‘Lightweighting’: Hypercar’s Lessons Revealed

Rocky Mountain Institute released the publication of “Hypercars, Hydrogen and the Automotive Transition” in the acclaimed International Journal of Vehicle Design. In this invited technical review paper, RMI’s CEO Amory Lovins and Hypercar, Inc.’s VP Engineering David Cramer explain why lightweighting is the key to making vehicles super-efficient and safe.

Snowmass, Colorado – April 23, 2004 [SolarAccess.com] The article showcases Hypercar’s virtual design of the 99-mpg-on-the-road (~115 EPA mpg) Revolution concept midsize SUV, which was released in 2000. The paper also shows how Hypercar’s patented Fiberforge process holds promise of bringing ultralight carbon-composite automotive structures into volume production at competitive cost. This manufacturing breakthrough could accelerate a transition in automaking and the profitable emergence of a hydrogen economy. The article further details how low-drag, lightweight vehicles can reduce required propulsion power and increase fuel efficiency by about two-thirds over contemporary designs, saving consumers money while creating a better product and simpler, lower-cost manufacturing for the auto industry. This can make fuel cells affordable, even at relatively high early prices, by making them two-thirds smaller. Likewise, making the hydrogen tanks two-thirds smaller solves the storage problem, because current-technology tanks become small enough to fit conveniently. “Since much of the automotive-tech debate is about powertrains and fuels, this paper emphasizes the primacy of getting the platform physics right – especially via ultralight weight. Two-thirds of fuel use by a typical car or light truck today is weight-sensitive. Hence our emphasis on advanced composites and the Fiberforge technology created by Hypercar Inc.,” said coauthor Amory Lovins. “And since size is protective while weight is hostile,” he adds, “ultralight but ultrastrong materials, like carbon fiber, can decouple size from weight and thus can make cars big but not heavy. This makes them safer for both their occupants and anyone they hit, saving lives and oil at the same time.” The paper is the first synthesis of the lessons learned from Hypercar Inc.’s work on the Revolution concept-car design, with details about the implications for the auto and emerging hydrogen industry. The paper’s findings inform RMI’s current analysis in the forthcoming report, Winning the Oil Endgame: Profitable Energy Security Through American Innovation. This blueprint for getting the United States completely off oil – rapidly, attractively, and profitably even for oil companies and exporters – is scheduled for release in July 2004. The report is available for free from RMI at the following link…
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