I got to Europe, where gas is $12 a gallon, and everyone drives a small car. In Denmark, the taxes on a new car start at 200% and go up for luxury cars. All cars turn the engine off when stopped in traffic, and restart when you step on the gas.
There are traffic jams during rush hour in every major US city. Let's get smaller cars, and make the lanes on the roads narrower, so we have more lanes. Leave 1 lane for SUVs, Trucks, Buses, etc., and do not allow them in the lanes with the light weight cars. The accident problem is that everyone who gets hit by a 10 ton tank wants to be in a 10 ton tank to not get their vehicle damaged. Let's make is costly to drive these gas guzzling killers.
Why can't I buy a new car for $5k or $10k in the USA? Why should I have to spend the $20k, $50k, or $90k that new cars now cost?
@DMcCunney, your NYC taxi story is a good anecdote.
In essence, unless there is a sizeable market guaranteed, why would big 3 be interested in going after a niche market? There are no reasons for those guys to lift a finger on anything new.
But in any innovations -- which don't happen often, I understand, things start from a concept that may have no gurantees of success but offers promises of changing the game.
In this instance, VLC represents an indea of moving away from the very concept that the bigger and the heavier the car is, it's better. If that concept -- as you explained in your previous comment, based on anecdotes from your friends -- can't be changed in the U.S., you are right. VLC won't have a chance to win.
But VLC could still get a chance outside the U. S. market.
Apropos the issue of costs, we get into economies of scale.
Part of the problem the Detroit "Big Three" face is that they are big.
A couple of years back, I was in an online discussion about taxis. A decade or so ago, the Museum of Modern Art in NYC held a competition to design a purpose built taxi. and published the results as a book, and there was discussion about the practicality of making such a vehicle.
A participant in the discussion was an automotive engineer working for GM at the time. He asked about the size of the narket. In NYC, operating a "yellow cab" requires a medallion from the city Taxi and Limousine Commission. Those are in limited supply, and there are about 12,000 medallion cabs on the streets in NYC.
My GM contact said "Make me laugh." GM needed to see a minimum market of 350,000 units a year to make building a model worth while. There were simply too big, with too much overhead, to address small niche markets. They had to build and sell a lot or none at all.
The only way such a vehicle might be practical for GM to make was if every large city mandated something like it as what taxi owners had to buy and run.
The Edison2 faces those challenges. It's definitely a niche market car, and none of the big boys will touch it, because they will not be able to make and sell it profitably. There simply won't be enough volume.
The Edison2 folks might be able to successfully build and sell the Edison2 and make money, but it would be a high-priced niche market item, and the technology would be far less of a factor in the purchase decision than the value as a status marker tp the buyer.
An old friend in rural PA drives "boats". He favors Detriot "big iron", used to drive a Lincoln, and currently drives a restored classic TBird. He was talking at one point about getting a Humvee. I said "Don't ask about gas milage..."
He is adamant that he is still alive because of his preference - he was in an accident or two where only the size, weight, and solidity of his car prevented injury to him.
On a similar line, another old friend was recently in an accident. A car stopped abruptly ahead of her. The car behind it slammed into the stopped car, and she slammed into the car behind it. The other cars - large American vehicles - got off with scratches. Her car - a mid-90s Nissan Ultima - was totaled, She was shaken but unhurt, but the Nissan's front end simply crumpled under the impact, and it would cost more to repair than the car was worth, She's currently renting when she needs a car, and the next car will be American made.
So the survivability of the passengers is all very well, but what about the survivability of the car?
I see definite problems selling a vehicle where a "fender bender" might mean your car is totalled, and I don't want to think about what auto insurers would charge to insure a vehicle under those circumstances, assuming they would insure you.
I don't buy this line of reasoning, actually. First of all, the Detroit 3 are hardly the only automakers in the world. And secondly, it's simply not true that they aren't experimenting with and using all manner of techniques to improve fuel economy and reduce weight. The difference is, the automakers have to do so in cars that people actually want to buy, can afford, and that will meet the NHTSA and EPA mandates. Same as all the other automakers.
Conspiracy theories are always advanced when some supposedly revolutionary new idea makes the news. Check out, for example, the Iris engine. Same claims that the oil industry, and automakers in cahoots, are keeping humongous improvements in fuel economy away from the market. But it's simply false.
Junko, great replies! Thanks, I had heard about the big automakers stifling competition but this is a chance to be "in on it". I wonder if it will take just one to test the waters before the others will rush to get in before being shut out. Is there anybody from the automakers listening??
@Robotics Developer, as to your last question about "what it would take for this concept to gain traction," assuming that this is a car based on the solid technology (well, as far as we know, it is at least good enough to have won the X-prize):
1. Involvement of automotive OEMs/parts suppliers as a partner or a licensee (Reasonable licensing fees, and the flexible partnership arrangements with Edison2)
2. VLC still needs to help most consumers overcome their "size (weight) matters" obsession
3. Cost (this can be addressed by signing up partners/licensees)
@Robotics Developer, thanks. There is definitely an elment of NIH here.
Everyone in Detroit is hesitating to make the first step -- of doing what they've never done before.
Edison2's Kuttner was saying, while I was riding in the car, that the first automotive OEM to sign up as a VLC partner will get a big discount. That sounded a bit desparate, but I think it would be difficult to commercialize VLCs without OEMs' involvement.
When he was asked if he has any plans to make VLCs on his own, Kuttner made it clear, "No, we want to get the 'professional' help."
Junko, very nice numbers indeed! Even if the cost is comparable to what is out there now the economy alone should drive (pun intended) the market place and provide good market share. I wonder if it is a Not Invented Here (NIH) problem with existing car manufacturers? Even if the numbers realized for mileage/range were 80% of those it would be a major step forward. I wonder what it would take for this concept to gain traction?