An Indian hand to break the 100-mile mileage barrier

Date:   Friday , February 01, 2008

Vinod Khosla, founder of Khosla Ventures and also a co-founder of Sun Microsystems, may now make a ground breaking contribution to the effort for breaching the ‘100-mile-per-gallon car’ barrier that may well match what Ratan Tata, Chairman of the Tata Group and Tata Motors, did by launching the world’s cheapest car at $2,500 recently.

Khosla is betting hugely on startup green ventures and has made at least 10 bio-fuel bets over the last 15 years. In 2006, Khosla had invested around $200 million in Cilion Goshen (a company that converts corn into ethanol to power cars and trucks), and around $30 million in Mascoma Corporation, a producer of biofuels from lingo-cellulosic biomass using microorganisms and enzymes. Khosla has also made an investment in EcoMotors an automotive company with a focus on fuel efficiency, low emissions, and cost-effective solutions for developing markets. EcoMotors has developed an innovative diesel engine that is aimed at delivering 100-mpg by 2011. Khosla is targeting the rising demand for cars in developing countries, including India.
Meanwhile, several small companies are developing new engine technologies and advanced automotive designs that promise to deliver the 100-mpg target. The proposals run from the simple weight reduction to improved aerodynamics to borrowing ideas from jet engines. The race to break the 100-mpg threshold is hotting up with the entry of the IT behemoth Google. is modifying the gas-electric hybrid vehicles like the Toyota Prius to try to crack the 100-mpg threshold. The project, called Recharge IT, is accelerated forward in collaboration with other companies and researchers including Pacific Gas & Electric. They have handed out $1 million in grants to think tanks, educators, advocacy groups, and researchers to advance the hybrid cause. Another $10 million is available to researchers who offer worthy proposals.

The race has started with blistering heat, with the X Prize Foundation announcing an estimated $25 million prize for the 100-mpg car. The participants can use different types of fuels including natural gas, ethanol, diesel, or even electricity. Other suggested innovations include aerodynamic designs and low-resistance tyres to decrease drag; and improved insulation which would reduce the need for heating and cooling systems and would cut down on weight and save fuel.