Solo Personal Vehicle

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The Solo high-performance, single-seat vehicle is designed to explore new ideas in personal transportation. The product of many years experience in the high-performance automotive, aircraft and composite-materials industries, Solo is ultra-light, highly fuel-efficient and offers the performance, comfort and safety of conventional small vehicles while providing a rational, responsible and stylish alternative to established means of surface transportation, and addresses a number of drawbacks of the car as we know it.

Currently, most of the vehicles on the road during rush hours are capable of carrying four passengers and weigh about 2500 pounds, but usually carry only the driver. Although CAFÉ (corporate-average-fuel-economy) figures have improved over the years, there are still obvious carbon-emission and wasted-energy disadvantages associated with the single-occupant commute. Car-pooling and mass-transit work well for many but lack the freedom and flexibility of the private car that most Americans have come to take for granted. The Solo offers the freedom of the individual vehicle, but achieves it in a much more sustainable package.

To achieve a fuel-efficiency target of 100mpg@ 60mph cruise, the Solo is aerodynamically clean and of low mass. The Solo’s shape borrows heavily from fiberglass sailplanes - the most aerodynamically efficient machines yet devised by humans.

There are obvious safety concerns surrounding a vehicle as small and light as the Solo (target: 600 lbs.) sharing its operational environment with SUVs. Innovative, proprietary uses of composite materials and state-of-the-art aircraft construction techniques, with advanced crash-energy management combine in a structure providing occupant protection comparable to that of a small conventional car. Designed as an all composite stressed skin unit utilizing glass, aramid and carbon fibers, it provides a rigid, protective, energy-absorbing cocoon.

Composite materials have an infinite fatigue-life and don't corrode. Because of this, a worn-out Solo can be recycled by stripping the mechanical parts, refinishing the shell, and reassembling with new or reconditioned components. The total-life-cycle energy cost savings of this approach are apparent as compared to conventional automotive practice, which is essentially to melt the whole thing down and start over.

Predictable handling, braking and a comfortable ride are achieved utilizing a combination of off-the-shelf parts and proprietary suspension geometry. Originally conceived to be powered by a small displacement gasoline or gaseous-fueled IC engine, the Solo can be reconfigured to accommodate a variety of powerplants including battery-electric or IC/electric hybrid.

While classified as a motorcycle and so allowed to use existing HOV and AltFuel lanes, the vehicle provides full weather protection and high-efficiency air conditioning. Additionally, as the vehicle is entirely modular to expedite servicing, repair and recycling, production need not be centralized. Containerized kits can be distributed to remote locations for final assembly using common tools, and provide employment for medium-skilled workers far from the factory.

The Solo UCV, while certainly not for everyone, offers an attractive and efficient solution to some of the problems associated with personal mobility, and could provide a step towards weaning America from dependence on foreign oil. A full-scale, functional prototype is now under construction.


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  • Name:
    William Engwer
  • Type of entry:
  • Number of times previously entering contest:
  • William's favorite design and analysis tools:
    Pencils, paper, mirrors, clay, scale 3-D models ( real, not virtual )
  • For managing CAD data William's company uses:
    SolidWorks PDMWorks
  • William's hobbies and activities:
    Painting, drawing, photography, sculpture,hot-rods
  • William belongs to these online communities:
    SAE, Linkdin, EAA, Pickens Plan, facebook
  • William is inspired by:
    Nature inspires many of my ideas, with her fewest-parts-to-do-the-job approach. I'm also inspired by other designers whose output transcends silly fashion and the me-too mentality, and who produce clean, simple and elegant work....Burt Rutan and Paul MacCready come to mind.
  • Software used for this entry:
    Hands, eyes, brain
  • Patent status: