Bright Automotive in Anderson, Indiana today unveiled a 100-mpg delivery van called the IDEA. Forget Detroit and their half-assed hybrid SUVs that get barely better gas mileage than the gas powered version. Innovation in this field is going to come from small start-ups in this country and others. Kudos to the Energy Department for offering significant grants towards the goal of super high efficiency vehicles, Bright Automotive has applied for a grant of $450 million to begin production. They plan to start filling orders by 2013.
When I was a teen I was a car nut, just like so many of my friends, and I remember a technical book about superchargers that was talking about the efficiency of the internal combustion engine, and how the engineers in Detroit say that a highly efficient engine could never be built due to the inherent limitations of combustion. What is relevant about this book is that nearly thirty years ago when it was published the author made an offhand remark that is validated today. He said, "The big three will only make their engines incrementally more efficient over time. They will only increase efficiency as much as they need to in order to comply with the law. If exponential increases in fuel efficiency ever come about it will be from the small start-up entrepreneur or backyard enthusiast." Looks like he was close to the mark.