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Published on September 15th, 2008 | by Nick Chambers

Do Cars Really Need to Look Like UFOs to Save Gas?

September 15th, 2008 by  
 

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With the world focused on fuel economy, advanced car design seems to be converging around one point in space. And I do mean, literally, a point in space — a point sometimes seen flying over Roswell, or crashing in the Bermuda triangle.

Regardless of what you think about this type of design, it begs the question: do cars need to look like alien spacecraft to get decent fuel economy?

Recently, when I posted about the newly announced Honda Insight’s uncanny resemblance to the Toyota Prius, I sparked a rather *spirited* debate with fellow blogger and former Gas 2.0 writer, Ben Jones (ecomodder) regarding aerodynamics and why all high mileage cars are starting to look the same.

His point was that if we want good fuel economy, we shouldn’t be upset when all cars start to take on the same shape. Basically, we shouldn’t whine about cars looking more and more like flying saucers if we want to save gas.

But I wasn’t convinced that in order to get good fuel economy all cars will have to look like the Prius. I remembered reading about a Mercedes concept car based on the shape of a Box Fish that looked nothing like the Prius and had an unexpectedly better aerodynamic profile. Also, the Aptera Typ-1, which looks more like a mutant sperm than the Prius, has much better aerodynamics too.

So, you’re probably saying, “Yes, both the Typ-1 and the Mercedes Box Fish Concept have better aerodynamics than the Prius, but they’re so strange looking that they’ll only appeal to a very small portion of the population.”

And you’d be right. Which brings us back to the question of the Prius shape, but now framed in a different manner. Perhaps the answer is that the Prius shape is the most aerodynamic design you can have and still appeal to a large enough market to make a profit (and an environmental difference).

But is the Prius design really a good compromise? Does it do itself justice by trying to accomplish so much in one vehicle?

To get to the root of this, I decided to seek out an expert opinion and contacted MIT professor, Mark Drela. Dr. Drela is a professor of fluid dynamics in MIT’s Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics and has been an adviser to MIT’s Vehicle Design Summit regarding vehicle aerodynamics. In a response via email, Dr. Drela had this to say:

“All common cars, including the Prius, are aerodynamic bricks. The lowest drag shape that you can wrap around a passenger cabin resembles the front half of a sailplane fuselage. The Aptera comes pretty close, assuming they designed it properly.”

What he’s saying is that the Aptera Typ-1 probably represents the ultimate achievable aerodynamic shape for an enclosed vehicle with tires. He goes on to say:

“We know how to make extremely low drag vehicles (e.g. the Aptera), but the main problem is making them acceptable to consumers and making them ‘safe,’ however that is defined.  I see it mainly as a marketing and lawyering problem, not an R&D problem.”

So there you go. The Prius is not the most aerodynamic shape, it’s the most aerodynamic shape that’s also visually acceptable and safe enough to meet standards. But does aerodynamics even matter that much? I mean, some cars today are getting excellent mileage and don’t look like the Prius or the Aptera.

The issue comes down to the fact that achieving good fuel economy on the highway is an entirely different beast than achieving it in the city. Trying to make one vehicle that excels at both creates a vehicle that doesn’t do well at either. As Dr. Drela says:

“At steady highway speeds, low air drag is most important. If you’re braking frequently, then low mass is most important. A hybrid squeezes the two very different missions into one vehicle, and you sort of get the worst of both worlds. It doesn’t do either mission as well as a targeted vehicle, and is more complex to boot.”

Instead Drela suggests that a better solution would be to have two targeted-mission cars:

  1. An extremely light plug-in electric car for city driving
  2. An extremely low drag internal combustion car for highway driving

He points out that, obviously, owning two cars is more expensive up front, but that the lifetime economics and energy use of this arrangement might prove that it is the best solution.

Purchasing two vehicles up front might be out of reach for most people, but, if Dr. Drela is right, perhaps we should be looking at ways to make this easier for everybody to do? Government incentives?

Certainly the car companies would be happy to sell you two cars at once — perhaps they could work up a discount on the second car purchased if purchased at the same time? Does this seem like a fantasy world that sounds great on paper but would never fly in reality? What do you think?

Posts Related to Fuel Economy and Plug-Ins:

Image Credits: Toyota, Honda, Aptera





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About the Author

Not your traditional car guy.



  • Nat

    >1. An extremely light plug-in electric car for city driving

    >2. An extremely low drag internal combustion car for highway driving

    So… you want an Aptera. 1500 lbs. Plug-in hybrid or electric. One quarter the drag area of the Prius.

    As for safety, despite its looks I haven’t seen any indication it will be less safe than conventional cars. The proof will be in the pudding though, when third-party crash tests are done. Even though they’re not required, Aptera will almost certainly do them for the benefit of the naysayers.

  • Nat

    >1. An extremely light plug-in electric car for city driving

    >2. An extremely low drag internal combustion car for highway driving

    So… you want an Aptera. 1500 lbs. Plug-in hybrid or electric. One quarter the drag area of the Prius.

    As for safety, despite its looks I haven’t seen any indication it will be less safe than conventional cars. The proof will be in the pudding though, when third-party crash tests are done. Even though they’re not required, Aptera will almost certainly do them for the benefit of the naysayers.

  • Nat

    >1. An extremely light plug-in electric car for city driving

    >2. An extremely low drag internal combustion car for highway driving

    So… you want an Aptera. 1500 lbs. Plug-in hybrid or electric. One quarter the drag area of the Prius.

    As for safety, despite its looks I haven’t seen any indication it will be less safe than conventional cars. The proof will be in the pudding though, when third-party crash tests are done. Even though they’re not required, Aptera will almost certainly do them for the benefit of the naysayers.

  • Andy

    Dr Dre sounds like a scientist dealing in abstractions. People don’t simply go on either a highway trip OR a city trip. They commonly do some combination of both. Even a highway can turn into city driving when there’s a jam. So the idea of swapping cars for each given trip is highly unrealistic except in edge cases.

  • Andy

    Dr Dre sounds like a scientist dealing in abstractions. People don’t simply go on either a highway trip OR a city trip. They commonly do some combination of both. Even a highway can turn into city driving when there’s a jam. So the idea of swapping cars for each given trip is highly unrealistic except in edge cases.

  • Andy

    Dr Dre sounds like a scientist dealing in abstractions. People don’t simply go on either a highway trip OR a city trip. They commonly do some combination of both. Even a highway can turn into city driving when there’s a jam. So the idea of swapping cars for each given trip is highly unrealistic except in edge cases.

  • jim2

    Could a modular approach work?

    For example, an internal combustion generator could be in a detachable module with wheels. For distance driving, mate the generator section to the electric city car. The generator would connect to the power bus for the electric motor as in a hybrid. The generator section could also have another passenger seat, truunk, etc.

    This approach would also seem to let the battery be smaller and lighter, as it would not have to have the range of a cross-over electric car, since the generator would be mated for longer trips.

  • jim2

    Could a modular approach work?

    For example, an internal combustion generator could be in a detachable module with wheels. For distance driving, mate the generator section to the electric city car. The generator would connect to the power bus for the electric motor as in a hybrid. The generator section could also have another passenger seat, truunk, etc.

    This approach would also seem to let the battery be smaller and lighter, as it would not have to have the range of a cross-over electric car, since the generator would be mated for longer trips.

  • jim2

    Could a modular approach work?

    For example, an internal combustion generator could be in a detachable module with wheels. For distance driving, mate the generator section to the electric city car. The generator would connect to the power bus for the electric motor as in a hybrid. The generator section could also have another passenger seat, truunk, etc.

    This approach would also seem to let the battery be smaller and lighter, as it would not have to have the range of a cross-over electric car, since the generator would be mated for longer trips.

  • Funny you mention the abstract notion of people owning two cars and how absurd or “fringe” you think that notion is. Lets look at a typical family who owns two cars! Wait for it, wait for it…Dad goes to work via a highway and has to drive 20-30-40 miles to work on a highway that you are right will become a parking lot in certain sections but none the less he still drives 20-40 miles eeach way to get to work. Mom on the other hand is running around all day either with the kids or for the kids. applying the 2 car solution to this scenario and it does seem a specialized vehicle is in order. Mom tools around in a all alectric vehicle with the kids spending nothing on gas and Dad drives 40-80 miles RT each day. With a low drag high MPG vehicle Dad could get 50-70 MPG and spend 1/4 on gas then he did prior to the new set up. So his ideals are not that “far fetched” after all. Better yet if you really wanted to change the fabric of America you could just always join Grow Verde and Vespa share. Then we would pay for your gas! We have been beta testing our keyless entry system for the last 8 months and are ramping up to a major citywide pilot! Vespa sharing is the future for metropolitan areas!! Viva la Vespa sharing!

  • Funny you mention the abstract notion of people owning two cars and how absurd or “fringe” you think that notion is. Lets look at a typical family who owns two cars! Wait for it, wait for it…Dad goes to work via a highway and has to drive 20-30-40 miles to work on a highway that you are right will become a parking lot in certain sections but none the less he still drives 20-40 miles eeach way to get to work. Mom on the other hand is running around all day either with the kids or for the kids. applying the 2 car solution to this scenario and it does seem a specialized vehicle is in order. Mom tools around in a all alectric vehicle with the kids spending nothing on gas and Dad drives 40-80 miles RT each day. With a low drag high MPG vehicle Dad could get 50-70 MPG and spend 1/4 on gas then he did prior to the new set up. So his ideals are not that “far fetched” after all. Better yet if you really wanted to change the fabric of America you could just always join Grow Verde and Vespa share. Then we would pay for your gas! We have been beta testing our keyless entry system for the last 8 months and are ramping up to a major citywide pilot! Vespa sharing is the future for metropolitan areas!! Viva la Vespa sharing!

  • Robert Speirs

    “People don’t simply go on either a highway trip OR a city trip. ”

    Yes, they do. Ninety percent or more of my driving is home to work (4 miles each way) with perhaps a diversion to a nearby grocery store. So I bought an electric scooter. I have an old Mazda truck for any long-distance drives or for hauling stuff, or I rent a car. I haven’t used the truck for three weeks now. Gas expenditure: $0

  • Robert Speirs

    “People don’t simply go on either a highway trip OR a city trip. ”

    Yes, they do. Ninety percent or more of my driving is home to work (4 miles each way) with perhaps a diversion to a nearby grocery store. So I bought an electric scooter. I have an old Mazda truck for any long-distance drives or for hauling stuff, or I rent a car. I haven’t used the truck for three weeks now. Gas expenditure: $0

  • Robert Speirs

    “People don’t simply go on either a highway trip OR a city trip. ”

    Yes, they do. Ninety percent or more of my driving is home to work (4 miles each way) with perhaps a diversion to a nearby grocery store. So I bought an electric scooter. I have an old Mazda truck for any long-distance drives or for hauling stuff, or I rent a car. I haven’t used the truck for three weeks now. Gas expenditure: $0

  • Larry

    So tell me why a light weight car can’t have an aerodynamic shape? Seems aircraft designers have to deal with that problem every day.

  • Larry

    So tell me why a light weight car can’t have an aerodynamic shape? Seems aircraft designers have to deal with that problem every day.

  • Dave

    Then I guess we’re all screwed because the market for cars that look like invaders from another world is pretty small.

  • Dave

    Then I guess we’re all screwed because the market for cars that look like invaders from another world is pretty small.

  • Dave

    Then I guess we’re all screwed because the market for cars that look like invaders from another world is pretty small.

  • John B

    “Instead Drela suggests that a better solution would be to have two targeted-mission cars”

    But what happens if I can only afford one car or my condominium apartment only has one parking spot? Reality can be tough.

  • John B

    “Instead Drela suggests that a better solution would be to have two targeted-mission cars”

    But what happens if I can only afford one car or my condominium apartment only has one parking spot? Reality can be tough.

  • John B

    “Instead Drela suggests that a better solution would be to have two targeted-mission cars”

    But what happens if I can only afford one car or my condominium apartment only has one parking spot? Reality can be tough.

  • Yeta

    Why not make a car with two easily swappable powerplants, one electric and one internal combustion? That would turn it back into “an R&D problem”, nicht wahr?

  • Yeta

    Why not make a car with two easily swappable powerplants, one electric and one internal combustion? That would turn it back into “an R&D problem”, nicht wahr?

  • Tim

    If we are all going to need two cars, let us remember to count the energy budget for building those cars as part of the life cycle energy budget for driving the cars.

    I suspect most of the benefits will evaporate.

  • Tim

    If we are all going to need two cars, let us remember to count the energy budget for building those cars as part of the life cycle energy budget for driving the cars.

    I suspect most of the benefits will evaporate.

  • We need to get away from car ownership and into easy short term rentals. Then, if you’re going on a long trip you can grab a minivan, but if you’re just going to the local grocery, an all electric works fine. This would work best if the cars could drive themselves to the location, and people would get a discount by allowing the cars to be stored in their driveways.

  • We need to get away from car ownership and into easy short term rentals. Then, if you’re going on a long trip you can grab a minivan, but if you’re just going to the local grocery, an all electric works fine. This would work best if the cars could drive themselves to the location, and people would get a discount by allowing the cars to be stored in their driveways.

  • We need to get away from car ownership and into easy short term rentals. Then, if you’re going on a long trip you can grab a minivan, but if you’re just going to the local grocery, an all electric works fine. This would work best if the cars could drive themselves to the location, and people would get a discount by allowing the cars to be stored in their driveways.

  • Bill

    At a 55 mph speed limit, this aerodynamic styling is wasted – at least as far as fuel mileage is concerned. It’s for show, not function. An argument could be made that its good for noise abatement though. An aerodynamic car is probably quieter inside. Of course as soon as you crack a window, all that is lost.

    Personally, I’m disgusted with current car design. Designers just worship at the altar of aerodynamics. Windshields are raked so far back they’re damn near horizontal. But any appeal to return to sensible styling gets trashed as being “retro”.

    The Prius is butt-ugly. But then again, so is that stupid looking Aptera.

  • Bill

    At a 55 mph speed limit, this aerodynamic styling is wasted – at least as far as fuel mileage is concerned. It’s for show, not function. An argument could be made that its good for noise abatement though. An aerodynamic car is probably quieter inside. Of course as soon as you crack a window, all that is lost.

    Personally, I’m disgusted with current car design. Designers just worship at the altar of aerodynamics. Windshields are raked so far back they’re damn near horizontal. But any appeal to return to sensible styling gets trashed as being “retro”.

    The Prius is butt-ugly. But then again, so is that stupid looking Aptera.

  • DensityDuck

    Modern cars are pretty far away from the original Model T Ford; heck, they look completely different from the 1970s, let alone the 1950s. The Aptera’s form is dictated by its function and design goals; the only reason to dislike its look is hidebound conservatism. (Although this isn’t surprising; car enthusiasts are some of the most conservative people on earth.)

  • DensityDuck

    Modern cars are pretty far away from the original Model T Ford; heck, they look completely different from the 1970s, let alone the 1950s. The Aptera’s form is dictated by its function and design goals; the only reason to dislike its look is hidebound conservatism. (Although this isn’t surprising; car enthusiasts are some of the most conservative people on earth.)

  • DensityDuck

    Modern cars are pretty far away from the original Model T Ford; heck, they look completely different from the 1970s, let alone the 1950s. The Aptera’s form is dictated by its function and design goals; the only reason to dislike its look is hidebound conservatism. (Although this isn’t surprising; car enthusiasts are some of the most conservative people on earth.)

  • >Larry said on September 16th, 2008 at 2:25 pm

    >So tell me why a light weight car can’t have an aerodynamic

    >shape? Seems aircraft designers have to deal with that

    >problem every day.

    Anytime you add non-structural requirements to something it will get heavier. Assuming the same materials, e.g. composites, a very minimal “shrinkwrap” body like on the tiny city cars can be made a lot lighter than the long tapering body, sloped windshield, and wheel fairings of the Aptera.

  • >Larry said on September 16th, 2008 at 2:25 pm

    >So tell me why a light weight car can’t have an aerodynamic

    >shape? Seems aircraft designers have to deal with that

    >problem every day.

    Anytime you add non-structural requirements to something it will get heavier. Assuming the same materials, e.g. composites, a very minimal “shrinkwrap” body like on the tiny city cars can be made a lot lighter than the long tapering body, sloped windshield, and wheel fairings of the Aptera.

  • >Larry said on September 16th, 2008 at 2:25 pm

    >So tell me why a light weight car can’t have an aerodynamic

    >shape? Seems aircraft designers have to deal with that

    >problem every day.

    Anytime you add non-structural requirements to something it will get heavier. Assuming the same materials, e.g. composites, a very minimal “shrinkwrap” body like on the tiny city cars can be made a lot lighter than the long tapering body, sloped windshield, and wheel fairings of the Aptera.

  • Nick Chambers

    My thanks to Dr. Drela for providing input in the comments section! It’s a rare day when the person quoted in the article cares enough to chime in 🙂

  • eb

    the vast majority of consumers will buy based on price. All sorts of ugly cars are sold today. when total cost to own is low, they will sell like hotcakes.

  • eb

    the vast majority of consumers will buy based on price. All sorts of ugly cars are sold today. when total cost to own is low, they will sell like hotcakes.

  • Scott

    Several points:

    1) the Fiesta does in fact look remarkably like a Prius. Oh and its a diesel so you need to deduct 11% from the mileage for comparable energy efficiency, which is about 65/56 mpg on a comparable basis, still impressive. Also it is quite evidently a significantly smaller car than the Prius. Finally is the mileage determined on the same basis as US mileage ratings?

    2) The notion that the Aptera is unacceptable to consumers because it looks weird is absurd. On that basis you would have predicted that the Toyota Camry would never sell had you made that prediction circa 1920. Tastes change. I would be very surprised if anyone will be selling a “brick” in 2028.

    3) Dr. Drela should stick to aerodynamics and you would be well advised to source your articles from more than one expert.

    4) An extremely light plug-in electric car sounds like an oxymoron to me. Batteries are very heavy. If your argument is that you only need short range and thus small batteries then why not a plugin hybrid? If you want an IC aerodynamic car for long distance then why not an Aptera plugin hybrid. In fact in what way is the typ-h Aptera not the ideal short and long distance solution for two passengers?

  • Scott

    Several points:

    1) the Fiesta does in fact look remarkably like a Prius. Oh and its a diesel so you need to deduct 11% from the mileage for comparable energy efficiency, which is about 65/56 mpg on a comparable basis, still impressive. Also it is quite evidently a significantly smaller car than the Prius. Finally is the mileage determined on the same basis as US mileage ratings?

    2) The notion that the Aptera is unacceptable to consumers because it looks weird is absurd. On that basis you would have predicted that the Toyota Camry would never sell had you made that prediction circa 1920. Tastes change. I would be very surprised if anyone will be selling a “brick” in 2028.

    3) Dr. Drela should stick to aerodynamics and you would be well advised to source your articles from more than one expert.

    4) An extremely light plug-in electric car sounds like an oxymoron to me. Batteries are very heavy. If your argument is that you only need short range and thus small batteries then why not a plugin hybrid? If you want an IC aerodynamic car for long distance then why not an Aptera plugin hybrid. In fact in what way is the typ-h Aptera not the ideal short and long distance solution for two passengers?

  • Nick Chambers

    Scott,

    1) The overarching point of my comparison is lost in your analysis of minutia. Yes, for the Fiesta article I posted a while back, they are US mileage ratings. 73 hwy, 63 city.

    2) Future looking: yes people’s tastes may change, but unless you have a time machine, companies are selling things to people in 2008. If you don’t think the Aptera looks weird to 90% of today’s consumers, then (a) you likely are surrounded by, and interact with, people on a daily basis that don’t represent the majority and (b) I don’t think I can help you understand my point. Btw, personally I like the Aptera.

    3) And you’re an expert in? I may only have quotes from one person, but that doesn’t mean my article wasn’t sourced from many points. The article is long enough as it is. Dr. Drela is a well-known MIT professor and has some valid food for thought. I’m not sure why you’re getting this dig in here, it kind of makes you look like a prick.

    4) I think his point is that the more missions you try to include in one vehicle, the more complicated and expensive it gets. Having two targeted mission vehicles may be more efficient than having one complex multiple mission one — but he’d be the better one to answer that. Dr. Drela, do you have any thoughts on this last one?

  • Jeff Sutter

    The battery’s power handling capability is the limit on an ecar’s ability to scavenge momentum from regenerative braking. Given a sufficient capacity to take on a charge quickly without cycle limiting heating, the mass of a town car isn’t too important because the energy needed to accelerate is recaptured by the regenerative breaking. After coefficient of friction for highway driving, the battery’s energy density is the most compelling city driving enabling technology.

  • Jeff Sutter

    The battery’s power handling capability is the limit on an ecar’s ability to scavenge momentum from regenerative braking. Given a sufficient capacity to take on a charge quickly without cycle limiting heating, the mass of a town car isn’t too important because the energy needed to accelerate is recaptured by the regenerative breaking. After coefficient of friction for highway driving, the battery’s energy density is the most compelling city driving enabling technology.

  • Jeff Sutter

    The battery’s power handling capability is the limit on an ecar’s ability to scavenge momentum from regenerative braking. Given a sufficient capacity to take on a charge quickly without cycle limiting heating, the mass of a town car isn’t too important because the energy needed to accelerate is recaptured by the regenerative breaking. After coefficient of friction for highway driving, the battery’s energy density is the most compelling city driving enabling technology.

  • Scott

    Nick,

    Several of Dr. Drela’s comments touch on subjects that are far removed from aerodynamics specifically these two quotes: “…but the main problem is making them acceptable to consumers and making them ’safe,’ however that is defined.” and “…If you’re braking frequently, then low mass is most important. A hybrid squeezes the two very different missions into one vehicle, and you sort of get the worst of both worlds. It doesn’t do either mission as well as a targeted vehicle, and is more complex to boot.”

    In neither case does a doctorate in aerodynamics suggest any special validity of his opinions. The later quote in particular is in direct conflict with my day-to-day experience as I explain below. But your right, Dr. Drela has every right to voice his opinion and your insinuation that his opinion may be more valid than mine, while a non sequitur, may well be right. My apologies to Dr. Drela. The fault is of course yours for quoting him as if he were expert in those two cases.

    My own expertise lies merely in having owned a Prius for 6 years and having a engineering degree. That experience in particular should allow me take exception with the Doctor’s pronouncement that “It doesn’t do either mission as well as …”. As a matter of fact my Prius does do both tasks better than almost any other production automobile available over the time I have driven it. And when the Aptera becomes available it also will do both tasks better than any vehicle available or projected to be available, if the performance data offered to date can be believed.

    In fairness to Dr. Drela, I think his point that a specially designed vehicle would be more efficient all other things being equal, is valid. However, in point of fact it is vastly impractical as evidenced by the fact that it has almost never been done in the history of the auto industry and in those cases where people have come out with such specialized vehicles they have proven to be unpopular niche vehicles. Furthermore, the notion that own two cars could be more efficient than owning one strikes me as very unlikely.

    The fact is that except for very short runs presuming efficient regenerative breaking, all other things being equal, aerodynamics is the primary factor in determining a vehicle’s energy efficiency. Thus as economic and environmental forces drive us to vehicles with significantly higher energy efficiency aerodynamics will assert it self as a preeminent design criteria.

    So in answer to your title question: Yes!

  • Scott

    Nick,

    Several of Dr. Drela’s comments touch on subjects that are far removed from aerodynamics specifically these two quotes: “…but the main problem is making them acceptable to consumers and making them ’safe,’ however that is defined.” and “…If you’re braking frequently, then low mass is most important. A hybrid squeezes the two very different missions into one vehicle, and you sort of get the worst of both worlds. It doesn’t do either mission as well as a targeted vehicle, and is more complex to boot.”

    In neither case does a doctorate in aerodynamics suggest any special validity of his opinions. The later quote in particular is in direct conflict with my day-to-day experience as I explain below. But your right, Dr. Drela has every right to voice his opinion and your insinuation that his opinion may be more valid than mine, while a non sequitur, may well be right. My apologies to Dr. Drela. The fault is of course yours for quoting him as if he were expert in those two cases.

    My own expertise lies merely in having owned a Prius for 6 years and having a engineering degree. That experience in particular should allow me take exception with the Doctor’s pronouncement that “It doesn’t do either mission as well as …”. As a matter of fact my Prius does do both tasks better than almost any other production automobile available over the time I have driven it. And when the Aptera becomes available it also will do both tasks better than any vehicle available or projected to be available, if the performance data offered to date can be believed.

    In fairness to Dr. Drela, I think his point that a specially designed vehicle would be more efficient all other things being equal, is valid. However, in point of fact it is vastly impractical as evidenced by the fact that it has almost never been done in the history of the auto industry and in those cases where people have come out with such specialized vehicles they have proven to be unpopular niche vehicles. Furthermore, the notion that own two cars could be more efficient than owning one strikes me as very unlikely.

    The fact is that except for very short runs presuming efficient regenerative breaking, all other things being equal, aerodynamics is the primary factor in determining a vehicle’s energy efficiency. Thus as economic and environmental forces drive us to vehicles with significantly higher energy efficiency aerodynamics will assert it self as a preeminent design criteria.

    So in answer to your title question: Yes!

  • acvicari

    I think the better question is, why do we expect spacecraft to be aerodynamic? Any alien race capable of building interstellar spacecraft probably has better methods of getting stuff into orbit than rockets- maybe a space elevator. The point is, they’d probably assemble large spacecraft in orbit, so they didn’t have to lift it all from the ground at once, or build it on a low-gravity body so it would be easier to launch. In space, aerodynamics wouldn’t be a concern, and non-aerodynamic shapes would make much more functional sense.

    Personally, I like the really aerodynamic cars.

  • acvicari

    I think the better question is, why do we expect spacecraft to be aerodynamic? Any alien race capable of building interstellar spacecraft probably has better methods of getting stuff into orbit than rockets- maybe a space elevator. The point is, they’d probably assemble large spacecraft in orbit, so they didn’t have to lift it all from the ground at once, or build it on a low-gravity body so it would be easier to launch. In space, aerodynamics wouldn’t be a concern, and non-aerodynamic shapes would make much more functional sense.

    Personally, I like the really aerodynamic cars.

  • acvicari

    I think the better question is, why do we expect spacecraft to be aerodynamic? Any alien race capable of building interstellar spacecraft probably has better methods of getting stuff into orbit than rockets- maybe a space elevator. The point is, they’d probably assemble large spacecraft in orbit, so they didn’t have to lift it all from the ground at once, or build it on a low-gravity body so it would be easier to launch. In space, aerodynamics wouldn’t be a concern, and non-aerodynamic shapes would make much more functional sense.

    Personally, I like the really aerodynamic cars.

  • Scott,

    I think you’re underestimating the importance of low mass.

    Even for the rather optimistic Cr = 0.005, I get the following gasoline consumption needed just to overcome rolling resistance:

    Aptera: 0.16gal/100mi

    Prius : 0.30gal/100mi

    For the easily achievable Cr = 0.010, these will double:

    Aptera: 0.32gal/100mi

    Prius : 0.60gal/100mi

    I also get the following gas consumption numbers needed to overcome air resistance at 40 mph, which might be representative of city driving:

    Aptera: 0.16gal/100mi

    Prius : 0.52gal/100mi

    So in the city driving case, rolling resistance (which scales with mass) is comparable to air drag. And after you add the losses of brakes with inevitably imperfect regeneration, mass gets even more important.

    So the bottom line is that even at the “fast” city driving speed of 40 mph, low mass is somewhat more important than low air drag for fuel economy. At 30 mph, low mass clearly dominates. This is my main rationale for an electric-only city car. The less extra hybrid stuff you have in the car (IC engine, gas tank, generator, etc.) the better.

    At 70 mph highway speeds, the air drag of course dominates, and the picture changes substantially.

    BTW, Anyone know the achievable brake regeneration efficiency on a Prius? The systems I’ve seen on Solar cars about 10 years ago looked good on paper, but were measured to be no better than 30% in practice. So they were almost not worth having, since they complicated the power electronics. I’m curious how much better the current systems are.

  • Scott,

    I think you’re underestimating the importance of low mass.

    Even for the rather optimistic Cr = 0.005, I get the following gasoline consumption needed just to overcome rolling resistance:

    Aptera: 0.16gal/100mi

    Prius : 0.30gal/100mi

    For the easily achievable Cr = 0.010, these will double:

    Aptera: 0.32gal/100mi

    Prius : 0.60gal/100mi

    I also get the following gas consumption numbers needed to overcome air resistance at 40 mph, which might be representative of city driving:

    Aptera: 0.16gal/100mi

    Prius : 0.52gal/100mi

    So in the city driving case, rolling resistance (which scales with mass) is comparable to air drag. And after you add the losses of brakes with inevitably imperfect regeneration, mass gets even more important.

    So the bottom line is that even at the “fast” city driving speed of 40 mph, low mass is somewhat more important than low air drag for fuel economy. At 30 mph, low mass clearly dominates. This is my main rationale for an electric-only city car. The less extra hybrid stuff you have in the car (IC engine, gas tank, generator, etc.) the better.

    At 70 mph highway speeds, the air drag of course dominates, and the picture changes substantially.

    BTW, Anyone know the achievable brake regeneration efficiency on a Prius? The systems I’ve seen on Solar cars about 10 years ago looked good on paper, but were measured to be no better than 30% in practice. So they were almost not worth having, since they complicated the power electronics. I’m curious how much better the current systems are.

  • Scott,

    I think you’re underestimating the importance of low mass.

    Even for the rather optimistic Cr = 0.005, I get the following gasoline consumption needed just to overcome rolling resistance:

    Aptera: 0.16gal/100mi

    Prius : 0.30gal/100mi

    For the easily achievable Cr = 0.010, these will double:

    Aptera: 0.32gal/100mi

    Prius : 0.60gal/100mi

    I also get the following gas consumption numbers needed to overcome air resistance at 40 mph, which might be representative of city driving:

    Aptera: 0.16gal/100mi

    Prius : 0.52gal/100mi

    So in the city driving case, rolling resistance (which scales with mass) is comparable to air drag. And after you add the losses of brakes with inevitably imperfect regeneration, mass gets even more important.

    So the bottom line is that even at the “fast” city driving speed of 40 mph, low mass is somewhat more important than low air drag for fuel economy. At 30 mph, low mass clearly dominates. This is my main rationale for an electric-only city car. The less extra hybrid stuff you have in the car (IC engine, gas tank, generator, etc.) the better.

    At 70 mph highway speeds, the air drag of course dominates, and the picture changes substantially.

    BTW, Anyone know the achievable brake regeneration efficiency on a Prius? The systems I’ve seen on Solar cars about 10 years ago looked good on paper, but were measured to be no better than 30% in practice. So they were almost not worth having, since they complicated the power electronics. I’m curious how much better the current systems are.

  • Dr. Drela.

    First off, props for the nice work on Decavitator, among other things. My own efforts stem towards tilting trikes.

    Without the R&D data from Toyota, it might be worthwhile to look at comparable mileage figures for vehicles that are not regeneration capable.

    Honda Civic 2009 26 mpg city /34 mpg hwy

    Toyota Yaris 2008 29/36

    Toyota Prius 2009 48/45

    For the cars without regeneration you’ll notice roughly 33% increase in mileage going from city to highway. For the Prius the figures are almost the same, with city mileage actually better at

    So it appears that Toyota regeneration is adding close to 35% to the city mileage. And that may not be enough of a difference from your previous experience to account for specific driving techniques and traffic environments.

    :)ensen

  • Dr. Drela.

    First off, props for the nice work on Decavitator, among other things. My own efforts stem towards tilting trikes.

    Without the R&D data from Toyota, it might be worthwhile to look at comparable mileage figures for vehicles that are not regeneration capable.

    Honda Civic 2009 26 mpg city /34 mpg hwy

    Toyota Yaris 2008 29/36

    Toyota Prius 2009 48/45

    For the cars without regeneration you’ll notice roughly 33% increase in mileage going from city to highway. For the Prius the figures are almost the same, with city mileage actually better at

    So it appears that Toyota regeneration is adding close to 35% to the city mileage. And that may not be enough of a difference from your previous experience to account for specific driving techniques and traffic environments.

    :)ensen

  • Dr. Drela.

    First off, props for the nice work on Decavitator, among other things. My own efforts stem towards tilting trikes.

    Without the R&D data from Toyota, it might be worthwhile to look at comparable mileage figures for vehicles that are not regeneration capable.

    Honda Civic 2009 26 mpg city /34 mpg hwy

    Toyota Yaris 2008 29/36

    Toyota Prius 2009 48/45

    For the cars without regeneration you’ll notice roughly 33% increase in mileage going from city to highway. For the Prius the figures are almost the same, with city mileage actually better at

    So it appears that Toyota regeneration is adding close to 35% to the city mileage. And that may not be enough of a difference from your previous experience to account for specific driving techniques and traffic environments.

    :)ensen

  • Scott

    Mark,

    You make several interesting points. I was not aware that rolling resistance was very near comparable to air resistance below about 40mph. I checked a couple of other model cars and that was true for them as well. The cubed relationship between power and speed for air resistance is probably responsible. Even so, I am not sure I would necessarily make the same conclusion that you do regarding the importance of weight versus aerodynamics.

    Given any particular vehicle class or application is there room to reduce the weight of the vehicle by a factor of 2? That seems very ambitious. It would require making a four-passenger car the size of the Prius that weighs the same as the Aptera. On the other hand given that most modern vehicles have Cd values in the .25 – .4 range as compared to the Aptera’s .11, the Aptera stands as an existence proof of the fact that there is plenty of room to reduce drag by well over a factor of 2 with roughly the same mileage benefit that halving the weight represents for city drivers doing at least 35mph and far more benefit for anything much over 45mph. Given the cubed ratio it should be noted that even a small percentage of drive time at high speeds will tip the balance in favor of aerodynamics. Is not the class of vehicles restricted to usage below 40mph rather limited? That said by all means do both.

    The figure that sticks in my mind for Prius regenerative breaking is 30% recovery, sorry no reference. However, I think that might be misleading in that the system can do far more if driven correctly. For instance my commute includes a 600 foot ridge between home and work. The Prius allows me to recapture some of the potential energy of the hill climb. It is especially helpful during a gradual 10+ mile down hill on both sides where I can typically maintain all electric drive over all of that distance. As a result I have averaged 1.97gal/100mile over the last 12,000 miles driven (about 50% of that commuting). I am unaware of a non-hybrid available in the US in 2002 when I bought mine that could come within even 75% of that performance. Thus I take issue with your characterization of the hybrid as the worst of both worlds.

    I think the conclusion is inescapable that indeed cars of the near future will trend more and more to looking like UFO’s.

  • Scott

    Mark,

    You make several interesting points. I was not aware that rolling resistance was very near comparable to air resistance below about 40mph. I checked a couple of other model cars and that was true for them as well. The cubed relationship between power and speed for air resistance is probably responsible. Even so, I am not sure I would necessarily make the same conclusion that you do regarding the importance of weight versus aerodynamics.

    Given any particular vehicle class or application is there room to reduce the weight of the vehicle by a factor of 2? That seems very ambitious. It would require making a four-passenger car the size of the Prius that weighs the same as the Aptera. On the other hand given that most modern vehicles have Cd values in the .25 – .4 range as compared to the Aptera’s .11, the Aptera stands as an existence proof of the fact that there is plenty of room to reduce drag by well over a factor of 2 with roughly the same mileage benefit that halving the weight represents for city drivers doing at least 35mph and far more benefit for anything much over 45mph. Given the cubed ratio it should be noted that even a small percentage of drive time at high speeds will tip the balance in favor of aerodynamics. Is not the class of vehicles restricted to usage below 40mph rather limited? That said by all means do both.

    The figure that sticks in my mind for Prius regenerative breaking is 30% recovery, sorry no reference. However, I think that might be misleading in that the system can do far more if driven correctly. For instance my commute includes a 600 foot ridge between home and work. The Prius allows me to recapture some of the potential energy of the hill climb. It is especially helpful during a gradual 10+ mile down hill on both sides where I can typically maintain all electric drive over all of that distance. As a result I have averaged 1.97gal/100mile over the last 12,000 miles driven (about 50% of that commuting). I am unaware of a non-hybrid available in the US in 2002 when I bought mine that could come within even 75% of that performance. Thus I take issue with your characterization of the hybrid as the worst of both worlds.

    I think the conclusion is inescapable that indeed cars of the near future will trend more and more to looking like UFO’s.

  • Scott

    Mark,

    You make several interesting points. I was not aware that rolling resistance was very near comparable to air resistance below about 40mph. I checked a couple of other model cars and that was true for them as well. The cubed relationship between power and speed for air resistance is probably responsible. Even so, I am not sure I would necessarily make the same conclusion that you do regarding the importance of weight versus aerodynamics.

    Given any particular vehicle class or application is there room to reduce the weight of the vehicle by a factor of 2? That seems very ambitious. It would require making a four-passenger car the size of the Prius that weighs the same as the Aptera. On the other hand given that most modern vehicles have Cd values in the .25 – .4 range as compared to the Aptera’s .11, the Aptera stands as an existence proof of the fact that there is plenty of room to reduce drag by well over a factor of 2 with roughly the same mileage benefit that halving the weight represents for city drivers doing at least 35mph and far more benefit for anything much over 45mph. Given the cubed ratio it should be noted that even a small percentage of drive time at high speeds will tip the balance in favor of aerodynamics. Is not the class of vehicles restricted to usage below 40mph rather limited? That said by all means do both.

    The figure that sticks in my mind for Prius regenerative breaking is 30% recovery, sorry no reference. However, I think that might be misleading in that the system can do far more if driven correctly. For instance my commute includes a 600 foot ridge between home and work. The Prius allows me to recapture some of the potential energy of the hill climb. It is especially helpful during a gradual 10+ mile down hill on both sides where I can typically maintain all electric drive over all of that distance. As a result I have averaged 1.97gal/100mile over the last 12,000 miles driven (about 50% of that commuting). I am unaware of a non-hybrid available in the US in 2002 when I bought mine that could come within even 75% of that performance. Thus I take issue with your characterization of the hybrid as the worst of both worlds.

    I think the conclusion is inescapable that indeed cars of the near future will trend more and more to looking like UFO’s.

  • ryan

    I have long thought that one possible part of the solution to our global crisis would be to make more use-specific vehicles. Prof. Drela makes a good point. The problem is though, avoiding the added insurance costs. You can’t physically drive two cars at once (unless you are towing… I guess) so you should be able to insure both vehicles at a lower rate. It will take new laws to force insurance companies to lower rates for people who own multiple cars for various uses.

  • ryan

    I have long thought that one possible part of the solution to our global crisis would be to make more use-specific vehicles. Prof. Drela makes a good point. The problem is though, avoiding the added insurance costs. You can’t physically drive two cars at once (unless you are towing… I guess) so you should be able to insure both vehicles at a lower rate. It will take new laws to force insurance companies to lower rates for people who own multiple cars for various uses.

  • ryan

    I have long thought that one possible part of the solution to our global crisis would be to make more use-specific vehicles. Prof. Drela makes a good point. The problem is though, avoiding the added insurance costs. You can’t physically drive two cars at once (unless you are towing… I guess) so you should be able to insure both vehicles at a lower rate. It will take new laws to force insurance companies to lower rates for people who own multiple cars for various uses.

  • >The cubed relationship between power and speed for air >resistance is probably responsible.

    Air-drag fuel consumption per mile scales as the square of the speed, not the cube. It’s still a strong effect.

    >Given any particular vehicle class or application is there

    >room to reduce the weight of the vehicle by a factor of 2?

    >That seems very ambitious. It would require making a

    >four-passenger car the size of the Prius that weighs the

    >same as the Aptera.

    Yes, it’s a challenge. Here’s how I think about the problem:

    Let’s say we take the money that’s sunk into all the extra “hybrid stuff” on the Prius, and use it instead to reduce weight. For example, one might replace most of the structural steel with carbon fiber. How would _that_ car compare to a stock Prius in fuel economy? That’s certainly a very interesting question. I don’t know the answer since I haven’t done the numbers, but I wouldn’t bet against the “light and simple” solution. In the aero business, light and simple usually wins.

    There are also other considerations in such a tradeoff. Simplicity has reliability and maintenance side benefits.

  • >The cubed relationship between power and speed for air >resistance is probably responsible.

    Air-drag fuel consumption per mile scales as the square of the speed, not the cube. It’s still a strong effect.

    >Given any particular vehicle class or application is there

    >room to reduce the weight of the vehicle by a factor of 2?

    >That seems very ambitious. It would require making a

    >four-passenger car the size of the Prius that weighs the

    >same as the Aptera.

    Yes, it’s a challenge. Here’s how I think about the problem:

    Let’s say we take the money that’s sunk into all the extra “hybrid stuff” on the Prius, and use it instead to reduce weight. For example, one might replace most of the structural steel with carbon fiber. How would _that_ car compare to a stock Prius in fuel economy? That’s certainly a very interesting question. I don’t know the answer since I haven’t done the numbers, but I wouldn’t bet against the “light and simple” solution. In the aero business, light and simple usually wins.

    There are also other considerations in such a tradeoff. Simplicity has reliability and maintenance side benefits.

  • >The cubed relationship between power and speed for air >resistance is probably responsible.

    Air-drag fuel consumption per mile scales as the square of the speed, not the cube. It’s still a strong effect.

    >Given any particular vehicle class or application is there

    >room to reduce the weight of the vehicle by a factor of 2?

    >That seems very ambitious. It would require making a

    >four-passenger car the size of the Prius that weighs the

    >same as the Aptera.

    Yes, it’s a challenge. Here’s how I think about the problem:

    Let’s say we take the money that’s sunk into all the extra “hybrid stuff” on the Prius, and use it instead to reduce weight. For example, one might replace most of the structural steel with carbon fiber. How would _that_ car compare to a stock Prius in fuel economy? That’s certainly a very interesting question. I don’t know the answer since I haven’t done the numbers, but I wouldn’t bet against the “light and simple” solution. In the aero business, light and simple usually wins.

    There are also other considerations in such a tradeoff. Simplicity has reliability and maintenance side benefits.

  • >On the other hand given that most modern vehicles have Cd

    >values in the .25 – .4 range as compared to the Aptera’s .11,

    Side comment:

    Cd is really misleading when comparing different cars. If the Aptera’s Cd had the same Cd as the Prius, the Aptera would still have less drag, because its frontal area is smaller, or at least it looks that way.

    Rather than quoting Cd, everyone should be quoting “drag area”, or “CDA”, in ft^2 or m^2. That’s really what counts when calculating air drag, and it’s the only rational way to compare the air drag of two very different vehicles.

    When I was advising the MIT Solar Car team on drag reduction, I pushed them to think in terms of CDA, and not Cd. One of the team leaders Goro Tamai wrote a good book on solar car aerodynamics (The Leading Edge) where he discussed this. The solar car community has now made the transition from Cd to CDA, but the rest of the auto industry hasn’t.

  • >On the other hand given that most modern vehicles have Cd

    >values in the .25 – .4 range as compared to the Aptera’s .11,

    Side comment:

    Cd is really misleading when comparing different cars. If the Aptera’s Cd had the same Cd as the Prius, the Aptera would still have less drag, because its frontal area is smaller, or at least it looks that way.

    Rather than quoting Cd, everyone should be quoting “drag area”, or “CDA”, in ft^2 or m^2. That’s really what counts when calculating air drag, and it’s the only rational way to compare the air drag of two very different vehicles.

    When I was advising the MIT Solar Car team on drag reduction, I pushed them to think in terms of CDA, and not Cd. One of the team leaders Goro Tamai wrote a good book on solar car aerodynamics (The Leading Edge) where he discussed this. The solar car community has now made the transition from Cd to CDA, but the rest of the auto industry hasn’t.

  • >On the other hand given that most modern vehicles have Cd

    >values in the .25 – .4 range as compared to the Aptera’s .11,

    Side comment:

    Cd is really misleading when comparing different cars. If the Aptera’s Cd had the same Cd as the Prius, the Aptera would still have less drag, because its frontal area is smaller, or at least it looks that way.

    Rather than quoting Cd, everyone should be quoting “drag area”, or “CDA”, in ft^2 or m^2. That’s really what counts when calculating air drag, and it’s the only rational way to compare the air drag of two very different vehicles.

    When I was advising the MIT Solar Car team on drag reduction, I pushed them to think in terms of CDA, and not Cd. One of the team leaders Goro Tamai wrote a good book on solar car aerodynamics (The Leading Edge) where he discussed this. The solar car community has now made the transition from Cd to CDA, but the rest of the auto industry hasn’t.

  • Scott

    <There are also other considerations in such a tradeoff. Simplicity has reliability and maintenance side benefits.

    I agree that at first blush one would think that simpler should be more reliable, but again my experience is exactly backwards in the case of my Prius. Maybe the way components are stressed over the life of the car makes a big difference to reliability and the hybrid has a more favorable stress profile that more than compensates for the increased complexity?

    Driving in this morning I noted that I have recently turned 150,000 miles on my Prius. I mention this because it relates to the efficiency of regenerative breaking and reliability. I am still running with the original break pads (3X – 5X longer than normal, cost savings of $300-$1000 just for breaks)! At this point I expect them to last the life of the car. They are lasting so long presumably because regenerative breaking is actually doing a significant amount of the breaking work and thus is greatly lowering break wear.

    For what it is worth, my Prius has the lowest maintenance costs of any car I have ever owned, by at least a factor of 4X. I have literally spent more on tire replacements than all other forms of maintenance combined. I can only guess why, but I assume it is because the hybrid electric drive is actually extremely reliable (very few moving parts) and that it has greatly reduced wear and tear on the IC drive line … not to mention the breaking system.

  • Scott

    <There are also other considerations in such a tradeoff. Simplicity has reliability and maintenance side benefits.

    I agree that at first blush one would think that simpler should be more reliable, but again my experience is exactly backwards in the case of my Prius. Maybe the way components are stressed over the life of the car makes a big difference to reliability and the hybrid has a more favorable stress profile that more than compensates for the increased complexity?

    Driving in this morning I noted that I have recently turned 150,000 miles on my Prius. I mention this because it relates to the efficiency of regenerative breaking and reliability. I am still running with the original break pads (3X – 5X longer than normal, cost savings of $300-$1000 just for breaks)! At this point I expect them to last the life of the car. They are lasting so long presumably because regenerative breaking is actually doing a significant amount of the breaking work and thus is greatly lowering break wear.

    For what it is worth, my Prius has the lowest maintenance costs of any car I have ever owned, by at least a factor of 4X. I have literally spent more on tire replacements than all other forms of maintenance combined. I can only guess why, but I assume it is because the hybrid electric drive is actually extremely reliable (very few moving parts) and that it has greatly reduced wear and tear on the IC drive line … not to mention the breaking system.

  • I seen 21% increase in my truck in better gas mileage and can help the envirnment alot burn 99.99% clean and you can possibly get up to 25% increase in mileage and after 3 oil changes many reported you can go 2-3 times longer if not satisfied you can return unused prtion and get full refund http://www.getmorempg.info

  • I seen 21% increase in my truck in better gas mileage and can help the envirnment alot burn 99.99% clean and you can possibly get up to 25% increase in mileage and after 3 oil changes many reported you can go 2-3 times longer if not satisfied you can return unused prtion and get full refund http://www.getmorempg.info

  • I seen 21% increase in my truck in better gas mileage and can help the envirnment alot burn 99.99% clean and you can possibly get up to 25% increase in mileage and after 3 oil changes many reported you can go 2-3 times longer if not satisfied you can return unused prtion and get full refund http://www.getmorempg.info

  • DingBat

    Mark Drela said “but were measured to be no better than 30% in practice. So they were almost not worth having”

    Mark, could the same not be said for any internal combustion engine. After all only 30%, typically less of the fuel goes towards moving the car.

    –DingBat

  • DingBat

    Mark Drela said “but were measured to be no better than 30% in practice. So they were almost not worth having”

    Mark, could the same not be said for any internal combustion engine. After all only 30%, typically less of the fuel goes towards moving the car.

    –DingBat

  • DingBat

    Mark Drela said “but were measured to be no better than 30% in practice. So they were almost not worth having”

    Mark, could the same not be said for any internal combustion engine. After all only 30%, typically less of the fuel goes towards moving the car.

    –DingBat

  • That is such a cool looking car.

  • That is such a cool looking car.

  • You need to think about what can be done not what people want you to think can be done. There are several ways of making zero point energy practical that I can perfect to make it practical, and we can take the power away from those people that make free fake money that keeps you a slave. Problem that nobody will co-operate to do it.

  • You need to think about what can be done not what people want you to think can be done. There are several ways of making zero point energy practical that I can perfect to make it practical, and we can take the power away from those people that make free fake money that keeps you a slave. Problem that nobody will co-operate to do it.

  • You need to think about what can be done not what people want you to think can be done. There are several ways of making zero point energy practical that I can perfect to make it practical, and we can take the power away from those people that make free fake money that keeps you a slave. Problem that nobody will co-operate to do it.

  • Uncle B

    By the time the $700B money printing spree is over, oil will have spiked again, and drawn nearer its final demise too. The oncoming recession/depression here and in Europe will also affect disposable income negatively. A flurry of Euro-style eco-boxes is anticipated, followed by or included with a few tandem, carbon fiber bodied commuter cars. Gasoline at +$14.00 gallon will do away with SUV’s and V-8 engines except for a very few Uber-rich and very detested ‘unenvironmental’ folk. A market for the American equivalent of the post WWII Hankel, fiat, BMW and Messerschmidt super economy bubble cars will open, and a much more modern version of these once popular vehicles, using carbon fiber and advanced polymer composites and light diesels and plug in features will invade the car markets. These ultra-lights will likely be built in Korea and China to lower prices and be essentially ‘throw-away cars’. GM, Ford and Chrysler may market a few of these through their dealership networks, but for the most part their “1930’s sheet-metal and grease-pit” technologies are dated and too ‘cheap-oil’ dependent to survive. Americans will unwillingly edge toward public rail transportation for long hauls, and a 1930’s dining car with drinks tradition will be rekindled by the traveling business folk, who will travel a lot less with the upcoming improvements in electronic communications.Our American automotive tradition is being shoved into our history books by economic expedience to our greater confusion and sorrow!

  • Uncle B

    By the time the $700B money printing spree is over, oil will have spiked again, and drawn nearer its final demise too. The oncoming recession/depression here and in Europe will also affect disposable income negatively. A flurry of Euro-style eco-boxes is anticipated, followed by or included with a few tandem, carbon fiber bodied commuter cars. Gasoline at +$14.00 gallon will do away with SUV’s and V-8 engines except for a very few Uber-rich and very detested ‘unenvironmental’ folk. A market for the American equivalent of the post WWII Hankel, fiat, BMW and Messerschmidt super economy bubble cars will open, and a much more modern version of these once popular vehicles, using carbon fiber and advanced polymer composites and light diesels and plug in features will invade the car markets. These ultra-lights will likely be built in Korea and China to lower prices and be essentially ‘throw-away cars’. GM, Ford and Chrysler may market a few of these through their dealership networks, but for the most part their “1930’s sheet-metal and grease-pit” technologies are dated and too ‘cheap-oil’ dependent to survive. Americans will unwillingly edge toward public rail transportation for long hauls, and a 1930’s dining car with drinks tradition will be rekindled by the traveling business folk, who will travel a lot less with the upcoming improvements in electronic communications.Our American automotive tradition is being shoved into our history books by economic expedience to our greater confusion and sorrow!

  • Uncle B

    By the time the $700B money printing spree is over, oil will have spiked again, and drawn nearer its final demise too. The oncoming recession/depression here and in Europe will also affect disposable income negatively. A flurry of Euro-style eco-boxes is anticipated, followed by or included with a few tandem, carbon fiber bodied commuter cars. Gasoline at +$14.00 gallon will do away with SUV’s and V-8 engines except for a very few Uber-rich and very detested ‘unenvironmental’ folk. A market for the American equivalent of the post WWII Hankel, fiat, BMW and Messerschmidt super economy bubble cars will open, and a much more modern version of these once popular vehicles, using carbon fiber and advanced polymer composites and light diesels and plug in features will invade the car markets. These ultra-lights will likely be built in Korea and China to lower prices and be essentially ‘throw-away cars’. GM, Ford and Chrysler may market a few of these through their dealership networks, but for the most part their “1930’s sheet-metal and grease-pit” technologies are dated and too ‘cheap-oil’ dependent to survive. Americans will unwillingly edge toward public rail transportation for long hauls, and a 1930’s dining car with drinks tradition will be rekindled by the traveling business folk, who will travel a lot less with the upcoming improvements in electronic communications.Our American automotive tradition is being shoved into our history books by economic expedience to our greater confusion and sorrow!

  • Melissa

    Alternatively, shouldn’t all cars look like UFO’s? I’m sure that’s what the future looked like when I was a kid.

  • Melissa

    Alternatively, shouldn’t all cars look like UFO’s? I’m sure that’s what the future looked like when I was a kid.

  • Melissa

    Alternatively, shouldn’t all cars look like UFO’s? I’m sure that’s what the future looked like when I was a kid.

  • Pingback: Do Cars Really Need to Look Like UFOs to Save Gas? from gas2.org | SteveintheUK.com()

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