MAX Update No. 25: Inspiration from Craig Vetter, 470 mpg

| 3/11/2009 2:42:09 PM

Tags: MAX, 100 mpg, body, Auto X Prize, Craig Vetter, motorcycles,

When people ask me if I really think I can get 100 miles per gallon, I say “Of course I can. I built my first 100 mpg commuter over 30 years ago.”

What I don't mention right away is it was a motorcycle. When I do, they roll their eyes and go, “Oh right, some put-put going 12 miles an hour.”

Then I say, “Heck no, it was a freeway flier, I spent more in tickets than I did in gas.”

I'm not exaggerating by much. My prize ticket was a combination, charging me with both a Speed Contest and Insufficient Horsepower for Freeway Operation. Ah yes, my misspent youth …

An interesting DVD showed up in the mail yesterday. It's a videotaped lecture by Craig Vetter about the Craig Vetter Fuel Economy Contests, held in the early '80s during the era I refer to as Energy Crisis Lite. These were not silly, low-speed science project pulse-and-coast competitions — these were street legal bikes going highway speeds on public roads. I thought I was hot stuff at 100 mpg. But man, the front-runners in these contests (yeah, folks got hooked on them and came back year after year) were getting 100 mpg improvements from one contest to the next, like 152 in '82 and 256 in '83. The last contest was in '85, and won at 470 mpg.

Well, you probably know the history: gas got cheap again, and the masses stopped caring about fuel economy for 30 years. But Craig called up the top finishers to ask them how they'd done it back in the day. The DVD is fascinating if you're into this stuff, and the advice from the guys getting 250 mpg and up is probably the best part.

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