Edison2's hope: Kuttner optimistic as X Prize award day approaches
For Oliver Kuttner, Thursday, September 16 could be called the moment of truth. That's the day that the Charlottesville real estate developer turned automotive innovator finds out if the past two years of designing and building the car of the future will win $5 million in the Progressive Automotive X Prize.
At this point, it's them or no one.
While most of the 136 vehicles entered into the X Prize back in 2009 were electric or hybrid, Kuttner's team–- dubbed Edison2 and the subject of the Hook's June 17 cover story–- took what might have seemed a retro approach. They stuck with a combustion engine, but they focused on making the car as streamlined and lightweight as possible. It seemed to work.
During the three phases of the contest, the Very Light Car achieved eye-popping fuel thrift with highway efficiency topping 100mpg, a contest requirement. Team Kuttner also met the strict emission and safety standards required for X Prize victory. But it hasn't been a road without bumps.
Each of Edison2's two-seater versions were knocked out of competition–- and therefore, the chance at an additional $5 million–- by technical problems. And the two four-seaters very nearly met a similar fate during one of the last tests of the Finals in July. For instance, during a fuel efficiency test called a "coast down," Contest-assigned drivers (not Edison2's own drivers) allegedly shifted incorrectly, damaging the engines to the point that the vehicles couldn't complete the very last competition stage, laboratory validation.
All was not lost for Edison2, however. Throughout the course of the car's development and competition, Kuttner's team had been testing the cars at the Roush laboratory, which like the X Prize's official lab, Argonne, is certified by the Environmental Protection Agency, so X Prize officials agreed to let Edison2 submit the Roush results, although judges retain the right to discard them.
Citing contest rules, Kuttner declines comment on the lab results, other than to say he "feels good about our chances." Perhaps that has something to do with what he told the Hook back in June, when he reported that in a laboratory test, the Very Light Car had gotten more than 106 miles to the gallon in the highway cycle with the emissions meeting the far more stringent standards currently set for 2014. If numbers like those are used and accepted by judges, it's not hard to understand why he'd be feeling very good indeed.
Whether or not Edison2 ends up taking the Prize, Kuttner says he's not finished with the Very Light Car. He's already scoping out additional manufacturing spaces in various locations across the country, including sites in Pittsylvania County and in Lynchburg, where Edison2 is headquartered.
"We're just getting started," he says. "We've come way too far to stop."