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Phase I: VDS 2006

On June 13, 2006 55 engineers from 13 countries convened at MIT with the near-term objective to build and design five vehicles with a 300 MPGe baseline efficiency (where efficiency was calculated both as thermal and emissions tied equivalent). Using a proposed set of six unique propulsion systems, the project was organized with the central goal of jump-starting the establishment of a permanent international design consortium focused on leapfrog technologies, developing a new mode for leadership training and project-based education, and creating a tangible product that would spark global interest in place-specific vehicle design. Team leaders from the world’s best super-mileage, human-powered, solar-powered and FSAE teams were accepted into the project, bringing incredible personal drive and expertise to VDS.

VDS 1.0 Review
The planning period for this project ran from April 1st to June 13th, the day on which participants arrived, and ended with a final broadcast presentation on August 13th. The first week of design focused on research for the development of component technologies not available on the market but needed to enable a truly sustainable transportation fleet. These were hydrogen based propulsion systems, electric hub motor design, recyclable and non-toxic composite materials, energy storage technologies and human powered drive train development. This first endeavor enabled VDS Org to characterize each participants strengths while ensuring that all participant’s were well aware that a truly sustainable transportation fleet will require significant research into materials, systems and manufacturing. For the remaining seven weeks, vehicle teams were selected to build a human powered solar hybrid, a fuel cell – electric hybrid,  a vegetable oil combustion drive, and all-electric grid tied inner-city commuter car. Given that few participants had ever met before the launch date of VDS, the level of collaboration and teamwork demonstrated by all teams was extremely impressive.

About the Vehicles
On multiple occasions, we have been asked why each of these transportation options was chosen and what makes each unique in its finished form. The motivations and achievements are as follows:
  1. Pulse:  Designed to dispel the myth that electric cars are either short-range, poor performance vehicles with long charge times, or exclusive to the high-end market, this sporty inner-city single passenger commuter car could be sold for under  $5,000. By plugging into the grid, Pulse highlights the need for an emissions free, transmission efficient grid network

  2. Fuel Cell – Electric Hybrid:  Demonstrates hydrogen to be a safe, petrochemical-free, long-range, high-performance energy vector. Looking at biological hydrogen and finishing with a vehicle we believe can set a world record for range, our fuel cell car uses a $5,000 1.2kW stack to continually charge the battery pack used to propel the vehicle and payload.

  3. Assisted Human Powered Vehicle (AHPV):  With an eye towards transportation markets in developing countries, the AHPV uses solar and human power to hit highway speeds, with an energy equivalency above 350 MPGe. Examining crosswind stability and drive train integration,  AHPV is an infrastructure-independent vehicle that teaches its human propeller about the advantages of lightweight materials and ground-up systems design.

  4. SVO Biofuel Vehicle:  Developing a single-tank solution for diesel-to-biofuel engine conversion, this concept was developed to address the much more pressing role transportation could play to transform agriculture. SVO was designed as a platform to test polyculture and other pesticide, irrigation, fertilizer and tillage free practices as a biofuels feedstock while promoting research into such farming practices.
Coverage of VDS 1.0
Last summer, VDS began with four international teams meeting at MIT, each of which designed and built a different prototype vehicle: electric, hydrogen fuel cell, biofuel, and assisted human powered.  Below are some examples of coverage this event received.