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Appropriate Tech, 300mpg Car Top 2008 Innovators

timothy posted more than 5 years ago | from the name-your-own-runners-up dept.

Transportation 155

longacre writes "While some giggles were floating around about the irony of a Microsoft product (Photosynth) finding itself on the same top 10 products list as a toilet, the true stars of last night's annual Popular Mechanics Breakthrough Awards were innovations of far more consequence. MIT professor Amy B. Smith won the marquis Leadership Award for her work on building simple, low-cost technology to help developing countries. Joining Smith from the appropriate technology field were a group of CalTech students who created all-terrain wheelchairs for the disabled, and a Procter & Gamble exec who developed a water purifying powder for the third world. Aptera Vehicles founders Steve Ambro and Chris Anthony made the cut for their 300mpg Typ-1e, which is expected to hit showrooms by the end of this year. Other winners ranged from the Mars Phoenix Lander team, to the developers of a low-cost cancer test, to the creators of Spore."

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155 comments

Impressive car, but I'd like an extra wheel please (4, Interesting)

GrpA (691294) | more than 5 years ago | (#25408569)

300mpg is impressive, but they stopped selling trike's for a reason ( and they now sell quad's in their place ).

That trend with electric vehicles actually worries me, and I can't help but wonder at the safety implications.

Is it really so difficult to keep the drag co-efficient down without losing the extra wheel?

GrpA

Re:Impressive car, but I'd like an extra wheel ple (5, Informative)

Yvan256 (722131) | more than 5 years ago | (#25408593)

Single front-wheel trikes are dangerous. Single back-wheel trikes are pratically as stable as a four-wheeler.

As a bonus, this one looks amazing (saw one in person this summer): http://spyder.brp.com/ [brp.com]

Re:Impressive car, but I'd like an extra wheel ple (5, Informative)

GrpA (691294) | more than 5 years ago | (#25408655)

I'd still question the stability. It depends on the location of the CoP, which can vary depending on the situation the vehicle finds itself in.

Front-wheel trikes are succeptible to issues when braking (CoP moves forward) and turning (CoP moves to the side) at the same time.

Under those circumstances, which are reasonably likely to occur, I agree with you on the configuration.

However, under other circumstances involving stability and under high yaw (eg, braking causes the car to spin, etc, and with less traction on one rear tire than two) I'd still be fearful that the car would flip rather than slide - all that really needs to happen, IMO, is for the back-end to spin around to the front under braking.

Plus you also have the issues related to contact surface area of the rear tire.

I guess I'm talking about the kinds of positions you might find yourself in, that you learn to deal with in an advanced driving course, but whenever you go for three wheels, the first compromise is stability.

The car does look nice though... Like a composite body aircraft cockpit - :)

GrpA

Re:Impressive car, but I'd like an extra wheel ple (2, Informative)

tknd (979052) | more than 5 years ago | (#25408845)

Well I won't comment (I don't build cars and I am not a physicist) but here's an old clip [youtube.com] of one of their first prototypes being driven around the parking lot.

Re:Impressive car, but I'd like an extra wheel ple (2, Interesting)

umghhh (965931) | more than 5 years ago | (#25409521)

Can you use it to transport a family (2+2) to/from shopping?

Other than that it is a nice development.

Re:Impressive car, but I'd like an extra wheel ple (4, Insightful)

electrictroy (912290) | more than 5 years ago | (#25409785)

Why do you need to take your whole family shopping? Can't you buy your Rice Krispies by yourself? ;-) And even if you needed to take the whole family, then you can just take two cars. Mom and kid in the Aptera; dad and kid in the other. The combined 150 mpg is still a LOT better than the average 20mpg SUV.

Very few people need to carry a Ford Living Room everywhere they go.

For those wanting four wheels, Volkswagen will soon have a 1L/100km (240mpg) car.

Re:Impressive car, but I'd like an extra wheel ple (5, Informative)

Corporate Troll (537873) | more than 5 years ago | (#25410433)

For those wanting four wheels, Volkswagen will soon have a 1L/100km (240mpg) car.

[Citation needed]

If you refer to this [wikipedia.org] , it seats two and is hardly by any definition something that seats a whole family. (Not that you claimed that, but somehow it seemed implied) It'll be there in 2010 in limited numbers... Read: "expensive" (It says 20k€ to 30k€ in the wikipedia article)

I don't object with your post, just with that statement. We're far from there.

Also note that a 3L/100km car [wikipedia.org] was in production for years but was scrapped because of low sales :-/

Re:Impressive car, but I'd like an extra wheel ple (1)

theaveng (1243528) | more than 5 years ago | (#25411295)

>>>it seats two and is hardly something that seats a whole family.

He never said it would. Re-read what he *actually* wrote: "For those wanting four wheels..." There's not one thing there that says anything about the VW 1L car holding an entire family. Is english not your first language? That might explain why you didn't understand what you read.

>>>It'll be there in 2010 in limited numbers...Read: "expensive"

The Volkswagen Lupo 3L (80mpg) car was also limited in number, but was still available for ~$20,000 Euro. Same applied to the limited-edition Honda Insight which cost just US$20,000. You shouldn't assume "limited numbers" means "expensive".

>>>Also note that a 3L/100km car [wikipedia.org] was in production for years but was scrapped because of low sales :-/

Boy you're a negative guy. The Lupo 3L was not scrapped; it was replaced with the Fox model! Duh. Same with the Honda Insight which is being replaced with an Insight II. Stop being such a downer.

With gasoline prices at $4.00 U.S. and $8.00 E.U., there's a market for cars that save on fueling costs.

Re:Impressive car, but I'd like an extra wheel ple (1)

Atzanteol (99067) | more than 5 years ago | (#25410847)

Why do you need to take your whole family shopping?

Don't have children do you...

Re:Impressive car, but I'd like an extra wheel ple (1)

theaveng (1243528) | more than 5 years ago | (#25411379)

The grandparent post was correct. The wife can go shopping for groceries, while the husband stays home and babysits.

Or they could take two separate 300mpg cars. There's no rule which says you "have" to take the whole family shopping, or they all have to ride in the same car. Stop clinging to superstitious, old-fashioned ideas. Think outside the box.

Re:Impressive car, but I'd like an extra wheel ple (1)

Cowmonaut (989226) | more than 5 years ago | (#25411131)

I know this is OT, but I can't help but wonder if your sig is serious:

White-space devices will kill over-the-air free television. Reserve channels 2-51 for TV only.

Mostly considering, in the US anyways, there won't be over the air TV anymore in a little bit here.

Re:Impressive car, but I'd like an extra wheel ple (2, Informative)

theaveng (1243528) | more than 5 years ago | (#25411345)

>>>in the US anyways, there won't be over the air TV anymore in a little bit here.

To quote Bugs Bunny: "What a maroon." Of course there's going to be over-the-air television!!! Why do you think the U.S. Congress is giving away *billions* in free converter box coupons ($40 each). Please don't post false information.

Re:Impressive car, but I'd like an extra wheel ple (2)

TheNinjaroach (878876) | more than 5 years ago | (#25411157)

Mom and kid in the Aptera; dad and kid in the other. The combined 150 mpg is still a LOT better than the average 20mpg SUV.

Right, since they're going to burn the fuel to drive the 20mpg SUV they might as well take a second vehicle as well.

They'll burn more gas that way, but hey, at least they can brag that their combined average is over 100MPG!

Re:Impressive car, but I'd like an extra wheel ple (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25411121)

Question, fine, but verify. The rear wheel contact surface is also a non-issue. If you want less rolling resistance but less traction, you use a thin, hard tire; if you want more traction and comfort with a slight fuel economy hit, use the thicker, softer tire. But know that in a front wheel drive, there will be a small difference in handling. If you are in a spin, though, a bit more contact surface on a single rear tire or two helps little. And a low center of gravity will trump a fourth wheel for rollover safety. Think SUVs. Your prejudice about the trike (1+2) three-wheeler is well founded; but not about the tadpole (2+1).

Re:Impressive car, but I'd like an extra wheel ple (4, Informative)

Rei (128717) | more than 5 years ago | (#25408657)

Quite true, so long as the CoM is positioned just behind the front wheels. When braking, that puts the CG directly between the front wheels. You're left with the same resistance to rollover, but you have a lower moment of inertia, so it's more responsive. Also, with two wheels at front steering, just like in a normal car, you have similar tendancy toward understeer rather than the extreme oversteer of "delta" trikes.

There was a good article from Road and Track in May 1982 where they tested various configurations; there's excerpts here [autospeed.com] .

Re:Impressive car, but I'd like an extra wheel ple (2, Interesting)

bhsx (458600) | more than 5 years ago | (#25409169)

A friend of mine has one, I've ridden it. It's a fantastic machine. I think he said he paid $19k for it. He sold his '86 BMW with a side car to get it. Really, Really amazing bike (do we still call it a 'bike'?)!

Remember three wheeler Morgans (4, Informative)

Kupfernigk (1190345) | more than 5 years ago | (#25409467)

We old guys remember the Aero Morgan - a three wheeler with a V-twin light aircraft engine at the front and a single rear wheel. In those days there was no front wheel drive, so it was far less advanced than the Aptera. They used to race these things, in Germany no less, and seeing a whole lot of them going through bends at over 100mph was a slightly worrying sight, but fun. Nowadays you may see one in the UK out on a rare sunny day. The point is, although very niche, they were a well proven design which attracted a devoted following. The Aptera might well do the same.

Re:Remember three wheeler Morgans (1)

Hognoxious (631665) | more than 5 years ago | (#25409857)

I think the ones you see nowadays are replicas - I used to know a guy who had one. Based on a Citroes 2CV IIRC due to the low cost, light weight & ladder chassis.

Re:Remember three wheeler Morgans (1)

Whiteox (919863) | more than 5 years ago | (#25410803)

Opening scenes of The Party (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0063415/ which has got to be one of the funniest movies) has Peter Sellers driving one.

Re:Impressive car, but I'd like an extra wheel ple (2, Funny)

interploy (1387145) | more than 5 years ago | (#25411427)

As a bonus, this one looks amazing (saw one in person this summer): http://spyder.brp.com/ [brp.com]

That car looks suspiciously like a motorcycle.

I agree though it certainly beats out the Type-1e in the looks department. I don't understand why new-tech people insist on making such horrendously ugly vehicles. If they actually made them look like traditional cars they may have a chance of catching on.

I get that the design helps them achieve 300mpg, but seriously, no one is going to drive a Type-1e on a highway. It looks like it'd crumple like tin foil.

Can-Am Spyder (2, Informative)

suggsjc (726146) | more than 5 years ago | (#25411645)

As a Spyder owner, I can attest that it is a very stable vehicle. It has several safety features (warning: flash site) [brp.com] namely its VSS (Vehicle Stability System) that makes sure you can't/don't high side it like conventional trikes.

Its a first generation vehicle, but its been developed for around 10 years and minus a few minor complaints they totally hit a home run! I can confidently say that I am very happy with my purchase. But I must warn you, don't buy one unless you really like attention because everyone will come up to you and have a conversation.

Re:Impressive car, but I'd like an extra wheel ple (1, Interesting)

Aranykai (1053846) | more than 5 years ago | (#25408609)

Agreed. This car is way too impractical to ever see common use on American roads. Pit this versus a full size truck or even a semi and it has little chance. Honestly though, with the advances in TDI diesel engines and hybrid technologies, I feel the future is not in electric cars.

Re:Impressive car, but I'd like an extra wheel ple (4, Insightful)

houstonbofh (602064) | more than 5 years ago | (#25408635)

Pit this versus a full size truck or even a semi and it has little chance.

And what small economy car do you want to drive head-on into a semi? Frankly, unless it is another semi, you are going to have a very bad day... And even if it is another semi, the day won't be good.

Re:Impressive car, but I'd like an extra wheel ple (3, Insightful)

Cheetahfeathers (93473) | more than 5 years ago | (#25408913)

It's muchmuchmuch easier to avoid a crash in the first place in a small, maneuverable vehicle than in a big one with a lot of mass. Semi dodges a kid in the road, swerves into another lane with oncoming traffic. Now try to get that huge mass to swerve back into the proper lane. Try the same dodge in a motorcycle, small car or something similar.

Re:Impressive car, but I'd like an extra wheel ple (0, Troll)

timmarhy (659436) | more than 5 years ago | (#25409061)

what your talking is rubbish, because people don't dodge accidents (hence why they have them). by your reasoning because motobikes are so quick and agile they wouldn't never get in an accident.

you MUST have the same safety on these electric cars as any normal car, they will be in accidents ranging from small fender benders to multi car pile ups.

anyway it's a pretty moot point. this 300mpg thing is just a fucking toy, it only takes one person and has fuck all carry space.

Re:Impressive car, but I'd like an extra wheel ple (4, Informative)

Rei (128717) | more than 5 years ago | (#25409187)

The GP is absolutely correct, though. Americans have this mentality of assuming that crashes are inevitable that's not shared in much of the rest of the world. Hence, a lot of Americans only feel comfortable driving overweight (read: unmaneuverable) armored tanks that make them *more* likely to be involved in accidents. Statistics bear this out; SUVs are more likely to be involved in accidents than small cars.

As for safety: try over double the NTSB standards on roof and door crush strength, modelled with the same crash-survivability testing software that BMW uses, with normal car safety features (traction control, dual airbags... Actually the airbags are among the most advanced on the market -- in-seatbelt curtain airbags), and so on down the line. And I'll take a crash in a composite vehicle over a steel one any day. You ever seen the sort of 100+mph crashes of exotics that people walk away from? It's pretty amazing.

As for your last line, you're completely wrong on all counts. It's a 2+1 seater -- two full sized seats in the front and one seat for a small child in the back. And it has 16 cubic feet of trunk space, which is the size of your typical sedan's trunk. This is not a small car -- just an unusually shaped one. The unusual shape eliminates the presence of a normal backseat in exchange for the aerodynamics to gain its extreme efficiency.

Re:Impressive car, but I'd like an extra wheel ple (0, Flamebait)

rrohbeck (944847) | more than 5 years ago | (#25409591)

Americans have this mentality of assuming that crashes are inevitable that's not shared in much of the rest of the world.

That's because most of them can't drive.
All they do is stomp on the brakes, locking them if they don't have ABS, and hope for the best.
I've seen it happen in front of me, and the rubber tracks you see at accident sites tell the same story. Almost always you have 4 locked tires heading straight to the crash site or spinning out of control.
I guess the percentage of folks who went to driving school and got any handling training is very low.

Re:Impressive car, but I'd like an extra wheel ple (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25410083)

yeah right that's why, all Americans are just stupid. now who is being a fucking moron

Re:Impressive car, but I'd like an extra wheel ple (1)

dAzED1 (33635) | more than 5 years ago | (#25409261)

1 person? no space? while it's not a fucking SUV, 90% of the asses I pass on the freeways only have 1 person in their car. The Aptera seats 2 adults, plus has space for a child seat. Additionally, there is actually quite a bit of storage. You should try, I dunno, actually looking at info on something before you spout BS about it. Right on aptera.com is a demonstration of it fiting a couple snowboards, a surfboard, and etc all in at once. Is it an SUV? No, but those are what the hell the problem is. It is purposefully /not/ that. But eh, I'm biased, I suppose...Aptera reservation #1397. From their website: "What is the seating and cargo space? The Aptera has "two plus one" seating allowing plenty of room for driver and passenger while an infant seat (newborn to age three) can be located in the middle behind the front seating. There is enough storage space to fit 15 bags of groceries, two full-size golf club bags or even a couple of seven foot surf boards. "

Re:Impressive car, but I'd like an extra wheel ple (1)

g253 (855070) | more than 5 years ago | (#25410093)

Well, the speed and agility of my motorcycle _has_ allowed me to avoid quite a lot of crashes.

And although it also has "fuck all carry space", I appreciate the huge savings on fuel. In the case of my bike it's because I don't get stuck in traffic, but the result is the same.

I guess what you're saying is you'd like a SUV with 300mpg. Well yeah, me too I guess. I want it to fly, too.

Re:Impressive car, but I'd like an extra wheel ple (1)

Hognoxious (631665) | more than 5 years ago | (#25410553)

because people don't dodge accidents (hence why they have them).

Technically, you're correct: if they did dodge it, there'd be no accident.

However if your point is that people never take evasive action (which could include stopping) to avoid a potential accident, then that's so wrong it's laughable.

Not a motorcycle (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25410915)

I'm sick of people thinking motorcycles are somehow more maneuverable than a car. I have been riding motorcycles for almost 30 years and I can tell you for a fact that a car is more maneuverable. A car can turn faster, brake faster and hold the road better because it has more contact area with the ground. The only thing the motorcycle has going for it is the small size which might let you avoid something without having to move as much. That doesn't mean it's more maneuverable though.

Re:Impressive car, but I'd like an extra wheel ple (1)

Aranykai (1053846) | more than 5 years ago | (#25409909)

First, I never implied a head of collision of any sort. No matter what the vehicle, the simple fact that a head on collision with a combined speed of over 60mph is not often walked away from simply because of the forces the body is exposed to. What I was trying to make a point of was the car's design. I see no bumpers or anything resembling a crumple zone that makes common collisions significantly safer in modern vehicles. This car could easily wedge itself under the back of a truck, decapitating the passengers for instance.

I would much rather drive a lightweight compact car, making 50-60MPG highway than risk being killed in such a contraption.

Re:Impressive car, but I'd like an extra wheel ple (5, Insightful)

Starvingboy (964130) | more than 5 years ago | (#25408643)

Why does everyone cry "Safety" whenever a small car is introduced. Think of it as a motorcycle with a roof and it becomes much easier to envision driving to work every day. I doubt if I'm the only one tired of the safety cops trying to controll everything I do. Dangerous is FUN.

Re:Impressive car, but I'd like an extra wheel ple (4, Informative)

Rei (128717) | more than 5 years ago | (#25408683)

Not to mention that its roof and door crush strengths are over double the NTSB standard. Composite monocoque structures are nice that way.

The crash test results should put a lot of concerns at rest. Yes, they've been simulating crash tests with the same software that BMW uses, but nothing comforts like real-world tests. They just took the jobs for crash test engineers off their jobs page, so looks like they've been filled.

Re:Impressive car, but I'd like an extra wheel ple (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25409007)

They just took the jobs for crash test engineers off their jobs page, so looks like they've been filled.

Or they suddenly realized: Hey! We're building a motorcycle, we don't need any crash tests!

Re:Impressive car, but I'd like an extra wheel ple (1)

Aranykai (1053846) | more than 5 years ago | (#25410163)

Motorcycles are widely accepted as significantly less safe than other motor vehicles so I fail to see your point. Putting a roof on it simple means you have the same unsafe vehicle that can now be driven comfortably in the rain.

A counter; Why do people cry others are trying to control everything they do when some point out choices they are making can be considered less than safe?

Re:Impressive car, but I'd like an extra wheel ple (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25408661)

Drag coefficiant schmag coefficient.

When my small ugly boxy vehicle that can hold 8 passengers(er, 5 legally) gets in a small accident I get a dent. I'd like to see what happens to the drag coefficient(and the dent in the wallet of the owner) if that thing gets a ding. Must be easy to take out a front wheel.

In other words, nerds, think about this: If you were at a party with a hot bitch and a lot of her friends who wanted to fsck then it makes more sense to be able to drive them home. If you have that gay vehicle then she'll say, "I'll just go with my friends, thank you" while you drive home alone in an overpriced ugly two-seater while the guy with the Corolla or Explorer gets laid.

Re:Impressive car, but I'd like an extra wheel ple (5, Informative)

Rei (128717) | more than 5 years ago | (#25408705)

I'd like to see what happens to the drag coefficient(and the dent in the wallet of the owner) if that thing gets a ding

My mother in law laughed off the suggestion of damage to the Aptera when it came up in a conversation. She used to work at a place that built fiberglass hovercraft and said that they're pretty easy to repair. This is a 6th generation quilter in her sixties. Besides, composites are a lot more resistant to damage than steel. As for taking out a wheel, do you really think a thin metal skin on your car around your wheels is offering any relevant protection?

In other words, nerds, think about this: If you were at a party

Your insight into the mind of women is stunning [youtube.com] . Really [autobloggreen.com] .

Re:Impressive car, but I'd like an extra wheel ple (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25409865)

Buy card to get laid?
Save money on gas, drive to nevada, use savings to buy hooker.

No muss, no fuss.

Re:Impressive car, but I'd like an extra wheel ple (5, Insightful)

lysergic.acid (845423) | more than 5 years ago | (#25408805)

by that logic we should all drive tanks so that when we get in accidents our cars survive but we die (crumple zones are designed so that the car absorb the energy from a collision rather than passengers). your attitude is more suited to destruction derby than road safety.

ICE engines are a technological anachronism no matter how you slice it--both environmentally and in terms of energy efficiency. so what you feel is based on irrational beliefs. the only reason hybrids are useful now is because we haven't yet built the infrastructure for plug-in electric vehicles to completely replace ICE vehicles. it's an intermediate phase. it would not make sense to have hybrids if electric propulsion did not have advantages over ICE propulsion.

but all forms of progress, whether technological, cultural, social, or political, there will be a strong rearguard reaction to overcome. therefore it's important to disseminate information and encourage people to take a rational approach to the issue rather than falling victim to knee-jerk responses based on ignorant reactionary attitudes. luckily there are companies out there [teslamotors.com] working to dispel false negative perceptions of electric vehicles as a lot of people still associate environmentally-friendly with poor performance.

Re:Impressive car, but I'd like an extra wheel ple (1)

rts008 (812749) | more than 5 years ago | (#25409561)

"by that logic we should all drive tanks ..."

The M1A1 Abrams is a good choice. It makes for a good href="http://www.liveleak.com/view?i=cbd_1205278167" title="www.liveleak.com">traffic jam tactic, and forget about 'road rage induced shouting/fisticuff actions....120mm smoothbore SABOT goodness, baby! (never mind the turret mount .50 BMG and the coax machine gun/machine cannon)

You are forgetting about the 'automagical inertial compensators'-available at a theater near you soon!

On an 'on-topic' and serious note:

"CE engines are a technological anachronism no matter how you slice it--both environmentally and in terms of energy efficiency. so what you feel is based on irrational beliefs. the only reason hybrids are useful now is because we haven't yet built the infrastructure for plug-in electric vehicles to completely replace ICE vehicles. it's an intermediate phase. it would not make sense to have hybrids if electric propulsion did not have advantages over ICE propulsion.

but all forms of progress, whether technological, cultural, social, or political, there will be a strong rearguard reaction to overcome. therefore it's important to disseminate information and encourage people to take a rational approach to the issue rather than falling victim to knee-jerk responses based on ignorant reactionary attitudes. luckily there are companies out there working to dispel false negative perceptions of electric vehicles as a lot of people still associate environmentally-friendly with poor performance."

The only problem with the above argument/opinion, is that it does not address the profits of the 'big corporate' corporations.
I could be wrong here, but I see this as a fight between established systems/businesses/IP, and progress.

Do the profits and maintaining IP control counterbalance humanity?

I'm just asking! (ducks and covers)

Re:Impressive car, but I'd like an extra wheel ple (2, Insightful)

fyrewulff (702920) | more than 5 years ago | (#25410271)

Agreed. This car is way too impractical to ever see common use on American roads. Pit this versus a full size truck or even a semi and it has little chance. Honestly though, with the advances in TDI diesel engines and hybrid technologies, I feel the future is not in electric cars.

Well, nothing is going to go up against a semi and survive.

Semis are one of the 3 vehicles that always win: semis, buses, and trains.

Re:Impressive car, but I'd like an extra wheel ple (1)

lysergic.acid (845423) | more than 5 years ago | (#25408713)

i don't really see trikes as a trend with electric vehicles. there are trike gas-powered vehicles as well, just as there are electric bikes, quads, cars, and trucks.

i think companies that sell/develop electric vehicles tend to be more innovative and like to experiment with alternate vehicle designs/technologies. so perhaps that's why you've seen more electric trikes in proportion to four-wheel electrics than with gas-powered vehicles. but there's no direct link between electric propulsion and three-wheeled vehicle layouts. those are two completely unrelated design choices.

also, your generalization of safety based on wheel layout is also flawed. trikes are at least more stable than bikes, so why not complain about 2-wheel vehicles? obviously each wheel layout has its advantages and disadvantages, and it's good that the public has many design choices to choose from whether they want to get an electric vehicle, gas vehicle, or a hybrid.

Decade old news - a new record for /. (2, Interesting)

SL Baur (19540) | more than 5 years ago | (#25408883)

The picture of the #1 item on the list - the toilet looks like[1] one I had in my apartment in Tokyo almost 10 years ago. WTF? Is this a joke, or have people really gotten that insular and stupid in the US?

[1] It does not have the control panel to flush water up your ass after pooping nor heat the toilet seat like Japanese toilets did back then the "innovative" water thingy looks identical.

Design more than 30 years old (1)

TheLink (130905) | more than 5 years ago | (#25409633)

Almost 10 years?

When I was a kid I bought this old book from one of those "old book sales" that was printed in 1977 called "How Things Don't Work"[1] and it was about bad and good designs. Quite a good book.

If I recall correctly they mentioned a toilet design just like the one shown in Popular Mechanics. So that's a design that must be more than 30 years old. I might go look for that book again, just to see how little designs have improved over 30 years.

The Japanese toilets are in a totally different league of their own - with puffs of air for drying, even sound effects.

My friend found this out the hard way when she was using one of those toilets. She had difficulty finding the "flush". She pressed one button/level and a puff of air came out, another and there was warm water for "cleansing", and so on, then she found a lever and there was a flushing noise, but no flushing water. She tried it again and same thing... Eventually after a while she found the real flush, and she asked someone what was that fake flush all about.

Turns out some Japanese people get embarassed at making certain sounds while doing the "toilet stuff" so they would flush to mask those embarassing sounds. This wastes water, so what some toilets have is a flush that just makes a sound and doesn't actually flush.

[1] Here's a review of that book: http://www.diemer.ca/Docs/Diemer-HowThingsDontWork-Review.htm [diemer.ca]

Re:Design more than 30 years old (1)

kabz (770151) | more than 5 years ago | (#25411505)

Try using the bathroom after a curry, in a tiny Japanese apartment[1] with paper thin walls. Or any flat/apartment constructed in the last 10 years.

Re:Impressive car, but I'd like an extra wheel ple (2, Informative)

GoodNicksAreTaken (1140859) | more than 5 years ago | (#25408983)

You might have to make a safety compromise and learn to drive it properly. Even so, my fiance's 50cc Honda Metropolitan gets around 100mpg with a top speed of 40mph. My dual sport 250cc Kawasaki Super Sherpa gets around 70mpg at 40mph with the stock tires on pavement and has a top speed near 70mph. Not having to worry about being visible to other drivers and the fatigue caused by poor weather would be a huge improvement also. Unfortunately I don't see this requiring a motorcycle endorsement or similar in order to drive, like Cushmans or other similar vehicles, and the cost will be far more prohibitive than that of a 250cc motorcycle or scooter. You might want to wear a helmet while driving it though. I'd recommend one of the motorcycle helmets with the flip down visors like fighter pilots have!

Re:Impressive car, but I'd like an extra wheel ple (1)

felipekk (1007591) | more than 5 years ago | (#25409013)

Truly impressive is the cleaning water powder. Read the article and watch the video.

"During a visit to Popular Mechanics last winter, Allgood converted a jar of murky liquid containing fecal matter into clear, potable water. (Yes, the editors drank it - after Allgood went first.)"

This is real innovation that is going to save thousands of lives.

Re:Impressive car, but I'd like an extra wheel ple (1)

zippthorne (748122) | more than 5 years ago | (#25409039)

It doesn't get 300 mpg. It gets a more reasonable, (and still quite impressive) 130 mpg. Why people feel the need to inflate mileage with "free" electricity in the hybrid parts is quite a mystery to me.

To properly gauge you have to take a holistic approach to these things: what is it's "miles per dollar."

Re:Impressive car, but I'd like an extra wheel ple (1)

GoodNicksAreTaken (1140859) | more than 5 years ago | (#25409049)

Is it really so difficult to keep the drag co-efficient down without losing the extra wheel?

It isn't so much about drag co-efficient as about keeping the weight down. With a 4th wheel it can no longer be classified as a motorcycle and then must meet stricter safety requirements. So it isn't a 300mpg car.

300mpg though is still quite impressive. Honda's 50cc scooters get near 100mpg and small motorcycles get 60-70mpg. The best balanced cost/safety/efficiency right now seems to be a hacked Prius [cars-and-trees.com] to get up to 200+ mpg.

Re:Impressive car, but I'd like an extra wheel ple (2, Insightful)

Rei (128717) | more than 5 years ago | (#25409267)

Losing the third wheel has a whole range of benefits. One, it gets the motorcycle classification, which allows them to have a lot more of a free hand in how to design things. To Aptera's credit, they're voluntarily doing the normal safety things, although some companies use the motorcycle classification to avoid things like crash tests. The other issues are practical, not legal. Given that the ideal shape is either a teardrop or a truncated teardrop (depending on the situation), the aerodynamic benefits of a central rear wheel are obvious. Another hypercar -- the Volkswagen 1L car -- has four wheels so it can retain the car classification, but it puts them right next to each other, basically making it effectively into a three wheeler. There are some major weight benefits from ditching that extra wheel. Not only do you lose the weight of a wheel and a tire, but you also lose the weight of a driveshaft, differential, etc. And not only does losing these parts cut weight, but it also cuts manufacture cost and time as well as maintenance costs (less to break). Lastly, three wheels improves vehicle response time since the average distance from the center of mass to the wheels gets reduced and the mass is decreased. So, lots of benefits.

With a "tadpole" configuration (two wheels in front, one in rear), you retain essentially all of the stability for driving in "normal" conditions. However, you lose stability in "unusual" conditions (a good example being skidding backwards or nearly backwards at high speeds). Basically, don't be an idiot and try to pull a J-turn in a tadpole trike unless you're fond of injuring yourself.

Re:Impressive car, but I'd like an extra wheel ple (1)

steevc (54110) | more than 5 years ago | (#25409439)

Not really 300mpg as it's electric with a range of 120 miles. TFA says they may do a hybrid that does 130mpg (US I assume). Not too bad. If you want 4 wheels and better economy then the Loremo looks cool if it ever gets into production

http://evolution.loremo.com/ [loremo.com]

As for safety, the US has issues if their fatality rate is x3 the UK one

http://www.driveandstayalive.com/info%20section/statistics/stats-multicountry-percapita-2004.htm [driveandstayalive.com]

Re:Impressive car, but I'd like an extra wheel ple (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25410191)

Maybe you would like 'some extra apostrophe's to go with your extra wheel.

Oh nevermind, I 'see you already have 'some extra's

=)

Re:Impressive car, but I'd like an extra wheel ple (1)

JasterBobaMereel (1102861) | more than 5 years ago | (#25410415)

300mpg - and then they compare it to a Prius ...

  The Prius can transport your whole family - this cannot

They quote the Prius as the exemplar of low drag coefficient - but most small cars have a lower drag coefficient than the prius, and better fuel economy and can still carry 4 people!

This car is very pretty and fuel efficient - but not a practical proposition for most people (and people who buy SUV's will never even consider it ...)

Re:Impressive car, but I'd like an extra wheel ple (1)

RobertinXinyang (1001181) | more than 5 years ago | (#25410545)

The other advantage to three wheelers is that they are classed as motorcycles. This gets them out of a huge number of laws that relate to automobiles.

This is not to say that they are inherently unsafe. There are laws related to things like headlight position and such that might be very hard to work around when trying to develop an ultra-efficient vehicle.

I would also guess that it may allow the manufacturer to avoid a lot of testing requirements that may resent an unreasonable barrier to entry for a small, or start up, manufacturer.

Re:Impressive car, but I'd like an extra wheel ple (1)

Danny Rathjens (8471) | more than 5 years ago | (#25410681)

Having three wheels apparently means that it gets legally classified as a motorcycle so they don't have to meet all the same legal requirements cars do for emissions, crash tests, etc. (although they are doing car-type safety/crash tests anyway)

Keep waiting for 300MPG (1)

Foolicious (895952) | more than 5 years ago | (#25410775)

From TFA, along with the obligatory suggestion to RTFA before writing the headline/summary: (my emphasis below)

The company is launching the all-electric Typ-1e with a 120-mile range and a recharge time of 8 hours. Next year, it plans to follow up with a plug-in hybrid, the Typ-1h, which should get 300 mpg for the first 120 miles and never go less than 130 miles on a gallon of gas.

Spore (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25408579)

A.K.A. SecuROM.

Uh, no (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25408599)

Not this [popularmechanics.com] one. That's just lame and very unimaginative.

NOW [popularmechanics.com] we're talking! A black-designed engery conversion system from a NASA nuclear engineer who built his first robot with jukebox and grill parts and fried chikkin, all powered by ethanol [wikipedia.org] .

Here's to you, mister super-soaker designer. Your gradients have provided energy and entertainment for the adult in us who never forgot James Brown's early performances at the Apollo [apollotheater.org] .

GO 'BAMA!

Tank Size (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25408611)

If you bother to read the blurb for the Aptera, you'll see the 300mpg claim is for a fully charged hybrid.

Unfortunately there was no information on how many gallons of electricity it holds.

Re:Tank Size (1)

Rei (128717) | more than 5 years ago | (#25408755)

10kWh. We don't know the depth of discharge on the pack, though. The Aptera Typ-1e is rated for 120 miles at 55mph and 70 miles at 80mph. The electric range of the Typ-1h is to be between 40 and 60 miles, depending on driving style. But of course, only the Typ-1e currently exists.

And of course, it's not really 300mpg, as you noted. In steady-state highway driving, the Typ-1h's "charge-sustaining" mileage is to be 130mpg. I hate these bogus PHEV mileage numbers, but they all play that game. It's looking like the EPA is going to certify the 48mpg charge-sustaining Volt at over 100mpg. The worst I've ever seen was a ~21mpg plug-in SUV that was claiming 150mpg under the argument that you'll only drive one in seven miles on it on gasoline.

There are a dozen ways to BS mileage numbers; this is just the latest. Others include comparing gasoline to diesel without adjusting for density, comparing mileages between different drivecycles, treating low speed hypermiling trips as though they're representative of long-term mileage figures, comparing english gallons to US, and on and on down the line.

Re:Tank Size (1)

LordMyren (15499) | more than 5 years ago | (#25409665)

I agree, and further I think all the PHEV companies are shooting their market/cash cow in the foot by producing such ridiculous and deceptive marketting.

If you're going to measure battery power, why claim mpg at all? Why not just say you have 30000 mpg, or 3000000000 mpg or infinite mpg? Are any of these untrue?

Better Metrics (1)

dunc78 (583090) | more than 5 years ago | (#25410461)

They really do need to come up with better metrics for hybrid cars, as it is always strikes me as crazy when they specify city mileage greater than highway mileage. Maybe mpg+wh, miles per gallon plus watt-hours, where watt-hours are the watt-hours in the battery at the beginning of the ride minus the watt-hours in the battery at the end of the drive. I guess the problem with this is it would require accurate battery charge measurement, which seems to have been an elusive to this point.

Answer - 110-120mpg on fuel-only (2, Interesting)

Overzeetop (214511) | more than 5 years ago | (#25410611)

I don't have the link, but in the literature or on the forums somewhere there's a curve of the "efficiency" of the hybrid. The curve is asymptotic at about 110-120mpg, which would be your gasoline-only efficiency. Even with gas prices coming down a bit, the plug-in portion is still a fantastic economic deal compared to gasoline. The 10kWh battery will get you nearly 80 miles at real highway speeds, that's about $0.75 in electricity for me. And compared to the 13mpg I get around town in my F150, it's quite a bonus. Of course, I don't have $30k to spend on one, and if I did they wouldn't sell one to me 'cause I don't live in CA. On top if it, it still wouldn't pay me to buy one for economic reasons - I spend $3000 a year in fuel, and about 25% of the miles really do require a more rugged vehicle. At 6% interest, it would take 40 years to break even.

here the question? (1)

arbiter1 (1204146) | more than 5 years ago | (#25408613)

With everyone mad when gas for 4$ a gallon the in the US, if we had a flood of cards getting this kinda of millage, what do you all think would happen with gas prices?

Re:here the question? (2, Insightful)

AuMatar (183847) | more than 5 years ago | (#25408675)

Go down. Less demand with the same supply means lower prices. Of course OPEC might try to reduce supply, but it wouldn't go up overall.

It would go up (1)

MosesJones (55544) | more than 5 years ago | (#25409699)

Don't believe me? Look at Europe. In order to encourage us to drive more fuel efficient cars, and to get the government some cash, they tax gas to the rate where in the UK its effectively $12 a gallon. Now if you had cars that could do 150mpg and some idiots are still in trucks and SUVs what would the right response of the government be? The answer is to up the tax to get people out of those SUVs and into cars that demand less foreign oil and don't destroy the environment.

Cheap Gas is a stupid idea on a planet that is warming, its cars like these that will help the sensible parts of the US Government environmental policy to push up the prices.

Re:It would go up (1)

ragethehotey (1304253) | more than 5 years ago | (#25409989)

Why do so many people have anger at the idea of cheap gasoline when it is actually subsidized gasoline that they have a problem with?

Re:here the question? (1)

Hognoxious (631665) | more than 5 years ago | (#25410613)

if we had a flood of cards getting this kinda of millage

I wouldn't give much credit to those figure, they only do that on paper.

Yippee! (1)

areusche (1297613) | more than 5 years ago | (#25408743)

So when will I be able to buy one?

Re:Yippee! (1)

Rei (128717) | more than 5 years ago | (#25408901)

You can reserve now, and have been able to for almost a year, but well... get at the back of the line. ;) The waiting list is huge. Also, you currently need to be a California resident; it's region-limited until they can scale up.

The first commercial models start shipping in December. I'd expect a slow ramp-up pace. The factory is designed to peak at 10,000 a year. They're also looking at building a larger factory in the south, but honestly, with the credit crisis the way it is now, I imagine that plan is going to have to be put on hold for a bit.

Photosynth photoshmynth (1)

TheModelEskimo (968202) | more than 5 years ago | (#25408833)

I swear, Microsoft must be paying millions to promote Photosynth through teh grassrootz. It's absolutely hilarious to watch my friends who are Mac fangirls complain about how IE sucks, MS is going down the tubes, etc. but when it gets to PHOTO-freaking-synth, NOW we're talking. I get Photosynth Youtube videos and TED talks and all this made-for-hype stuff in my inbox and yet the coolest projects I see are again and again made by people who don't have money to promote their stuff.

I would like to be the first to welcome (1)

Agent__Smith (168715) | more than 5 years ago | (#25408835)

our new 300MPG overlords...

But what I really want to know is the range on the hybrid. I am an outside sales rep and REALLY rack the miles, like 38K a year. Something like this could be GREAT for me and would likely be worth a look if it got me HOV lane privlidges and I could run 2 days on 2 gallons of fuel... However, if it does not have sufficient range it is of little use to me. Also, what will the price be for the hybrid? The all electric would be great, but I don't have 8 hours in the middle of my day to recharge the thing.

Re:I would like to be the first to welcome (4, Informative)

Rei (128717) | more than 5 years ago | (#25408927)

The hybrid has 40-60 miles of electric range and a 5 gallon gas tank. The vehicle gets 130mpg in charge-sustaining mode in both 55mph steady-state and in city driving (lower at high freeway speeds). So, I'm sure you can do the math. Base price for the Typ-1e (electric) is $27k, while the base price for the Typ-1h (plug-in hybrid) is $30k. These are, of course, subject to change, but they seem to have roughly stabilized on these values. Like with any new car purchase, expect to add cost for options, taxes, title, and registration.

38K miles a year? Wow. Yeah, that'd sure be a big cut in your fuel bill ;)

Re:I would like to be the first to welcome (1)

fringd (120235) | more than 5 years ago | (#25409753)

ok i'll do the math 130*5+50=14*50=700

damn. that's a lot of miles. i could go from philly to dc and back like... 2.55474453 times before refueling and plugging in.

Re:I would like to be the first to welcome (1)

fringd (120235) | more than 5 years ago | (#25409727)

300mpg is the BS number. all the hybrids are putting out BS numbers though. 130mpg is the real number it seems.

To Mr. Allgood and P&G (1)

oldhack (1037484) | more than 5 years ago | (#25408863)

Thank you. It's good to hear important and useful innovation from corporate sector for a change. Disturbing that it was not viable in the marketplace, however...

Re:To Mr. Allgood and P&G (1)

RichiH (749257) | more than 5 years ago | (#25409879)

There are only so many back-county backpackers who don't have access to clean water. Chuck in the military and you have more purchases, but still not enough.

Don't forget that P&G is huge. A margin they define as not viable is probably an amount of money you or I would quit or normal jobs over & start a business with.

spill-over tech (1)

deodiaus2 (980169) | more than 5 years ago | (#25408961)

What I am surprised is that most conventional cars don't have as aerodynamic bodies as this. It almost looks like a plane modified to travel on roads. I would have thought something like this would have caught hold back in the late 1970's. We would have saved lots of gas just going with an aerodynamic body, which would have pushed the state of the art much farther today. I am looking forward to conventional cars begin to adapt aerodynamic design features from high-end exotic military planes like the F117 & Northrup Grumman B-2. Who knows, if this trend keeps up [and will overtake the state of the art, due to volume], automakers might be giving ideas to military aircraft designers.

Re:spill-over tech (1)

timmarhy (659436) | more than 5 years ago | (#25409119)

the reason is it looks like a giant sperm attempting to fertilize your anus. we can't have giant sperms driving around now can we? imagine the nerd jokes when ever there was a "rear-ender" with one of these sperm cars.

why DO these guys need to make electric cars all look so, well, gay?

Re:spill-over tech (1)

RAMMS+EIN (578166) | more than 5 years ago | (#25409663)

Aerodynamic features of the F-117, AKA the Wobblin Goblin? Now...I'm not sure that's a great idea. Maybe you should be looking at sailplanes, rather.

Re:spill-over tech (1)

TheLink (130905) | more than 5 years ago | (#25409977)

You can make a fairly conventional looking car quite aerodynamic.

Thing is I'm not convinced it really makes a big difference if you don't travel much faster than 100kph - most of the present designs are aerodynamic enough - diminishing returns given the tradeoffs for an "aerodynamic" design[1].

After all for most cars the big problem with fuel consumption is stop/start driving (aka City driving), many can get really good mpg figures for pure highway driving.

One solution for stop/start is regenerative braking, the other solution is to have lighter cars (and passengers + luggage ;) ).

Many motorcycles already get about 70-85mpg "real world". So I'm curious on what the Aptera "real world" mpgs will be. After all, how many mpg claims by manufacturers have matched "real world" figures?

BTW how do you handle a puncture with the Aptera?

[1] Most people want cars with a storage space that has easy access for shopping, luggage, golf bags, etc.

The Aptera may have lots of storage space but how easy is it to move stuff in and out? I can't find info on where the "boot" is.

A lot of the other "fancy designs" don't bother with such boring stuff and so the "boring" people don't buy them. There are a lot more "boring" people in the world than "interesting" people.

Stupid exaggerated mpg claims (1)

hcdejong (561314) | more than 5 years ago | (#25409199)

TFA mentions that it's 130 mpg after the initial charge of the batteries is drained. The 300 mpg claim hides the electrical energy that's put into the car, as if that's free. I appreciate that specifying fuel consumption is complex for a plug-in hybrid, but this type of claim is just plain lying.

Re:Stupid exaggerated mpg claims (4, Insightful)

dAzED1 (33635) | more than 5 years ago | (#25409287)

full charge costs between $1-2 (depending on electricity costs in your area), and will take you 200 miles. And the 130 isn't representative either; on long term trips with no stopping, the mileage goes up from there (though not to 300). On short trips, you're mostly electric. If you burn out the charge and aren't just cruising, then yeah...mileage goes down fast. But last I checked, $1 of gas couldn't take you 200 miles anyway...

"lying" is a bit of a mis-statement.

Re. GM is fightin with EPA for same treatment. (1)

guidryp (702488) | more than 5 years ago | (#25410655)

I agree this has a real slimey feel. GM is pushing EPA to change the rules to make this kind of misleading statement a standard rating for PHEVs so the can claim the volt gets 100mpg even though it is 40 miles electric + maybe 50 miles on a gallon of gas.

It does nothing to help the consumer and only confuses.

The VW may be even more impressive (3, Interesting)

John Jamieson (890438) | more than 5 years ago | (#25409213)

While this car is impressive, I think the car designed in 1999 and going on sale in a year and a bit is much more amazing.

Just think, the pres of VW got 317 miles per (imperial) gallon driving this thing to a press conference. This is without any batteries or hybrid tech.

I would be happy with a runabout that achieved just half of that.

Below are links if you have not read about it yet.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Volkswagen_1-litre_car [wikipedia.org]

http://www.canadiandriver.com/articles/gw/vw1litre.htm [canadiandriver.com]

developing countries (1)

paniq (833972) | more than 5 years ago | (#25409235)

MIT professor Amy B. Smith won the marquis Leadership Award for her work on building simple, low-cost technology to help developing countries.

what do you use for developing countries? Microsoft Visual Country 2008?

That Toliet Innovative? (2, Interesting)

Elias Ross (1260) | more than 5 years ago | (#25409259)

I remember in Japan for many years seeing toilets with spigots at the top of the tank, not to mention dual flush, heated seats, and no need for paper, thanks to a water spray and air dryer. So I'd hardly call it a breakthrough product.

It's the 21st century and we're still rubbing our ass cracks with dead trees.

hmm good but ... (1)

ILongForDarkness (1134931) | more than 5 years ago | (#25409855)

Not 300 mpg, it is 300 mpg + 8hr recharge. How much is the electricity costing you and polluting? Passing the buck to the power plant doesn't solve the problem. Some econazis get all in your face saying "I'm carbon neutral look at my electric car" etc etc, fail to realize they just pushed the carbon over to the power plant. Centralizing production makes it easier to control, but doesn't necessary mean that it is being controlled, aka China's electricity.

MPG? (2, Interesting)

VincenzoRomano (881055) | more than 5 years ago | (#25409917)

If you want to show how good an autovehicle performs in terms of ecology, please provide these numbers:

1. Kg of CO2 emitted to produce one
2. Kg of CO2 emitted to run one for 100 Km
3. Kg of CO2 emitted to fully dispose one

Anything else is just buzzword and advertisement!

Screw the car, PUR is far more important (3, Insightful)

Shivetya (243324) | more than 5 years ago | (#25410037)

The mixture includes flocculants, which cause suspended solids, heavy metals and parasites to clump together. The resulting "floc" can then be filtered out with a cotton cloth. Time-released chlorine kills bacteria and viruses. Within 30 minutes, about a teaspoon of the powder can treat 2.5 gal. of water. "The visual improvement is dramatic," says Eric Mintz, chief of the CDC's diarrheal diseases and epidemiology section.

A flying car would not even compare to this, not even a flying car that gets 300 miles per gallon. Having grown up with Star Trek (original series) this too me is the closest to Star Trek I have seen. A powder to make water safe. Screw that silly looking three wheeler, this helps the world far more than any vehicle.

I was very surprised not to be able to find mention of it on Wikipedia, even under http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Portable_water_purification [wikipedia.org]

It apparently never made it big in the news which is a disappointment, hopefully this "award" will give it its due

Toilet sink makes top 10? (1)

AncientPC (951874) | more than 5 years ago | (#25410969)

Have the editors not been to Japan? Even though toilet sinks are not in public bathrooms, they're a common installation in home bathrooms.

Even with my non-existent plumbing skills, it's not that difficult of a hack. Maybe this is a job for Joe . . .

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