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Thursday, July 03, 2008

New "People's Car" Gets 235 MPG!

Volkswagen's had its super-thrifty One-Liter Car concept vehicle -- so named because that's how much fuel it needs to go 100 kilometers -- stashed away for six years. The body's made of carbon fiber to minimize weight (the entire car weighs just 660 pounds) and company execs didn't expect the material to become cheap enough to produce the car until 2012. But VW's decided to build the car two years ahead of schedule.

According to Britain's Car magazine, VW has approved a plan to build a limited number of One-Liters in 2010. They'll probably be built in the company's prototype shop, which has the capacity to build as many as 1,000 per year. That's not a lot, but it's enough to help VW get a lot of attention while showing how much light weight and an efficient engine can achieve.

VW unveiled the slick two-seater concept six years ago at a stockholder's meeting in Hamburg. To prove it was a real car, Chairman Ferdinand Piech personally drove it from Wolfsburg to Hamburg. At the time, he said the car could see production when the cost of its carbon monocoque dropped from 35,000 Euros (about $55,000) to 5,000 Euros (about $8,000) -- something he figured would happen in 2012. With carbon fiber being used in everything from airliners to laptops these days, VW's apparently decided the cost is competitive enough to build at least a few hundred One-Liters.

Laugh at High Gas Prices With a 235-MPG VW

This is probably only the tip of the iceberg of supressed technology. Since the beginning of the automotive revolution, the automakers have been gobbling up any technolgy that would offer a major improvement to the consumer. The general view is that radical change hurts the bottom line. They would argue that the cost of manufacturing retooling would cost too much or that the technology would raise the price of the car to the consumer. In reality, many of the innovations in increasing fuel milage were purchased and shelved to protect the industry and their closely related breatheren in the oil industry. That's right, the greedy bastards in the auto industry have been screwing us for years! What a shocker....

In the movie "Tucker- The Man and His Dream", Jeff Bridges plays real-life automobile inventor/entrepeneur Preston Tucker. Tucker started his own auto company and in 1948, he built a car that made Detroit very nervous. Tucker had added things like seat belts and safety glass that the Big Three didn't offer. In fact they deemed them expensive and unnecessary items. In true DeLorean fashion (or perhaps vice-versa) the big three created a scandal and misinformation campaign that ended up bankrupting the man and his company.

There a million other stories like this out there, but we've just never heard about them. You can bet that critical technology that would help us end our oil dependance is sitting gathering dust on a shelf somewhere. I would be willing to bet that the technology exists today to bring an affordable vehicle to market that would run on no petroleum at all. They're just betting that they haven't milked every last penny out of oil yet.
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