70 MPH, 4 Bags of Groceries and 100+ MPG!

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The mpg of the future, courtesy the Vetter Challenges. Pictured are Kyle Ginaven, Ben Schloup, Craig Vetter and John Harding.

On July 22, 2011, during the American Motorcyclist Association’s Vintage Motorcycle Days event in Ohio, a dozen motorcycles and two cars rose to the latest Vetter Fuel Economy Challenge — named for and run by Craig Vetter, renowned motorcycle inventor and designer. The riders drove 104 miles through towns, over rural roads and on the freeway to demonstrate their vehicles’ ability to marry fuel efficiency with comfort, convenience and speed.

The Vetter Challenges were created in the 1980s to show what motorcycles could do if they were designed purely for economy at moderate speeds. The highly specialized bikes that competed then were remarkably efficient but too cramped and uncomfortable for everyday riding. The modern Vetter Challenge rules are tailored to encourage economy and practicality — a comfortable seating position, enough power to go 70 mph into a head wind, and enough luggage space for four bags of groceries. As Vetter notes, “If your great 100-mpg machine isn’t useful, you won’t use it.”

Six of the entrants — including MOTHER’s own do-it-yourself diesel sports car, MAX — broke the 100-mpg mark (read more about the car in 100-MPG Car: MAX). The winner was Max Perethian on his 1989 Honda NX250 street/dirt bike, which achieved 157 mpg, followed by Fred Hayes’ streamlined diesel motorcycle at 143 mpg. Both Perethian and Hayes spent less than 3 cents a mile for fuel.

Electric motorcycles don’t yet have the range for the full Challenge distance, so the winner of the electric class was the one that went farthest: The two entrants, Kraig Schultz and Kyle Ginaven, tied at 38 miles. Vetter Challenges are scored on fuel cost, and comparing Perethian’s 2.4 cents per mile for gasoline with Ginaven’s 1.8 cents per mile for electricity shows that once the range issue is solved, electric bikes will be hard to beat.

Keep an eye out for more Vetter Challenges in 2012!

Read more: Craig Vetter shares his stories about the Vetter Challenge and fuel-efficient motorcycles in his blog for MOTHER EARTH NEWS: Craig Vetter, Inventor and Designer