DIY Friday: Your 100-MPG Microcar!

Longtime readers of Really Rocket Science know we’re huge fans of the X-Prize, and we’ve been especially intrigued by the potential of an automotive X-Prize, whose objective is to promote the design of "viable, clean and super-efficient cars that people want to buy."

But what about design viable, clean and super-efficient cars that people want to DIY?

 

Jory Squibb of Camden, Maine put together Moonbeam (both pictured above), "a three-wheeled microcar that he built with $2,500 in parts and 1,000 hours of his labor, product of a mechanical engineering degree at Yale and a childhood growing up in Detroit as son of a General Motors man," according to the Nashua Telegraph:

Squibb says Moonbeam gets 85 mpg in the city and 105 mpg on the open road (it’s not fast enough for the interstate), despite the lack of a high-tech power plant.

It’s powered by an ordinary four-stroke, water-cooled engine, taken from a 150CC Honda motorscooter. He attributes the mileage largely to minimalism: Moonbeam only weighs 400 pounds, barely more than a decked-out Hummer’s hubcaps.

Squibb… knows Americans won’t abandon their F-150s for something that looks like a gunner’s ball turret from a World War II bomber. He regards Moonbeam as inspiration for other tinkerers, and perhaps a bit of comic relief in the important job of remaking our transportation system….

[A]s Squibb acknowledges, it will be just about impossible to give up oil, he thinks technology can greatly cut our use of it.

That’s why he has also joined the hunt for the Automotive X Prize.

This is an Earthbound version of the $10 million contest that prodded the first private spaceflight in 2004. (The X Prize Foundation also has a $10 million genomics contest for the first team to sequence 100 human genomes in 10 days.)

Details are still being worked out, but the idea is that a big-bucks Automotive X Prize will spur invention of a super-efficient, super-clean and super-marketable car – no concept vehicles, please.

Squibb is psyched, and he’s also psyched by signs the major companies are getting seriously involved in electric and alternative-fuel vehicles.

Luckily for us DIY fanatics, Squibb has his own website in which he describes how an average Joe (or Joette) can build their very own Moonbeam, and explains the reasoning behind some of his decisions in the design of the car — including the question of why three wheels instead of four, which we found rather edifying:

We pioneers and prototype makers are, to some degree, trapped with three wheels.   We want to go beyond two wheels for reasons of stability, enclosure, year-round use, and user friendliness.  Yet we are blocked from four wheels by the large amount of safety regulations of such cars.   And yet, for a prototype to be tested, seen, and thereby enter vehicle evolution, it needs to roll on the roads, and therefore be licensed, insured, and inspected.  A four wheel car will need dual brake systems, safety glass windows, air bags, impact bumpers, etc.

These requirements are based on safety, which is good.  It’s not that we are sleazes who want to build death-traps!   Rather, we need a little slack to try something new, something which in eventual production will have more safety refinements.  Building three wheelers,  which are classified as motorcycles, we have that breathing space.

There are also links to some cool videos of the Moonbeam in action, er, motion: 

Squibb and about 20 of his fellow visionaries from Down East have formed a team to compete in the Automotive X-Prize — but Moonbeam is not among them. Still, for $2,500 and 1,000 hours of labor, you can be cruising on in your very own Moonbeam by this spring. And with oil at $91 a barrel and rising, you can recoup that cost quickly!


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