(Note from Chris: We're very proud to welcome Virgil Exner Jr. as an official Car Lust contributor. Mr. Exner is of course the son of famous designer Virgil Exner of Forward Look fame, and a distinguished automotive designer in his own right. He previously contributed a rebuttal to Cookie the Dog's Owner's original Stutz Blackhawk piece.)
Hello Car Lust readers, I'm very happy to be aboard as a contributor to the blog and hope you will enjoy my input.
My wife and I recently returned from a short vacation in St. Martin in the Caribbean, and I had an opportunity to rent a virtually new India-produced Hyundai i-10 four-door hatchback
. It had all of the accessories as our 2008 two-door Ford Focus, and both of us thought it was really great. It got 27 mpg for more than 200 miles around that hilly and traffic-jammed island and drove and handled just as well as the Focus. Our Focus gets 19 mpg in more favorable traffic and on flatter roads. I thought the Hyundai would make the Focus feel heavy when we returned to our car, and it did.
I have always been a proponent of the small car, and I have designed several for Studebaker, Ghia, and Ford. Americans still average about 1.65 persons in a car at one time. Why have a Hummer? I think cars like the Hyundai we drove should be available to all Americans; but made in America by the Big 3, and today, not in the distant future.
In the the future, we must be energy-independent, utilizing all of our clean resources combined to feed an electric grid infrastructure. No more hybrids or internal combustion engines (though I'll miss the roar!), just electric motors. Of course, we first must improve battery technology. At any rate, I can not design a really efficient future automobile without knowing what single type of power to depend on, and any manufacturer needs to have the same assurance in order to build one. Our government and the American public should stop quibbling now and stand up to the task of developing a real energy independence, fast. Otherwise, we will forever be held hostage for oil and we will have an even worse economy.
Just as a teaser, I hereby submit a very preliminary design for a plug-in electric runabout. Yes, it's very sporty and not a replacement for the very utilitarian Hyundai mentioned above, but it would be more fun. I have developed it much more than just this pretty picture, but I will take more time to more fully design a proper chassis and structure, as I like to do for every design that I dream of. Should you be interested, I'll show you more as I go ....slowly.
--Virgil M. Exner, Jr.