North Charleston man has 101-mpg car

By Sam Tyson email | Twitter

NORTH CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - Karl Troy gets better gas mileage than you and probably anyone you know. He just might be awarded $5 million because of it, too.

A recent test showed his 750-pound prototype 4-seater Edison 2 could get 101.4 miles per gallon.

But don't feel bad; he and his team have been building and customizing four versions of the Edison 2 for years in preparation for the Progressive Insurance XPRIZE Finals.

Troy is the owner of European Road and Racing in North Charleston and the crew chief for the team headed by Oliver Kuttner, a Charlottesville, Va. business owner.

According to Troy, the contest was built out of the need to "conquer our fuel shortage and future energy crises." And the contest has lured over 100 car prototypes built by teams from 20 different countries, all of whom want to claim the XPRIZE and move their prototype into production.

"There are electric vehicles involved, hybrids involved, vehicles that run on E85 ethanol involved," Troy said. "Everybody hoping to build something that can help in the future outcome of this world."

The Edison 2 -- all four of them -- are E85s, meaning they are straight internal combustion engines that run on a gasoline mixture that is 85 percent ethanol. Under each hood is a 250cc turbo-charged engine.

The team decided against an electric or hybrid car because of weight, Troy said.

"Batteries weigh a lot, so electric cars weigh way more than regular cars and then they don't have the range that's required for them to be feasible," he said.

Troy said he spotted a hybrid with a bumper sticker touting 100 miles per gallon. "It couldn't be further from the truth," he said.

According to Troy, the hybrids will run for 70 miles on a battery and switch over to fuel when the charge runs low. Then it can run another 30 miles on that one gallon of gas. That's not 100 miles per gallon, he said.

The XPRIZE testing is based largely on actual driving conditions drivers experience. As a result, they have to pass a battery of tests that show their prototypes can perform everything a street car can. In some cases -- like fuel efficiency -- the prototypes have to perform better.

Troy says the team has entered four cars: two 4-seaters, a 2-seater side-by-side and a 2-seater tandem. Only one of the cars has been eliminated after it overheated.

"What we do is beyond the edge. We're talking about taking things beyond the limits of what's available in the industry," Troy said.

According to Progressive's XPRIZE website, the company is looking for "the first team to build a car that gets at least 100 MPGe in real world driving and is safe, affordable and desirable to offer consumers more efficient vehicle choices."

Troy's team has crossed over the 100-mpg threshold, but he says they still have a number of tests to pass before they can claim the top prize. He says the cars not only have to reach that lofty efficiency goal, but also meet current EPA emissions standards, pass safety testing and be feasible to build. The cars are tested on acceleration, speed, distance and braking.

Right now, the car doesn't have many of the standard features cars on lots across the nation have like power windows, seats and doors. But they did mount speakers into the interior and it's iPod-ready.

The chances are pretty good one of Troy's 4-seater cars will win the $5 million prize.

"We have the only two 4-seaters left in the competition," he said. "Provided we finish the event, don't break anddo everything we're asked to do, then one of our two teams will win the $5 million prize."

Troy is packing his bags and heading to Michigan for the finals. He leaves Sunday. If the finals go well for the Edison 2 teams, he might be sending the winning car to the Chrysler proving grounds for additional testing and a possible production deal.

Copyright 2010 WCSC. All rights reserved. Matt Gladwell contributed to this report.