Question for you – what is yellow, made of foam, gets around 100 miles per gallon on the road, and floats? Why, the Spira, of course.
The Spira is a new high efficiency vehicle designed by inventor Lon Ballard. The twinkie-esque car weighs in at a mere 302 pounds (137 kg), and tops out at 70 miles per hour (113 km/h). But the real story on this yellow wonder is its construction – the car is made of 6 inches (15 cm) of foam on all sides, which not only allows for a light vehicle, it also wraps the driver for protection. Imagine, millions of tiny airbags offering protection for the occupants without the explosive nature of today’s vehicle airbags.
While the vehicle body is approximately 90 percent foam, there are also reinforcing fibers and an aluminum core for structural strength. Add to that an aerodynamic design and integral safety rollover protection and you have what should be a vehicle that is quite safe for the average driver.
But passenger protection and lightweight construction is not the only aspect of its foam design – the three wheel vehicle also floats. Since the buoyancy provided by the foam is self contained, the vehicle will continue to float for its lifetime. Great to know if you are out in rough weather and forgot where you parked it.
The vehicle sports a removable white top (the creme filling in the twinkie?), so you can easily use the car as a convertible or a coupe. The Spira measures 10 ft long x 5 ft wide x 52 inches tall and has two seats. The 110 cc power plant is able to throw around the light quite easily, as the video below shows. This makes the Spira not only a good choice from a green standpoint, it also has the potential to be a fun ride.
An interesting and very important feature of the foam vehicle is the impact it will have in saving lives outside of the car. In large cities and developing countries half of the deaths in automobile crashes are from pedestrians and motorcyclists being involved with the vehicle. A foam car would cushion the impact, hopefully saving a lot of lives. The light weight of the car would also help, and two Spiras colliding at relatively low speeds would probably have very minimal damage to either.
The car is an entry in the Progressive Automotive X PRIZE, and it is a good example of what new thinking in the area of automotive technology can accomplish. Current plans for the Spira are to use a Thailand base for prototyping, R&D, and manufacturing.
You can find out more about this amazing little vehicle at its website, spira4u.
What is the Automotive X Prize?
GOAL OF THE PROGRESSIVE AUTOMOTIVE X PRIZE
To inspire a new generation of viable, super-efficient vehicles that
help break our addiction to oil and stem the effects of climate change.
APPROACH TO DEVELOPING THE COMPETITION GUIDELINES
The competition guidelines are shaped by our philosophy that the Progressive Automotive X PRIZE must:
- Achieve our main goal (above
- Be simple to understand and easy to communicate
- Benefit the world – this is a global challenge
- Result in real cars available for purchase, not concept cars
- Remain independent, fair, non-partisan, and technology-neutral
- Provide clear technical boundaries (i.e., for fuel-efficiency,
emissions, safety, manufacturability, performance, capacity, etc.)
- Offer a “level playing field” that attracts both existing automobile manufacturers and newcomers
- Attract a balanced array of private investment, donors, sponsors,
and partners to help competitors succeed (e.g., manufacturing
assistance, testing resources, etc.)
- Make heroes out of the competitors and winner(s) through unprecedented exposure, media coverage and a significant cash award
- Educate the public on key issues
More information at the X PRIZE web site.