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Chapter 2:. Reinventing the Wheels. Automotive Transportation. The largest industry in the world 5 of the 7 largest U.S. industrial firms produce cars or their fuel. Contemporary Automobile: Embarrassingly Inefficient.

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Chapter 2:

Reinventing the Wheels


Automotive Transportation

  • The largest industry in the world

  • 5 of the 7 largest U.S. industrial firms produce cars or their fuel


Contemporary Automobile: Embarrassingly Inefficient

  • 80% of fuel consumed is lost as heat or exhaust, 20% used to turn wheels

  • 95% of remaining energy moves the car, 5% moves the driver

  • 5% of 20% = 1% efficiency overall !

  • U.S. cars burn their weight in fuel annually

  • Cars are very heavy, made mostly of steel

  • Irregular protrusions produce turbulent air flow


We can save 70-80% of fuel costs & making safer, sportier & more comfortable cars by making them ...

  • Ultralight

  • Ultra low-drag

  • with hybrid-electric propulsion systems


In 1991 the Rocky Mountain Institute designed the “Hypercar”

  • The “hypercar” model design synthesized many emerging automotive technologies

  • Was made available free to the automotive industry to spur innovations in efficiency


Advantages of all electric propulsion

  • Converts 90% of energy to electricity

  • Uses no energy when idling or coasting

  • Motors are light, simple, reliable & inexpensive

  • Provides high torque, even at low speed

  • Generator recovers electricity in deceleration


Comfort & refinement of Lexus

Mercedes stiffness

Volvo safety

BMW acceleration

Taurus price

80-200 miles per gallon

600-800 mile range between fill ups

0 air emissions

All technologies exist today to produce an ultralight, hybrid drive vehicle that would be more durable and cost less


Hypercars could reduce by a factor of 10 the four parameters of manufacturing

  • Less time from concept to the street

  • Less investment for production

  • Less time and space for assembly

  • Fewer parts


Hypercar as related to Natural Capitalism Principles

  • Materials flow in closed loops

  • Toxicity is carefully confined or designed out

  • Longevity is designed in

  • Likely to be leased as a service … part of a diversified “mobility service”


Key to Ultralight Vehicles

  • Use of carbon fibers - black, shiny stiff filaments, finer than a human hair, 1/4 as dense as steel but stiffer & stronger

  • Composite carbon fiber body is rust-free, fatigue free, nonchipping, undentable

  • Last for decades until recycled


Alternate Propulsion Systems

  • Electric

  • Hybrid-Electric

  • Biofuels - liquids from farm & forest wastes

  • Compressed Natural Gas or Hydrogen

  • Hydrogen Fuel Cells


Hypercars in the Future

  • Will more resemble computers with wheels than cars with electronic chips

  • Will be driven more by software than by hardware


The Main Obstacles to the U. S. Leading in Development of the Hypercar are ...

Technical - no

ŽEconomic - no

ŽCultural - yes!


There is one major problem the Hypercar cannot solve ...


The Problem of “Excessive Automobility”

Too much driving by too many people in too many cars!


The Authors’ Cure for “Excessive Automobility”

  • Make parking and driving bear their true costs

  • Foster genuine competition between different modes of transportation

  • Emphasize sensible land use over actual physical mobility - solves the problem of being in the wrong place


If true costs of road and parking had to be paid, commuters would find cheaper modes of travel

  • Live nearby to work and walk

  • Bicycle

  • Ridesharing

  • Vanpooling

  • Public transit

  • Telecommuting


Sensible Land Use

  • Would make many trips unnecessary

  • Cluster housing, jobs and shopping together

  • Put people close to the places they want to be

  • Make urban sprawl pay its own way


Alan During of Northwest Environment Watch explains ...

“Most people believe the alternative to cars is better transit-in truth, its better neighborhoods.”

“… (make) the car an accessory of life rather than its central organizing principle.”


Hypercars can allow us to buy time to address the transportation-land use/community issues but it cannot resolve them


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