attain a fuel economy of at least 100 miles-per US gallon equivalent (2.35L/100km), while also remaining practical for real-world use. The Mainstream class of the event was particularly significant, as vehicles had to attain twice the range of vehicles in the Alternative class, and would presumably be the vehicles most likely to find acceptance with a large number of consumers. and the vehicle that made it possible, the Very Light Car.

First, a little about the car itself. Edison2 began with four versions of the Very Light Car entered in the competition, two in the Alternative class and two in Mainstream. The rear-wheel-drive four-seater car that won the Mainstream, #98, attained 102.5MPGe (2.29L/100km) and weighs just 830 pounds (376.48 kg). All of the Very Light Cars are powered by a rear-mounted, 1-cylinder 250cc turbocharged combustion engine. In the case of #98, that engine generates 40 horsepower, for a reported top speed of over 100mph (161km/h) and a maximum range of over 600 miles (966 km) on one tank of E-85 ethanol.

The reason it won, Kuttner explained, was the “brutal efficiency” of its light weight and aerodynamics.

“Insulation for the building industry is what we are for the car industry,” he told us. “It takes three-and-a-half horsepower for our car to go 50 miles an hour – that’s very little energy... We can build a brutally more efficient electric car, with a smaller battery, and we can build a brutally more efficient gasoline car.”

With the vast majority of the X-PRIZE vehicles being electrically-powered, however, one might wonder why Edison2 chose to go with a gas engine.

“Because the results are much more meaningful,” says Kuttner. “Anybody in the industry knows that you can get 100 miles per gallon by building an OK car with a good electric drive. Everybody in the industry also knows that if you can do 100 miles per gallon while meeting emissions with a car with four people in it, that’s almost impossible. So we did it because the real money isn’t the prize, the real money is what happens from now on. This is the starting line of our company.”

That point made, the production version of the car could very likely be a hybrid, or even a pure electric.

“By our estimates, we can improve on what we have by about ten percent right now,” he stated. “That said, we would give back a lot to make this car more mainstream, more consumer friendly. So what we really envision is a car that is quite normal. Although it looks very different, it’s quite normal in use.”

Yes, but... what about its “different” looks? Does he worry that consumers simply might not be ready for something that makes such a radical aesthetic statement?

“The three winners are drastic departures from the normal,” he noted. “For me, that speaks loud and clear. It’s not really wise for consumers to think [you can take a normal-looking car], stick an electric motor in it, and say ‘Oh, I’ve done it.’ It doesn’t work like that. In order to build a truly more efficient car, you must be prepared to depart from the normal.”

Judging by the reactions, especially from the younger generation, it seems like a lot of people are ready to make that departure. “I did not expect our car to have any consumer appeal in it at all,” he said. “I expected we’d have a lot of work to do in that direction, and we’re still doing a lot of work, but I can tell you right now, we would probably be able to sell somewhere between five and ten cars per day at this moment.”

Before you get too excited, Kuttner added that Edison2 is still “generations away” from a consumer model.

Congratulations to Oliver Kuttner and the Edison2 team... along with all the other dedicated participants.

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

Something is rong ear.

100 US miles-per-gallon equivalent (2.35L/100km)


That should be 100 miles per US gallon....


There is 4.25 Liters in a US gallon and 4.5 liters in an Imperial Galleon.

Mr Stiffy

Actually the only concern I have about this vehicle is the mass and height inequality with other vehicles like SUV and Hummers etc....

If they were all banned, and the lard arse soccer moms made their kids ride bikes everywhere, and all the people transporters were of a similar height and mass - I\'d have one ASAP.

Mr Stiffy

I have lost all confidence in these incentive programs. The results are so impractical. They have lost sight of the fact that this is supposed to be \'transportation\'.

The XH-150S Extreme Hybrid by AFS Trinity can meet the X-Prize results and carry 5 passengers comfortably AND meet the federal standards - NOW. Break the conjoined oil industry and auto manufacturers choke-hold on such innovative companies and we will leap-frog into 100 mpg with ease.


Mr. Stiffy, Don\'t be worried about mass and height disparage between vehicles. Many people like myself ride motorcycles daily and have no issues with these regards. As long as they\'re relatively safe (more than a motorcycle is okay fine), affordable etc they should sell.

Facebook User

\"remaining practical for real-world use\" doesn\'t that also mean the US government would allow it to be sold in the US? This car could not be sold in the US, it would not meet safety requirements which include systems like air bags, 5 mph bumpers, rollover protection, safety glass, tire pressure monitoring, side impact protection, etc. All would force the weight of the vehicle to a point that 100mpg would be history. Nothing more than boys playing with toys.


Actually, a US gallon is just under 3.8 liters.


Yes, I too like to see what it does in the crash test.

I also hope that they will provide model with decent acceleration. Weird looking (well, it\'s ok for me but) and slow car probably is not a too good combination.

Kris Lee

I do not care what it looks like. I just want to be able to go on the high way and make 100 MPG. There is only a finite amount of petroleum and demand is increasing not decreasing so with a little common sense we can assume that petrol prices are not getting any cheaper. In fact when I first started driving a gallon of gas went for 94 cents. Just ten years later gas is just under three dollars a gallons. That should say something. Either our money has become worthless or like any product that has a higher demand (wells running dry) than production the prices are only on the up and up, or both. Hope you can afford to fill up your hummer in ten years.


So here it comes. Instead of seeing this great product and pushing towards making this a worldwide standard. And producing millions of them. Partnering with a progressive auto company like Tata Motors....... This will become another good idea that takes forever to implement............. And these people will all rationalize that their approach is the best. But the end result will be what we always see. Slow real results.


Sorry, this is not a practical car. Aside from the lack of bumper/crush zone and other safety factors, no one is going to want to ride in the back seat for any distance. Lack of view from the back seat would mean that this is actually a single seat car, for the same reason that passengers choose to ride in the front not the back seat. Of course you can make a extremely small, light vehicle with a very small motor and get great mileage, but sales would be to an extremely small market. Cars like the Aptera are far more practical, safer and get close to the same mileage and performance!

Jerry Peavy

the old ride was a V.W. that got 50 on the road. And so streamlined those beetles! currently a honda civic is giving around 40 in mixed use.

Tell me again how hard it is to do 100mpg? Ah, it\'s that too slow to get out of it\'s own way issue- where you must clear the intersectin at a terminal 35 mph or be run over by important people with better things to do and places they should already be.

3.5Hp to do 50mpg? not much more than what a 1900 electric achieved on 3 Hp. But talk about streamlined! brass lanterns, spoked wheels...buggy inspired chasis...and much more convenient seating!

Again I am reminded of the tee-shirt: \"this was supposed to be the future.\"


I think that the first step is for large auto companies to incorporate some of the features of these high miliage cars. There must a fine line as to how aerodynamic a car may be made without sacrificing safety features. Most people do not wish to risk riding a motorcycle type vehicle as many serious injuries result in accidents.

Adrian Akau

I am disappointed. It was my understanding that for the team to be the price winner, it has to have a product that is market ready. From the looks of things, that is not the case at all.

John Shanton

My other contention is this: a car powered by a one-cylinder motor will be spending much of its time in the shop, and not on the road. (The smaller the engine, the faster it will wear out.) Then, try to 60 MPH in an under-powered car and you will know how stressful an exercise it would be - to both driver and car. I speak from experience - I have a 1958 Berkeley - a British microcar built in the late 50\'s. This beautiful little fiberglass bodied racecar-like two-seater has a two-cylinder 328cc motorbike engine that produces 17 HP. It goes 65 MPH and gives over 60 MPG. It once won the LeMans 12-hour road race. But let me tell you this: it is not a car I would drive on any of our highways! It is loud, for it wails like a banshee once underway, and at 800 pounds light, quite tricky to handle for any length of time at highway speeds.

John Shanton

I thought the Aptera did this \"shape\" much more justice, with a higher level of polish, fit and finish. And, Aptera is already years forward in bringing a car to market...

Unfortunately, this Edison2 won the prize money, which will, in my opinion, never make it to market.

The Aptera has creature comforts like A/C, heat, airbags, collision protection, comfortable seating and interior, etc., etc. Everything the Edison2 does not. I have yet to see one interior photo of the Edison2... and probably for a good reason: it\'s probably spartan to save weight, and nothing a typical consumer would want to sit in for a trip with the family to do a cross-country to grandma\'s.

The Edison2 looks like it was pop-riveted together from shiny sheet-metal by a high-school shop class. They will need to spend every penny of that $5,000,000 (and much more!) to even come close to what Aptera, and other companies, have already engineered for actual production and sale.

Matt Rings

John Shanton - sweet! I\'ll take the styling of the Berkeley - sort of a poor man\'s AC Cobra - over the Edison2 any day! Is there room for a bigger bike engine, though, say a Buell 1190 twin (muahahaha!) or perhaps a mid-sized Japanese cruiser twin (e.g. Suzuki Intruder 800 or Honda VLX 600)?

Regarding the X-prize, I guess it\'s anybody\'s guess what any actual consumer vehicles to come out of it will look like, or when they\'ll be available.

Suman Subramanian

I agree with Matt. The Aptera will survive a crash. I highly doubt the Edison2 will. The Aptera is a finished selling car, while the Edison2 is a glorified go-kart. Nothing wrong with go-karts, but I don\'t want to be driving next to large trucks in one.


Matt, you\'re right on.

I smell a rat here. Aptera has a production ready, real world practical EV and gets shafted, these guys come along with a copy-cat design, ICE and NO plans for mass production and they take the cash???

This has been an anti-climactic waste of time.


Aptera was not shafted. Aptera barely lost in a different category, but deservedly so. Li Ion beat them with a more efficient car. Aptera learned a lot from the competition--like not to place the door-opener button beside the driver\'s knee and that it pays to make a vehicle reliable, but basically smarter people with better products won this contest. I hope that the Departments of Energy & Commerce & Transportation run down to Carolina and help Li-Ion Motors all they can, ditto for Edison2. Our government owns 60% of GM. Let\'s use that power for the good of the country! Li-Ion Motors and Edison2 deserve all the help America can provide them in manufacturing their vehicles.



My 4 cyl. 2000 Chevy Metro got 50MPG and sat 4 people, had air conditioning and an AM/FM radio with roll up windows. Most of the time I was the sole occupant and reveled in the 50 MPGsss... 10 years later and the progress is staggering. The auto industry continues to impress.

Mark A

Ben Crowe,

Safer than a motorcycle might be fine for you, but it would never satisfy government requirements. As a four-wheeler, it has to comply with numerous safety requirements that motorcycles don\'t. Heavier laminated glass windshield rather than the plastic one they have. Front and rear bumpers. Airbags. Roof crush resistance. And plenty more. Throw in requirements that consumer acceptance dictate, like NVH reduction, climate control, power locks, adjustable seats, full interior trim, operable windows, etc. and weight and price would climb very quickly.


Still crying foul here. I saw a newsclip of the Edison2. They claimed to hope it could sell for less than $20K USD. For that kind of cash, I can get a four seat brand new subcompact. I won\'t have to sit shoulder to shoulder like a hot date, or listen to an motorcross engine buzzing in my ears. Plus I will still have enough cash to buy a scooter than can get very close to 100mpg.

There isn\'t much more than a bit steel tubing and a simple engine. Where do they come up with that ridiculous figure?


Aptera won\'t sell to me because I live 300 miles away in Las Vegas. I could buy it if I lived 600 miles away in Northern CA. I would rather drive a Wave II but they don\'t answer my e-mail. Why have an X-Prize if we have to wait years for a production model? I would pay $30K but I can\'t find a manufacturer.


With respect Mr. Paris, I remain convinced that this travesty was a protracted and deliberate waste of time and resources. Yes, thank you, I am aware of the distinct categories. Just what did Aptera learn that could not have been learned by regular test driving?? They were and still are nearer to a sellable vehicle than any other team. The Xprize kept them busy for as long as possible before sending them away without a dime. The grand prize went to the team that has NO PLANS to build a car for us to buy. Is nobody else suspicious?


I agree with VoiceOfReason, this is a simple car, with go kart features promoting an aerodynamic styling. I appreciate the specs, however, 3.5 horsepower getting 50 miles an hour is good to know and the bar is set. My electric designs have always assumed 10 hp to get to 50 and about 15 to get to 60 for an aerodynamic sporty model. Any good engineer or mechanic can build one of these and get kit car bodies off the shelf. But it does not solve the large problems of running out of oil, global warming and energy needs and pollution. There are so many sources of pollution; cars are almost half of that, and it is a problem we can fix by going electric. Every school and university should have an alternate energy car build going on. We\'ve waited 40 years for the big auto industries to do so and they have dragged their feet every inch of the way, always falling short of the target range as if they wanted to fail. What we can learn from this is to keep our cars light, aerodynamic and use better electric parts. Check out the E-tek motors and also Turnigy 20 hp motors at Good luck to you all. Wade

Ronald Cooper

Yes, an aluminum airplane body with a one-cylinder motor that runs on e85. Sorry, I\'m not buying it - the concept or the car. Brutally impractical and when it gets saddled with crash protection, airbags, power windows, stereo etc., the reality will be plain for all to see - you can win the x-prize with a striped-down airplane on wheels but that does not translate to the street (God forbid you should be faced with a hill, passengers or adverse weather conditions).

Show me an aluminum or carbon-fiber mono-coque chassis with aluminum body, liquid-cooled AC induction motor and on-board micro-turbine charging system (with heat exchanger) and I\'ll show you a car that can deliver the goods in all weather and all terrain. What\'s it going to take, a bloody miracle?

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