Accelerated Composites, a startup in Carlsbad, California, is now assembling a new diesel-electric hybrid of its own design, made of high-end composite materials and using supercapacitors instead of batteries. Like the Honda Insight, it will seat two. Accelerated Composites expects the vehicle, called the Aptera, to cost around $20,000.
Estimate mileage: 330 miles per gallon at 65 miles per hour.
That's not a typo. The combination of super-streamlined shape, ultra low-weight materials, and high-output supercapacitors gives the design incredible efficiency. And because the composite production process developed by Accelerated Composites is faster and more efficient than previous methods, the overall cost of the vehicle can be startlingly low.
A quick glance at the image will reveal another aspect of the Aptera design: it's a three-wheel vehicle, and that means (along with its sub-1500 pound weight) it qualifies as a motorcycle instead of a car. It doesn't have to have the kind of bumpers and such that regulations demand of automobiles; safety isn't an issue, however, because the passenger compartment is built to formula race car crash cage specs.
Before we get too excited about this, bear in mind that Accelerated Composites hasn't yet finished a prototype version -- the Aptera currently exists only in computer designs. A variety of factors could reduce the overall fuel efficiency of the vehicle: it may need more weight for wind safety; real world streamlining may not match computer estimates; maybe even passenger weight could reduce efficiency.
One of the most popular posts ever on WorldChanging is my "Diesel Hybrid-Electric Cars Now!" essay from early 2004, demanding that automakers produce some of their prototyped but never released high-mileage diesel hybrid designs. A diesel version of the typical gasoline-electric hybrid could get 80 miles per gallon or better, and that sounded pretty good to me.
Clearly, I was guilty of thinking too conservatively.
(Via Green Car Congress)
Now they just need to add a body style that will appeal to average consumers. This seems to be a major downfall of small ausomotive companies looking to make a push into EV / "green" concepts. They look ugly! Maybe they should slap this powerplant design into the new VW 3-Wheeler chassis :)
Now what they need is what I call "versatile fuel diesel". Rudolph Diesel ran his engine on peanut oil at the 1900 Exposition in Paris, so why don't any stock vehicles do that now?
With relatively minor investment in injector, fuel pump, and fuel plumbing technology, stock engines could run from used fry oil, which is a huge improvement over even biodiesel, which today is commercially made in North America from virgin, food-grade soy oil that required considerable fossil-fuel input to produce.
As for the body, I love it. I see no need to cater to "average consumers" who heretofore have been so stupid as to invest heavily in SUVs.
At this point, you want to cater to the outliers, what Geoffrey A. Moore calls "early adoptors" or "gazelles" in his book "Crossing the Chasm". Most "average consumers" are what Moore calls "laggards," "mice," or even "lemmings". It will take serious hurt to their wallets before they look around and see what all the frugal, "cool" people are driving!
Unless you lead, you can't expect anyone to follow!
We'll need solutions like this as gas prices continue to climb and eventually oil production peters out. However, from a practical standpoint, where does the kid in the child seat go? What about bags of groceries? Cars are where we waste the bulk of the worlds fuel, and create the bulk of the emissions. But I would take a version of this that seated four and had a hatchback even if it *only* got 150 mpg.
The design isn't ugly, its just different. People don't actually like different, the like familiar old stuff dressed up to look new. Put it on the road and in 5 years all the auto makers will have a version that visually knocks it off.
Deisel-electric hybrid sounds great, but anybody can claim hundres of miles per gallon when the design is only on paper. I think they at least need to construct a working prototype before making any mileage claims. I'm favoring those new Toshiba nano-particle batteries over supercapacitors right now, due to their greater energy capacity. Supercaps just don't have energy density comparable to batteries, much less hydrocarbon fuels.
Frankly, I don't understand why they are using supercapacitors instead of battiers.
The energy per weight ratio of supercapacitors is much lower than for normal batteries: a 10kg electrochemical battery stores about 10 times more energy than a supercapacitors system of the same weight.
A supercap can give out far more power and s cheaper it just doesnt store as much power.
For regen breaking systems power cap isnt as important as peak power.
Give it some spinner hubs. People will go crazy for it.
Too bad they don't have a person in the pics. I can't tell how big it is.
Diesel plus hybrid . . . about time!
Now, 330 mpg is way impressive, but let's get real. This won't be more than an impressive demo in its current state.
How about making a four-passengers-plus-small-trunk (boot) subcompact that gets, say, 100 mpg?
Or a two-passenger version that gets 200 mpg that can go 120 mph. (Hey, wouldn't THAT be an inventive to drive an efficient vehicle . . . immunity from speed limits!)
1. This is fine news, but let's hope this gets off the drawing table.
2. Sadly, this kind of car will always be a niche product since it's a bizarre two-seater; it may stimulate other manufacturers to work on normal diesel-hybrid passenger cars though.
3. Now add 'flex' and 'bio' to the diesel-electric, and we're truly ok.
Jamais, you are right: your piece about diesel-electric hybrids has been a catalyst, I've seen it being quoted in many different places. Keep it up!
Two seater will definately not kill something like this. You could buy a fleet of these for the price for a hybrid SUV and proceed to drive all of them twice the distance at half the price.
I just dont understand why its a hybrid... A fast starting diesel-electric would undoubtedly be more efficient. It'd be ideal with hypercapacitors; extremely low cost, minimal moving parts. There's a fine art to tuning diesel engines to work at one and only one speed, and it comes with many great benefits. I demand at least 400 mpg!
Um, supercapacitors are fairly close to batteries. The Optima car batteries you can buy are super-capacitors, they're some of the highest capacity "batteries" you can buy and they're not even batteries. They're also very light, far lighter than the lead-acid deep cycle's I own, although I suppose lithium ion is better. The advantages are obvious; you can make them out of paper oil and tin foil versus costly lithium ion. They dont fuse plates when you run them down to no power. They're all sealed and dont require water and maintence. They dont age and expire. Seems obvious enough to me. All most of the advantage of lithium ion without being made of exotic materials.
The future is fine, but what i'd like to see is a diesel electric set up in a ten year old Lincoln Town Car getting 100 mpg. It seems to me that makes a lot of sense. Thanks, Jerry