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Tuesday, October 14, 2008

DIY, 100 MPG Car is Back on the Road After 20 Year Hiatus

October 13th, 2008 by Benjamin Jones

Through the forums I learned about the interesting story of a two men who built a super-efficient car back in 1984 to combat high gas prices, only to pull it off the road again when prices became more manageable. The two, Craig Henderson and Bill Green, founded Avion in 1984 and then spent two years building a 100 MPG sports car, which they managed to eke 104 MPG out of in a South-North trip across the US in 1986.

After making the trip for less than $15 of diesel fuel, the two hoped to find a company interested in the design, but as the Bellingham Herald notes, that wasn’t the case:

Not only was the Avion painted in “arrest me for speeding red,” as Henderson likes to describe the color, but the lightweight car’s fuel efficiency couldn’t be beat.

He was wrong about the interest.

“Nobody really cared. Big deal. Fuel was cheap. There was a glut of fuel,” Henderson, 51, recalled earlier this week. “Fast forward to today. Things change, don’t they?”

This time around, the fuel crisis doesn’t look like it will have the same kind of wait-and-see solution it did in the past. No one thinks prices are going to drop again, and even bigger fears like global warming and dwindling petroleum supplies make the need for a long-lasting change even more salient.

That’s why Avion has jumped back into the game to compete for the Automotive X Prize and $10 million. Given that the goal of the competition is to break 100 MPG in a production-ready vehicle, I would say Avion is well on its way to taking top honors, though the competition is sure to be fierce.

As for the car itself, it’s designed as a sports car, combining sleek, fast looks with aerodynamics to turn heads both on the highway and at the pumps. It’s built around a Mercedes diesel engine, but a lot has changed in engines, especially diesels, since 1984, so I’m sure there are some changes to be made there. Best of all, it could be mass-produced for about $20,000.

Check out the Avion website for more on the car, and our own aerodynamics forum for some more DIY aeromods. I’d drive one, how about you?