100 mpg guaranteed or your money back
May 25, 2015 10:23 PM   Subscribe

Minnesota engineer Dave Edmonson won the Society of Automotive Engineers MPG contest in 1977 and 1978 with a lightweight three-wheel vehicle that he soon put into production and sold as the HMV Free-Way, weighing 750 lbs and producing 12 to 16 hp. An electric model was available. Only around 700 Free-ways were ever made and many have been modified. Within less than five years the company went bankrupt. The last models appear to have been given away in repayment of outstanding debts. Online ephemera include charmingly rough newsletters and the original order form.
posted by bq (15 comments total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
 
The first newsletter is awesome.

bullet point 1 - Merry Christmas, toy!
bullet point 2 - this toy will kill you unless...
posted by Reasonably Everything Happens at 4:27 AM on May 26, 2015


Interesting! And I was just reading this: Toyota’s electric three-wheeled car takes the i-Road to combat Tokyo’s pollution
posted by carter at 5:08 AM on May 26, 2015


The Corbin Sparrow looks like it was ever so slightly influenced by this design.
posted by scruss at 5:09 AM on May 26, 2015


The amazing thing is it uses no exotic technology, except that one simple idea that stumps the Big-3, light weight!

I don't think the "Big-3" are stumped by anything except physics. Very small cars generally can't protect people in crashes as well as bigger, heavier models.

posted by three blind mice at 5:25 AM on May 26, 2015


Toyota’s electric three-wheeled car takes the i-Road to combat Tokyo’s pollution

Before I looked at the comments, I was thinking "I wonder what Toyota or Nissan or Tesla could do with a similar design."
posted by Foosnark at 5:28 AM on May 26, 2015


There are still weird and different vehicles being made, but mostly they seem to be targeting the go-fast market, like the Polaris Slingshot. There must be some kind of safety exemption for three wheeled vehicles, because there is no way that meets the same standards as a new car.
posted by Dip Flash at 5:42 AM on May 26, 2015


SLINGSHOT® IS A THREE-WHEELED MOTORCYCLE. IT IS NOT AN AUTOMOBILE, IT DOES NOT HAVE AIRBAGS, AND IT DOES NOT MEET AUTOMOTIVE SAFETY STANDARDS.
posted by Steely-eyed Missile Man at 5:53 AM on May 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


Very small cars generally can't protect people in crashes as well as bigger, heavier models.

And this thing? You wouldn't stand a chance. The single biggest reason cars have gotten heavier in the US is the increased crash protection standards, and the single biggest reason that passenger fatalities per mile for cars have *plummeted* over the years have been crash protection standards.

And really, the system is basically exactly the same as the one that kept Ed Carpenter alive after h he hit the wall at Indianapolis at 217 miles per hour. And by alive, I mean "got up, walked away, got into a different car, and made the actual race in the next week."

The idea is that there is a central compartment where you are. In a race car, this is the "tub", and it's built very strong, in a road car, this is the passenger compartment, and since it doesn't lap Indy at 220mph, it's not as strong, but it has windows, A/C, radio, GPS, padded seats, more than one seat, things like that. Around that is the rest of the car, which is built to crumple and shred. That takes energy. If you dump the entire energy of the crash into the tub/cabin at once, what happens is all that energy goes into you. You end up a pulp. If you stretch that energy out over time, by destroying the car bit by bit, that lets you live -- so long as that central compartment stays whole.

Nowadays, even the walls can be part of that. On the roads, the barriers are either designed to deflect you away (K-Rail aka Jersey Barriers) or are designed to crumple, like your car. On tracks, we now have the SAFER barrier which is designed to do three things -- keep you against the wall (so you don't bounce back and hit other cars), absorb energy (so you don't) and be quick and easy to fix (so you can keep racing.)

This little thing? Look at how close the body shell is to the driver. Look at how thin those tube are. They bend in just a couple of inches and the other car is already hitting you. You get hit by another car doing 30mph driving this, that other car is going to hit *you* doing at least 25 mph, and you are going to be badly injured at best, where in a modern car, you would step out of the car almost completely uninjured, and if you were injured, it would likely be the airbags that injured you. In a 50mph? You would almost certainly die.

Building a 100mpg car is easy when you hand wave away other rules. Heck, building a 75mpg gallon car *today* is easy. Go buy one. They're in Europe. Now, if you want a large SUV with 300HP that gets 75mpg? That's not going to happen. But if you want a small sedan or wagon that gets 75mpg, there are diesels in Europe that do this. You will not get 0-60 in 8 seconds, though. If you want performance, you will pay in mileage, or you will pay in range. (Those diesels will also go 1000 miles between refills.)

Personally, I'd sacrifice the mileage and take things like a back seat, A/C, and a chance of surviving a collision and get, say, a Honda Civic. You'll get, oh, 35mph (45mpg for the Hybrid), but it'll be a better car in pretty much every way possible.
posted by eriko at 6:06 AM on May 26, 2015 [4 favorites]


1955 Chevy curb weight:
3,070-3,355

2015 Chevrolet Cruze curb weight
3,005 to 3,471 lbs

2015 Honda Accord curb weight:
3,186 to 3,559 lbs

2015 Toyota Camry curb weight
3,240 to 3,480 lbs
posted by 445supermag at 6:28 AM on May 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


2015 Chevrolet Cruze curb weight
3,005 to 3,471 lbs

2015 Honda Accord curb weight:
3,186 to 3,559 lbs


Palming a card there, comparing the Big Honda and Toyota to the American cars, rather than comparing like for like. Let's try that, shall we?

1972 Honda Civic: 1500 lbs
2015 Honda Civic: 2600-2780lbs (coupe), 2600-2800 (sedan), 2850-2875(hybrid).

And, yes, I forgot that American Barges have always been huge. My bad. It's been amusing to note that the Corvette C7 has gained a staggering 208 pounds over the C1, proving that see, American Cars are getting bigger, but I'd still rather be in the C7 if I have to be in a crash. Well, let's be honest, I'd rather be in a C7 than a C1 period. Hell, for basically every reason I'd rather be in a 2014 Accord Coupe than a C1. For one thing, it's safer. For another, it's faster....
posted by eriko at 7:01 AM on May 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


For one thing, it's safer. For another, it's faster....

So a few years ago I noticed that you could pick up Ferrari 308s and 328s for not-entirely-insane amounts of money (though I assume the maintenance is still cripplingly expensive). Noticing this led me to wonder what then-current cars would have performance most similar to its acceleration and lateral g. And the casual answer was: Honda Civic, but you'd have to step up to the Si version, but that assumes leaving 1980s-era tires on the Ferrari.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 7:58 AM on May 26, 2015


Thank goodness people have been working on this for so long. Too bad it takes massive acute problems to move the market rather than admitting we have chronic problems.

I welcome any new EV overlords. Even though I own one, I no longer think hybrids are worth producing, when they get +2mpg from a gas motor due to the size (See above), etc. It was important to show a market though, and hopefully that market evolves.

We traded in our Sienna for a Chevy Volt because we mostly drove the van with one person in it once the kids started to take the bus to school. We're now (ab)using the Thule rack and bike rack hard on the Prius. So we're making do as long as the dog doesn't need to be in the car.

But we are favoring the EV side in a big way. With the EV in our particular neck of the woods, we can do a lot without using the gas motor, so it's a bummer to hear it activate in the hybrid. We can do a day's driving in our 10 mile radius (work -> store -> kids -> home) and do whatever we need to and rarely run down to 0 on the battery. If we do, we have the gas motor.

Also, once you get used to the smooth acceleration of an EV it is very hard to go back.
posted by drowsy at 8:37 AM on May 26, 2015


Not as practical as a car, not as fun as a motorcycle. I can see why they went bankrupt.

On the other hand, I do think I remember seeing these in a couple made-for-TV science fiction movies, so there's that.
posted by happyroach at 8:54 AM on May 26, 2015


Personally, I'd sacrifice the mileage and take things like a back seat, A/C, and a chance of surviving a collision and get, say, a Honda Civic. You'll get, oh, 35mph (45mpg for the Hybrid), but it'll be a better car in pretty much every way possible.

eriko's comment is an excellent illustration of why reducing our fuel consumption, as a society, isn't just tied up in making more and better types of cars. it's going to necessarily involve changing how we use cars, what our cities look like, and how we live our lives.
posted by entropone at 9:11 AM on May 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


Weight adds safety for the vehicle's occupants, at the cost of the safety of everyone else on the road. There has been a lot of hand wringing about the increase in fatalities for motorcyclists, over the last 20 or 30 years, and the increase in the age of those killed. Getting killed on a motorcycle is no longer the province of the 20-something zoomsplat squid crowd. There was a terrific series in Motorcycle Consumer News, some years back - I remember the author was Wendy Moon. She dug deep into the statistics and was able to tie this change in the fatality rates to the height of the bumpers and the weight of the other cars on the road. And extend the correlation into bicyclist and pedestrian fatalities as well. Cars are safer than they've ever been, for those riding inside them. For those outside them, not so much.

Those who say that the roads are for tanks, and that anyone who ventures onto the road without their own tank is an idiot, are ignoring the cost in fuel efficiency, greenhouse gases, and quality of life. The roads don't have to be for tanks. We chose that. We could choose differently, and if enough of us chose differently we would all benefit together. But as long as it's every man for himself, I guess we'd all better armor up and get a bigger tank to protect us from all the other tanks.
posted by elizilla at 4:25 PM on May 26, 2015 [3 favorites]


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