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Is a 500 mpg (213 km/liter) Car in Our Future?

July 2, 2006

Filed under: CAD/CAM/CAE — Terry Wohlers @ 10:14

On June 14-15, I attended a press/analyst event at the SolidWorks headquarters in Concord, Massachusetts. Its primary purpose was to offer a preview of SolidWorks 2007. CEO John McEleney and SolidWorks founder and former CEO Jon Hirschtick were on hand to answer questions and provide perspective. I was impressed by the new software:

  • Technology called SWIFT has taken ease-of-use to a new level.
  • The production of engineering drawings from a solid model could not be easier.
  • The COSMOS finite element analysis software is fully integrated into SolidWorks. If you can model a part, apply a force, and click a button, you can now do FEA.
  • The ScanTo3D feature imports point cloud data using a simple Wizard interface. (NextEngine and SolidWorks have partnered to provide tight integration between NextEngine’s new $2,500 scanner and SolidWorks 2007. The scanner was on display at the meeting)

The company also discussed its knowledge base of 25,000 solutions to problems that users encounter. Large customers of SolidWorks have reported that 90% of their problems can be handled through this new web-based portal.

One of the highlights of the event (for me) was learning about the Vehicle Design Summit (VDS). It was founded by Anna Jaffe, a student at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and is co-directed by her and fellow MIT student Robyn Allen. Its goal is to develop commuter vehicles that would get 500 mpg (213 km/liter). In an enthusiastic presentation, Jaffe explained that 73 student engineers from 13 countries on six continents are participating in the project that began on June 13, 2006. Over a period of nine weeks, they will design—using up to 90 seats of SolidWorks and other tools—four to six cars based on biofuels, hydrogen fuel cells, and solar/human hybrid technology. The plan is then to drive the cars across the USA (from coast to coast) August 13–20, 2006. 

The VDS project is expected to become a permanent international consortium centered on carbon-free green transportation for China, India, and other countries that have quickly-expanding transportation infrastructures. Sponsors include SolidWorks, 3M, Ford, and GM. I applaud Jaffe, Allen, and the other students for their efforts. To learn more about the VDS project, go to http://vehicledesignsummit.org/.