The Amazing Edison2 Very Light Car

Website Car Comparison

The Edison2 Very Light Car (VLC) — the original design (left) that won the X Prize and the next generation VLC (right)

By Craig Evans, Renewable Energy Consulting Services,, using excerpts from the Edison2 website:

Edison2 at heart and in spirit is a racing team. Racing as in Le Mans, Sebring and Daytona. The team is made up of designers, engineers, mechanics, builders and drivers of very fast, championship-caliber cars, who engaged in a race – the X Prize – to build a highly efficient, safe, and well-performing automobile.  They succeeded.

One hundred and eleven teams from around the world entered the Progressive Insurance Automotive X Prize in 2008, and in September 2010 Edison2 was awarded the top prize, winning the Mainstream class and with it $5 million.

The X Prize combined a simple goal with demanding requirements. The goal: a car with mileage greater than 100 MPGe. The requirements: 4 passengers, 4 wheels, range exceeding 200 miles, 0-60 in less than 15 seconds, meeting Consumers Union dynamic safety standards and Tier 2 Bin 8 emissions.

In the rigorous Mainstream class only two cars could even make the finals: Edison2’s #97 and #98 Very Light Cars.

The Very Light Car (VLC) is a reflection the Edison2 team’s background.  The team understands how to make a car light and aerodynamic since these are two ingredients of any successful race car. They know how to make a light car strong and safe, evidenced by race drivers walking away from very high-speed collisions. They also realize the value of simplicity of design and clarity of function.

Edison2 combines sound physics with innovative design to produce workable and sustainable transportation solutions through the absolute virtues of low weight and low aerodynamic drag.  The VLC – a low-mass vehicle using mostly recyclable aluminum and steel – also requires little energy in production and avoids scarce and hazardous materials.

For the X Prize, the team anticipated developing a hybrid or electric vehicle – hence the name, Edison2 – but their studies on efficiency led them away from the significant added weight of batteries to a one-cylinder, 250cc internal combustion engine fueled by E85.

Weighing just 830 pounds with a drag coefficient of 0.160 – lowest ever recorded at the GM Aero Lab for a 4 passenger car – the X Prize VLC achieved 110 MPGe (combined) and 129 MPGe (highway) at the X Prize.  It also posted a peak lateral acceleration of 1.18g on a skid pad, the fastest speed through the double lane change, and shortest stopping distance (128 feet) from 60 – 0 (Consumers Union).

In 2011 Edison2 decided to build an electric VLC, using off the shelf batteries, motor and controller, which was tested at Roush Laboratories in Michigan.  The all-electric VLC was rated at 350 MPGe in the EPA combined cycle – a new EPA fuel economy record, according to Consumer Reports.  This makes the Edison2 the most efficient 4-person electric car on the planet; it also may well be the technology that enables widespread adoption of EVs. 

Through light weight and low aerodynamic drag the VLC requires very little energy to move – only 5.3 hp to cruise at 60 mph – which means a small battery pack (10.5 kWh, compared with the Nissan Leaf’s 24 kWh) and a short recharging time. In fact, the eVLC can completely recharge in less than 7 hours from any ordinary 110V outlet, and has a 100+ mile range.

VLCs are incredibly efficient regardless of how they are powered.  The X Prize was won with a 250 cc internal combustion engine running on E85.  Edison2s electric VLC set a new standard for 4-person electric cars on the EPA 5-cycle test (combined), and a VLC with a Smart Car drivetrain recorded 89 MPG (highway), compared to 41 in the Smart.

Edison2 incorporates many safety innovations from racing into the Very Light Car. A strong steel cage encompasses the passenger compartment. Unlike the rectangular shape of contemporary cars, the diamond shape of the VLC deflects forces on impact, which means that the most common collisions become indirect. Also, additional collapsible space for impact absorption is designed into the VLC, by having the wheels outside of the frame, for example.

Since winning the X Prize, the Edison2 team has been working in their Lynchburg, Virginia facility on a stunning new version of the VLC. Although the next generation VLC uses the same architecture and virtues of efficiency that won Edison2 the X Prize, it is a completely new vehicle. It is designed to be capable of meeting regulatory requirements (beyond 2025 CO2 and MPG regulations), and will have production-car fit-and-finish, safety, comfort and handling at an affordable price.

For additional information on Edison2, please contact me at

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