There’s plenty of different things you can look at if you’re trying to make a 100mpg, super-low-emissions passenger car - from alternative fuels like diesel, to hybrids, advanced engine technologies and even the replacement of the combustion engine altogether with battery-electrics. But Britain’s Axon Automotive has taken another direction altogether, and is achieving some pretty amazing results.
Axon has gone simply for an uncomplicated 500cc engine in a low-weight body, which replaces the traditional heavy steel or aluminium frame with recycled carbon fibre composites - as strong as steel but only around 40% as heavy. Extensive use of carbon materials through Axon’s cars makes a massive impact on the power-to-weight ratio, meaning they can get acceptable overall performance using a much smaller, lighter and more frugal engine.
The lightness and strength of carbon fibre have been well-known for decades - it’s been cost that’s prevented this wonder-material from popping up all over the automotive world, restricting it to top-end specials and aftermarket goodies. But it’s here that Axon claim to have made a breakthrough.
It’s true, Axon’s Steve Cousins agrees in this New Scientist article, that switching to carbon fibre bodywork and frames might be incredibly expensive for your average big-industry car manufacturer. But for a new, small and agile company like Axon, the capital cost is much less prohibitive. And the company has already patented the low-cost carbon-composite mass manufacturing process it will use when it takes its ideas to market. In the process, carbon fibre ‘ropes’ are braided over a foam core and injected with epoxy. The company believes that through its quick and effective process, carbon composites will be even cheaper than their metal counterparts.
Axon’s planning to launch this, its first as-yet-unnamed passenger car in 2010 at “an affordable price.” It’ll have to be a great price, because traditionally very few car buyers will pay a premium price in order to save on fuel or go green on emissions. Still, with gas prices leaping to record high after record high, and some truly amazing innovations coming from automotive manufacturers thanks to big incentives from organisations like the X-Prize foundation, there’s a good chance that ultra-efficient and environmentally friendly cars will start to become as desirable to the market as powerful and luxurious ones have been in recent years. Here’s hoping.leave a response, or trackback from your own site.