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Lighter, Faster, Longer: Supermileage vehicle

supermilage vehicle in the garage

Dr. Chris Bachmann talks about the importance of improving fuel efficiency.

Alternative Fuel Vehicle Lab Director Chris Bachmann says mainstream electric vehicles are on the horizon. But, he's quick to note, the fuel stations that line our highways are decidedly petroleum-centric.

The process of replacing the nearly 200,000 gasoline fuel stations with electric will be long and expensive.

Knowing that ready petroleum supply is due to run out in some 25 years, Bachmann and a team of JMU students have set out to build a super-mileage vehicle to make sure motorists are getting the most out of every last drop.

"What we're doing is taking a really small engine, a 3.5 horsepower engine, and we're going to make it even smaller," Bachmann said. "They're going to be shooting for more than 1,000 miles per gallon with this when it's all said and done."

The idea is simple. Heavy objects take more energy to move. Lighter objects take less. For the team, that formula translates into a sleek, aluminum-framed vehicle closer in size and look to a bicycle than a car.

The finished product will weigh less than the passenger who drives it, Bachmann said.

And though it probably will never see the open road, the design can serve as an example of how small ideas can translate into big fuel savings.

"We can't underemphasize that our transportation system is totally dependent on one energy source right now, and that's oil," Bachmann said. "The unfortunate situation is that that oil is going to run out, and it's going to happen faster than a lot of people are comfortable with. It's going to mean a serious, serious change."

Published November 2009