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McLaren F1 Developer Designs New Auto Driving 100 MPH on 96 MPG (businessweek.com)
85 points by tankenmate on May 30, 2012 | hide | past | web | favorite | 65 comments

>goes 100 miles (160 kilometers) per hour. It gets 96 miles to the U.K. gallon (1.2 U.S. gallons)

>100 MPH on 96 MPG

Not to knock 96 mpg at any speed but the headline is rather more impressive than the claim in the article.

Yup. This is a common pitfall when talking about European cars. They're sometimes quoted in Imperial MPG even when they're not for sale in Britain.

No, that's not the flaw (although it is true).

It can get 96mpg. It can go 100mph. It _cannot_ do both simultaneously.

The more fundamental flaw is how to drive _on_ a mile per gallon rate.

Thanks, didn't read closely enough and it's too late to edit. :)

So it's 80 MPG U.S.

I think avshalom was commenting that the HN headline implies the car does 96 mpg, whilst travelling at 100 mph. Which would be a truly remarkable feat.


And it's a good thing to keep in mind with talk about self driving cars and 100mph HOV lanes on HN recently.

But you don't need the lanes to go 100mph - during the morning traffic jams, they could just go 100kph (or ~60mph), taking a tenth the time and half the normal fuel consumption of a commute.

Once that happens, you can be damn sure that every new car purchase by someone that commutes will have the system.

So while you may be right that 100mph lanes aren't a good idea, the idea has a lot of merit.

With self-driving cars you can safely keep traffic bumper-to-bumper which reduces aerodynamic drag significantly. Self-driving 100mph HOV lanes could very easily be more efficient than human-driven 70mph lanes.

I dunno, actually. Given that cruising is very efficient compared to stopping and starting, I think if you decided to optimize for fuel economy at exactly 100mph you could probably squeeze that kind of fuel economy out of a car. Optimize for aerodynamics, give it a tiny cross section (I'm thinking passenger behind driver), lowest rolling resistance tires you can manage, and put in a small engine and a super-long gearbox so that your engine is turning at maximimal efficiency when the car's doing 100mph. I don't think it'd be that difficult. On the downside it would of course be tiny and have terrible acceleration.

Or, to put it another way, my big heavy car gets nearly 30mpg when cruising at 100mph, so all you really gotta do is reduce drag.

It's perfectly accurate if you're British.


Or 89 firkins/furlong to the truly enlightened

Since an iStream factory would be two-thirds smaller, it would consume about 60 percent less energy.

This is either a journalist misrepresenting the actual claims, or else the actual claims have no grounding in rigorous analysis.

In a nutshell-- he plas to revolutionize auto manufacturing by making the body in two steps rather than five, using composite materials instead of stamped and welded steel, but the basis of his energy estimates is the size of the building that houses the work? A little hard to take seriously.

Watts per square meter is a reasonable way to make a back of envelope calculation for the energy use of a common building typology. Given the radical realignment of energy budgets in the manufacturing process and the attention to energy efficiency in building design over the past two decades, it is not outrageous to argue that a new smaller footprint factory would be significantly more efficient.

If one visits an automobile plant, one will see that a lot of energy goes into moving chassis and components from place to place. Smaller lighter pieces over shorter distances combined with fewer moves would have a significant impact on energy consumption.

Actually you will find that Amory Lovins has done a lot of research into the costs of making cars ( http://www.rmi.org/Autos ) which I suspect feeds into the article's analysis.

There are challenges of course, when you collide with something at 70 - 80 MPH and you're in a composite material vehicle without a steel frame the energy gets distributed in harder to control ways. Its not an unsolvable problem [1] but it is another wrench in general acceptance.

Another challenge is of course 'style' points but styles change so its less of an issue. I expect that the continued high cost of oil will keep these sorts of ideas popping up. I hope that some of them get to production so that we can iron out the other problems.

[1] In the forgettable movie "Demolition Man" a collision system which fills the car with foam is presented. That is actually an actually proposed solution but one where false starts are hard to recover from.

70-80 MPH collision?

Do you have any reliable source for working systems that protect you at that speed? I'd consider collisions at that speed lethal - or it's your lucky day. Ignoring the body material. In DE you are told (not that I can confirm that by experience) in your driving lessons that collisions > 30 KPH (K!) are very, very dangerous and that the statistical 'you might be heavily injured' line is somewhere around there. So .. I'm having trouble imagining something that hits anything else with 70-80 MPH.

McClaren (the guy in the original article) works on F1 race cars. They regularly have collisions at greater than 100MPH with out any injuries to the driver. (and yes some of them are into fixed objects like the track wall).

Here in California there is a wealth of data on injury and damages in collisions between 50 and 100MPH [1]. In general, when all applicable safety systems are employed (seatbelts, nothing obstructing airbags, Etc) the injuries sustained are rarely fatal and for the most part don't required a hospital stay. We have a condition called "Tule Fog" which is a dense low hanging fog that can occur rather suddenly, which every other year or so results in the collective colliding of anywhere from 3 to 75 vehicles at speeds from 10MPH to 60MPH. Again, people don't die in these pile ups generally unless the passenger space of the vehicle is compromised (like being shoved under the trailer of a semi-truck for example). In their table of 'injuries and fatalities' for 2009 [2] out of 201,660 collsions there were 2,594 with fatalities so a 1.3% rate.

[1] http://www.chp.ca.gov/switrs/

[2] http://www.chp.ca.gov/switrs/pdf/2009-sec3.pdf

Probably not a good day, but survivable with a modern car. Most crashes have some angle to them which reduces the forces involved. Hitting a brick wall perfectly perpendicular is rare.

Eh, these sorts of "rule of thumb" guesses are quite common in engineering. You fit a line to some data points and you might realize that power usage is roughly proportional to the size of the plant. In aerospace, in preliminary estimates you scale a whole bunch of random things on the gross weight of the aircraft.

The 60 percent figure may be correct, or it may not; depending on the type of composite this might be possible, steel making, forming, and welding vs fabrics and glues.

Totally agree on the wording; completely non sequitur.

96 mpg (imperial) = 2,94 l / 100km

is that 80 mpg (US)?

Yes, more or less. 1 Imperial Gal = 1.2 US Gallons.

Sporting chiseled side panels that swoosh back from the front wheels like air currents, they exude quickness and agility.

Honestly, "quickness" and "agility" are the last adjectives that come to mind when I look at that picture. Not to mention I don't even think I would fit in that thing. Though I am impressed by the car's supposed 100MPH top speed.

OT: if any businessweek.com web developers read this, giant position:fixed headers are even more annoying than 1990s frames. Especially with the trend toward widescreen displays (not that I actually maximize my browser), taking away vertical space is just... wrong.

but what is new? Glass fiber cars have existed for decades. Studies and experience shows that metal stamping is much more cost effective once the manufactured amount grows beyond a pretty low threshold. The article gives no information on how Murray's techniques differ.

"Murray [...] makes his autos out of a lightweight composite material similar to carbon fiber used in race cars.

"That allows him to jettison the robots and machinery that stamp and weld about 300 pieces of metal together in a typical car body."

That seems to imply hand-layup, which along with the "composite material similar to carbon fiber" makes me have some doubts about the "8,678 euros ($11,000)" retail price for the gas model.

Anyone know any more details about the materials and process?

How will this ease congestion? Making driving relatively cheaper will only encourage more driving.

Even if every current vehicle was replaced by one of these I don't see how it helps congestion. Sure cars can drive slightly closer together but not enough to make a big difference. And unless every road has lane width reduced and new lanes created we won't get more cars abreast either.

The only things that will help is fewer journeys at peak times, and some sort of inter-car communication system that manages traffic flow far better than our slow awkward human brains.

While you're probably right overall, we all know that larger vehicles slow down traffic for a number of reasons. Therefore there must be some truth that if we all drove smaller, more agile vehicles, there'd be improvements in traffic.

This form factor paired Google's self-driving car tech seems like a no-brainer. High MPG rivals electric cars, cheap manufacturing cost, and for once, even the licensing interests align. I'd buy one.

iCar? ;) that could be awesome ;)

An Audi A2 diesel does that, with four doors, so does the VW lupo 1.2 diesel.

Perhaps they need to re-brand diesel in the USA? They could call it "heavy-oil, a real MAN's fuel" !

In my experience: "real men" like diesel just fine here in America. So long as it's bolted to an F150 frame and can tow your whole house, and also your neighbors house, and his garage, with two Toyota Prius' parked inside.

I'm still disappointed that Toyota doesn't make their diesel trucks available in the US. I would kill to have a diesel in my 4Runner (before they made the 4Runner covered in plastic and less capable). 35MPG and torque from here to the moon... why Toyota? Why?

Same with my FJ. Why can't we have a diesel FJ Cruiser? Diesel seems like a natural fit for the FJ.

It's worse. I looked on Ford's website a while ago, the F150 isn't available in diesel anymore. You need the bigger F250.

To be fair, around the rural areas, a lot of farmer's have diesel tanks and buy that in bulk.

Although of course all farmers are very careful to never use the subsidized/untaxed agricultural diesel in their road vehicle.

Since the dye is detectable for years and most folks know each other, they tend to avoid criminal activity. If you are already buying bulk for the combine, you might as well get another delivery for the trucks. It tends to waste a tad bit of fuel driving into town and filling up for no good reason.

Diesel has been tainted for at least a generation by memories of the black soot and foul stench of 18-wheelers in summer. Diesel exhaust filters have improved dramatically in the last 10 years or so, but everyone that's currently 25+ remembers diesel being extremely unpleasant.

That's changing though. I can count four friends that have bought a VW diesel in the past 2 years. They all love them. They all also happen to be 32 or under. I think the age range of bad memories of diesel is probably 35+.

+1. I bought a Golf TDI 2 months ago, and couldn't be happier. I'm getting "only" 35mpg overall, but that's just because with a great chassis setup and lots of torque it's hard to keep your right foot out of it. It's that near-impossible combination - an economy car that's actually a blast to drive.

Great highway cruiser too - nice to only be turning ~2200 RPM at 70, and getting 45 mpg while doing it.

I know what you mean :) I've got a gasoline(petrol) Mini Cooper S, and even with a heavy foot and occasional turbo-assisted fun I'm averaging 36 MPG.

My last company car was 'pick yourself' - and I got a Golf GTD (I'm not sure if it's sold outside of DE).

It's a little less of an economy car than the TDI, but .. it handles the Autobahn quite nicely. I came from an Audi A3 and couldn't complain about the overall quality. Going back to DE soon I might go for exactly the same thing again.

US Spec TDI is a bit closer to the GTD. Engine is only 140HP, and we don't get the fancy trim bits, but we DO get the sport suspension, which is a big part of why it's fun to drive. I think it's softened slightly from GTI/GTD spec, but not by much.

I'd love to have had the option of getting a GTD though...but it's kind of insane how poorly the Golf sells here... only sell about 15k of them a year, in the whole US. As of right now about 60% of those are TDIs.

NB: That's not counting GTI or Golf R sales...in the US VW treats those as separate models, not trim levels.

I got the 2dr TDI Golf in early December. I'm 50 and this car is the most practical I've ever had.

Add another one (well, I'm not a friend). Bought a 2007 VW Passat, Diesel. Very happy with it. Oh yeah, and I'm 32.

I think you're about right. I'm 35, and remember many times as a youngster being stuck at traffic lights behind stank-ass Mercedes diesel cars. It's been a long time since I've seen/smelled one of those though.

Agreed, plus the pain-in-the-butt Diesel engines were to start in the winter up north. All those memories are tough to shake.

I was going to buy a diesel for my next vehicle, but I cannot find anything outside of Volkswagen and I am not buying one of those[1]. I do believe the other side of the problem is that their are not many diesels to buy.

[1] poor build quality (door handles broke off) and obscene repair prices ($300 to change headlight - not user serviceable) on my friends VW bug. It had worse build quality than my 2008 Chevy Cavalier and that's saying something.

An important lesson here: It takes forever and ever for a brand to recover credibility. One sufficiently bad experience and protomyth will probably never even consider a VW again.

If it was only how sucky the car was, I might forgive, but the people my friend had to deal with and their basic philosophy was just beyond the pale. It was like they were drooling every time he brought it in and nothing was warranty work.

My 2008 Cavalier was a POS. The 1994 one we had was amazing, that's why I bought the 2008 model. The dealer service center was awful[1], but I took it to another dealer ship. They were amazing and fixed everything. Car made it to 268,000 miles before I gave it to my uncle. Only problem is that they got closed by GM and the bad dealership stayed.

[1] bring car in for 8:00AM appointment for 4th recall. Told it needed to be there by 7:00AM. Got it there at 6:35AM. Told it would be done at noon. Finally was allowed to pick it up at 11:45PM. GM called for a followup and I told them the whole story. Dealer called me the next day and was very upset that I told GM the truth.

Ugh. I know! My mom has a Camry and the local dealership makes up things to fix and scares her about them.

My local Lexus dealership (on the other coast) actually complained to Toyota for me when I asked them about the repairs.

What happened with the dealer after you told GM the truth?

Well, they were a tad bit hostile and didn't think they had done anything wrong. I went to different dealership because the belt tensioner broke while my brother was driving and we got it hauled over to the closest dealership (at this point why not take a chance). They fixed the belt and the damage caused. I was not a happy camper and mentioned the brakes. I had a bit of trouble believing the original dealership's claim that anti-lock brakes are meant to sound like a sledgehammer. The new dealership fixed the breaks (it was a "fixed" recall on my car) for no money. They did ask why I didn't take it to the original dealership and that got some giggles.

When GM shutdown a chunk of their dealerships they got to stay open, but the one with a much better service department closed. One had connections, one didn't.

My 2008 Cavalier was a POS. The 1994 one we had was amazing, that's why I bought the 2008 model

They stopped making the Cavalier in 2005. How'd you get a 2008 model?

I realized I put the wrong year in as I was driving home in my current car which is a 2008 Kia Rio (don't ask). It was the 1998 model. It was the 1989 model that was amazing. I swapped the years of the ill-fated Dodge Shadow I was stuck with for a year.

The Beetle is hands down the worst mainstream car ever made in my opinion (and the opinion of many others). It's what happens when you design a product for a "lifestyle" and not a purpose.

A modified Renault Twingo did it more than 15 years ago, without any particularly high tech parts, and running on gasoline instead of diesel: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SmILE

Running on gasoline is significant because diesel has a higher energy density per volume.

It's worse fuel economy though, since diesel has much higher energy content (and co2 emissions) per volume than petrol.

You shouldn't compare petrol MPG vs diesel MPG.

You pay per volume not per joule so you should compare petrol MP$ to Diesel MP$

That would be great, if these cars were actually in production. Only the Lupo has been replaced, by the Up!, which only gets 52mpg (US).

> 100 MPH on 96 MPG

WUT? Translation for the civilized world, please.


96 miles per gallon = 2.45015191 l/100km

They're UK gallons, so it's actually 2.94 L per 100 km.

2.45 l/100km @ 160 km/h

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