This is an excerpt from EERE Network News, a weekly electronic newsletter.

May 18, 2005

Modified Hybrid Vehicle Nears 100-mpg Barrier in Rally

A specially modified hybrid-electric Honda Insight achieved 94 miles per gallon (mpg) over a 150-mile course in mid-May, falling just short of the "100 MPG Challenge" at the National 2005 Tour de Sol. The modifications included high-pressure tires, a warm air intake, and an electronic device that allowed the driver to manually control his car's motor assist. The 17th annual Tour de Sol—billed as "a sustainable energy and transportation festival and competition"—was held from May 13th through the 16th in Saratoga Springs and Albany, New York, and featured more than 60 hybrid, electric, and bio-fueled vehicles.

The Tour de Sol also featured a Monte Carlo-style road rally. The top production vehicles in the rally were again Honda Insights: two of the vehicles achieved 79 mpg and 81 mpg, an insignificant difference, so both were declared winners. The top biodiesel-fueled vehicles were a Volkswagen Passat that averaged 77 mpg and a DaimlerChrysler Smart car that achieved 75 mpg. And actually, there was one vehicle at the Tour de Sol that achieved better than 100 mpg, but that was because of an electrical boost: Valence Corporation and Energy Control Systems Engineering modified a Toyota Prius to carry a high-capacity lithium-ion battery pack charged with 10 kilowatt-hours of electricity. In terms of gasoline consumption, the "plug-in" Prius achieved 102 mpg over a 150-mile course; accounting for the electricity used, the vehicle's effective fuel economy was a still-respectable 85 mpg. See the full results and the accompanying announcement on the Tour de Sol Web site, and for more information about the plug-in Prius, see the Valence Corporation press release.

Photo of the Colt EV.

Mitsubishi is developing a battery-powered electric vehicle, a technology abandoned by most major automakers.
Credit: Mitsubishi Motors

While a number of homemade electric vehicles were present at the Tour de Sol, the current paucity of commercial electric vehicles may soon be addressed by Mitsubishi Motors. The company is developing a compact electric vehicle called the Colt EV, which draws on a lithium-ion battery pack to power four 20-kilowatt, in-wheel electric motors. See the Mitsubishi Motors press release.