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Slideshow: Can Edison2 Convince Detroit to 'Lighten Up'?

9/20/2013 08:00 PM EDT
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rick merritt
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Look and feel
rick merritt   9/22/2013 7:22:51 PM
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Very cool look from the outside. Looks cramped inside. How did it feel to ride in it?

Bert22306
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CEO
Reminds me of the Messerschmitt KR175 or KR200
Bert22306   9/22/2013 7:19:11 PM
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Check this out:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Messerschmitt_KR175

Although the wheels were not as far from the tiny canopy, there's a definite resemblance there, I think.

Of course, the main goal here is not the vehicle per se, but the materials and structural integrity. But still, as a vehicle category, this type of tiny car has never had a lick of success in the "more is more" US market. Fiat 500 and Smart cars should be evidence enough.

Bert22306
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Re: WRT Consumer Demand: Bull.
Bert22306   9/22/2013 6:55:14 PM
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"W/R/T your comment on consumer demand favoring bigger, more powerful cars: wrong."

You might want to check this:

http://wap.wsj.com/mdc/public/page/2_3022-autosales.html

There are slightly fewer actual cars sold, overall, than SUVs, pickup trucks, so-called cross-over vehicles, and minivans, between August 2012 and August 2013. That should be an astounding statistic.

And not just the numbers. Look at the deltas from 2012. For the category "cars," i.e. real cars and not what people refere to as cars these days, demand increased by 6.9 percent this past year. Compare this with demand for behemoths. That increased by 12.7 percent. What does that tell us about consumer demand?

And this trend has been steady for quite a few years now. Behemoths rule. If politicians would place the same 40+ fleetwide average mpg requirements on all makes of privately-owned vehicle, then just maybe what people seem to think buyers want would become reality.

DMcCunney
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CEO
Re: Safety on Very Light Car
DMcCunney   9/22/2013 5:26:01 PM
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The tech is readily available to create vehicles that do not collide with one another. There is no real need for using mass as protection any longer.

As long as you have a human driver at the wheel, I don't think any tech could prevent crashes.

If you want to prevent crashes, you use the sort of technology in Google's self-driving cars, and you combine that with a smart highway grid.  You get in the car, you tell it where you want to go, the car communicates with the grid to get an optimum route, and off you go.  Sit back and enjoy the ride.  You're just a passenger.  Something else is doing the driving.

While it's likely theoretically possible now, I don't expect to see it any time soon.  Too many people will not willingly relinquish control of their vehicle, and will insist on the ability (and their competance) to drive it themselves.

Aeroengineer
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Re: Light weight costs money
Aeroengineer   9/22/2013 5:15:56 PM
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It is always fair to disagree, though I would point to the fact that the auto makers have been making cars that offer cheaper cost of operation, and yet those cars are having a hard time selling in volume.  Also you mention that there is a new opinion in the consumer market, or hence there is a small change in the market.  So the first is that you state that the auto manufacturers are not offering cars that are light and get good millage.  The Honda Civic hatchbacks, which get in the high 40's mpg are probably the most popular small car that gets good gas mileage.  This car has failed to spark a large interest.  There are a handful of other smaller cars from Fiat and and Chevy.  I am sure Ford has one as well, but it does not come to mind.  These cars offer low cost of acquisition and gas millage as good as most hybrids, though once again (as I understand it) trucks are still outselling this market segment.

 

To make a jump to the efficiency that the Edison2 offers, you are looking at a completely different market segment.  A car of this nature would end up costing in the $40,000-$100,000 range.  This type of consumer is not looking for the above type of car.  This consumer can afford almost any vehicle.  To have them purchase something that is less powerful, with less amenities compared to what they are used to will take some convincing.  They are going to make this purchase to make a statement.  The Aptera (which was in the $30k range) was not able to get a foothold in the market despite having great press coverage.  That company has gone bankrupt.  Most likely because they were too close to the margin for their price.

 

If you look at the current crop of hybrids/electric car, they have a fatal flaw in that their batteries will start to loose a significant portion of their ability to maintain a charge after about 10 years.  So now you have a used car that will be needing a $5-10K battery.  At that point in time the car will have no value.  No one saves that much money to replace such a thing.  An engine change in a small car can be done for less than that price, and yet when a car has a blown engine, it is usually left for scrap, though, some will refurbish those car.

 

I for one would love to see a $10k-15 60mpg gasoline car. 

junko.yoshida
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Re: Light weight costs money
junko.yoshida   9/22/2013 11:30:34 AM
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@Aeroengineer, thank you for your thorough analysis on the VLC. You shed light on a lot of issues that still need to be sorted out. Very informative.

That said, I would like to respectfully disagree with you, as to the consumer demand.

On one hand, there are soccer Moms' crowd who wants a bigger (and seemingly safer) SUV which can haul a lot of kids in one car.

On the other, there is a growing number of younger consumers, whose priority is no longer in "owning a car."

Until Apple developed iPads, not so many people realized that they wanted a mobile device like that, which is neither a phone nor a PC.

The same thing applies here. Consumers won't tell you what they want, until they see a new alternative.  Some car company needs to stick its neck out and shows the new vision -- as to what people can do with something like a VLC.

Certainly, I am not saying that VLC is for everyone. But I bet there are more consumers out there -- than you think --  who want a small, very lightweight car like Edison2's VLC.

 

 

bodyshop911.com
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Re: Safety on Very Light Car
bodyshop911.com   9/22/2013 11:27:22 AM
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Safety really isn't the big issue here.

The tech is readily available to create vehicles that do not collide with one another. There is no real need for using mass as protection any longer.

The issue here is how we view personal transportation. We live in a society that simply accepts that being killed or injured in a car crash is a fact of life. Sure, we change our rules and add more and more safely equipment, but we never look at the root of the problem. The root of the problem being our tolerance for "accidents" and the lack of driver accountability. 

I've long harped that we need rules similar to those used in general aviation. Drivers need to be "qualified" on the vehicle type that they are driving and the intended usage. Any "accident" needs to be investigated, aviation style, and the offending driver corrected. There should be no such thing as a "fender bender". Any collision or near collision should be considered serious!

Higher standards for vehicle operators are not a bad thing...unless you are an automaker, or like me, in the collision repair business.

Just imagine how much less we could be spending on health care if we didn't have to treat and rehab all of those crash victims!! How much less we would have to pay for car insurance!! How many more people would be with us as productive members of our communities??

...'course nobody would have any money...

Traces
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WRT Consumer Demand: Bull.
Traces   9/22/2013 5:57:19 AM
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W/R/T your comment on consumer demand favoring bigger, more powerful cars: wrong.

Detroit historically found it easy to add horsepower but difficult to compete in the small car space (Gremlin, anyone?). And while Detroit couldn't compete against small cars in the late 70's, the world has decisively titled even further in their favor. You do realize that GenY car ownership is dropping like a rock -- why? Look at the car offerings from US manufacturers (more horsepower, etc.)! When 85% of the population lives in urban areas, and the percentages are higher still for 20-something GenY's with jobs (i.e., the people who could actually buy one of these IF it made sense for them), don't you realize that these people don't really have need of a pickup truck or minivan?

Aeroengineer
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Re: Light weight costs money
Aeroengineer   9/21/2013 11:44:49 PM
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It is interesting how many people are placing blame on the auto companies.  While they may have some say in the direction that the features evolve in a car, the biggest driver of what gets produced is based upon demand.  The second biggest driver in this area is regulation.  In reality the only reason that the average fuel efficiency of vehicles sold has gone up is because the CAFE standard was raised.  Peoples habits have not changed.  People demand that a car have more room, have more horse power, bigger stereos, bigger etc.  They also care more about styling and paint than aerodynamics. 

 

Unfortunately with everything getting bigger, you are not reducing fuel consumption.  At the same time safety regulations are increasing (adding weight).  As things get bigger and heavier they will consume more fuel.  If you were to look at a this years Honda Civic and then compare it to an accord from the mid 90's, you would find that the Civic is as big as the Accord was.  Its fuel efficiency has also remained flat since the late 90's.

 

In the Edison2 there is nothing truly revolutionary in it.  This is not to say that it is not a fantastic piece of engineering work.  There is a lot of nice structural sheet metal similar to aerospace methods.  They also have a nice compact suspension system.  The engine is a small motorcycle engine.  They have added a turbo.  These types of modifications have been done for Formula SAE for years.  The biggest question is that does it have enough acceleration to be able to get a driver out of trouble in the case of trying to avoid an accident with larger vehicles?

 

Some other things that they would need to look at are issues that they would need to work out with the fabrication methods.  Aerospace sheetmetal work is very strong, but it is not as friendly to high volume low cost production methods.  If they were to use hydroforming, they could then begin to move towards automotive production techniques.  The may also have to look at how they join pieces.  Right now, it looks like they are using bolted and riveted connections.  This once again would not be friendly to mass production.  Welding, and to a certain extent, bonding are much more friendly to mass production.  Though with this, you have to choose aluminums that are not as strong as they do not tolerate welding.  Welding also reduces the fatigue and static strength of the joint.  All these things would need to be overcome even if you were looking to produce half a million cars per year. They would also need to look at using a 600cc engine.  There are quite a few that are out there, but this would be something of a safety issue.  There will always be large vehicles on the road.  You will always need pickup trucks, vans, as well as tractor trailers.  You may be able to get away with smaller numbers than are currently on the road, but they will always be there.  The larger engine, while added weight (probably another 50-150lbs once all the systems were considered) would be necessary for production.  These critiques are not to poke holes in their effort, but there is a difference between a concept car and a production ready car.

 

In the end, you will need to convince the consumer that they do not need as much as they have.  The issue is not that the technology does not exist, just that the consumer wants to have their cake and eat it too.  The consumer would like to have a full sized car that weight the same as a compact, with more than 300hp, all while getting 50mpg.  This is not a practical expectation.  Oh and on a side note, there have been cars from the early to mid 90's that could get 50+mpg and were using gasoline engines over diesels.  They were not even hybrids.

Bert22306
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CEO
Light weight costs money
Bert22306   9/21/2013 6:28:58 PM
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I would be very surprised if car companies hadn't already considered all of these weight/power/cost/interior space tradeoffs. It's all tradeoffs.

The Corvette is a world class performance car, owing apologies to no other. And yet, at its current power output in the 600 HP neighborhood, it weighs the same, or actually a little less, than it weighed in 1973 when it generated less than 200 HP. (Although the new Corvette costs a whole lot more than the 1973!!) So clearly, the automakers aren't oblivious to new materials and modern chassis designs for structural integrity. To increase power and performance by that much, while keeping weight in check, is no small accomplishment.

My bet is that this VLC will strike a lot of car customers as not having enough room. Never mind just the obesity crisis, just ask car customers. If they can't haul the entire school soccer team, or lumber from Home Depot, they aren't happy. So there's your design spiral. You need room, you need to constrain costs, and at least in the US, you also have to deal with the "common wisdom" that behemoth cars are "safer."

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