Edison2, the futuristic and energy-efficient car design that took home the top $5 million prize in the Progressive Insurance Automotive X Prize competition in 2010, is moving forward with its follow-on model, gearing up to start driving a prototype in the next couple of months.
The Edison2 Very Light Car (VLC), weighing in at 830 lbs. and with a drag coefficient of 0.160, recorded 110 MPGe (EPA combined) at the competition using a 250 cc internal combustion engine—hence its first-place honors for the combination of light weight and low aerodynamic drag. The Edison2 team raced right back to the drawing board shortly after its big win and began work on the VLC 4.0, a completely new vehicle, that would build off the same architecture and efficiency foundation, yet add additional bells and whistles to meet regulatory requirements for commercial usage.
“After we won the competition, we wanted to focus, not on making incremental improvements in efficiency, but on how to make a leap without sacrificing items people need around performance and safety,” says Brad Jaeger, Edison2’s vice president of engineering and operations.
While much of the primary foundational technology is the same, the VLC 4.0 will build on the primitive form of the original model and try to refine it into something that could be commercialized and used. That means a full heating and air conditioning system, Jaeger says, in addition to the fit and finish of the vehicle as well as the interior layout. “We want to make something people feel comfortable with—we won’t meet all 50 standards, but we can get 90% of the way towards answering how we can meet those federal guidelines with a car that’s fundamentally different,” Jaeger explains.
The Edison2 team has tasked its development partner, Altair ProductDesign, with two main areas of focus: Refining the durability and sensitivity of the suspension, while keeping it compliant, as well as examining the safety aspects of the car, including vehicle impact studies and structural optimization. The development partners are using Altair’s HyperWorks simulation suite, including the OptiStruct CAE tool for conceptual design synthesis and structural optimization and MotionView, for multi-body systems modeling.
Altair ProductDesign is also furnishing an array of crash-safety engineers, multi-body dynamics engineers, subject matter experts, and senior technical specialists to accelerate the prototype of the VLC 4.0.
Based on the results of the simulation work, Jaeger says the Edison2 team has taken a first pass at building a prototype of the new VLC 4.0 vehicle, including the updated suspension design and drive line. The upcoming road tests will allow the team to compare the real-world experience to what they learned from simulation and based on those correlations, move forward with subsequent design changes.
Much of this process can be accelerated thanks to the partnership with Altair ProductDesign. Says Jaeger: “Their experience from other projects combined with our knowledge and what we learned from the XPRIZE Competition will help us get to the product we want.”
Watch a clip of how the original XPRIZE-winning VLC came together: