In 2008, we set out to build a car that would get 100 miles per gallon. Because we wanted this to be something interested MOTHER EARTH NEWS readers could build for themselves, we also set the goals of using off-the-shelf parts and staying within a budget of $10,000 — a reasonable price for a car. And we’ve done it! MAX (MOTHER's Automotive eXperiment) has been demonstrating its 100-mpg capabilities for a full year. (Read more about the journey at 100-MPG Car: MAX.)
Now, a few daring readers are making their own cars, and you can too. We’ve put the plans online, so you can learn how to build MAX with the free drawings and instructions available at Make Your Own MAX.
MAX’s remarkable fuel economy comes from the car’s 32-horsepower Kubota diesel engine and its streamlined body. Getting to 100 mpg on a budget took a lot of work. While this car was a competition success with its original Lotus-like body (winning the Escape From Berkeley race for alternative fuel vehicles in 2008), it needed streamlining to tip its fuel economy into triple digits. The current version of the car is built on a “Locost” chassis, a build-it-yourself, lightweight sports car based on the Lotus Seven of the late 1950s. MAX’s highest open-road competition score with the new body is 127 mpg, which was recorded at the July 2011 Vetter Fuel Economy Challenge (see MAX Update No. 79: Incredibly Good Mileage (127 MPG!)).
We’re not done developing yet. We still have $1,000 to work with out of our $10,000 budget, and we’re going to invest that money in creature comforts and safety. MAX is great fun on sunny days, but to be truly practical, we need to add an enclosed cabin with a roof, doors, windows and a heater. At present, driving MAX is much like riding a motorcycle, and the only protection you have from the elements is what you wear (glasses or goggles are mandatory).
MAX has toured 22 states to date, and while every state’s DMV has its own hoops to jump through, all states have ways to accommodate home-built automobiles, including MAX.
So yes, it is possible to build an affordable car that gets 100 mpg. We did it — and so can you.