Spira: The Foam Car

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The Spira foam car is a the brainchild of Lon Ballard, who began the project by looking for ways to incorporate vehicle safety technology for pedestrians, bicyclists, and motorcycle riders as well as those inside the vehicle. He decided that foam is a good substitute for airbags. From installing foam here and there in existing vehicles, he eventually created a car with foam all over. In fact, the Spira is 90% foam!
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Not to be confused with the Korean Spirra sports car, the Spira is a really small car. It's made of foam, fiberglass, and aluminum. The whole thing weighs about 300 pounds, less if you take the convertible top off. The upside of such a lightweight car is that when you break down on the road, two people can pick it up and put it on the shoulder. The downside is that you might get hit by another car first.

Well, there are other advantages in a small, lightweight car. It get 100 miles to the gallon, which is at least twice what the car you're driving gets. More likely three or four times as much. If you drive it or fall into the water, it will float! And if you hit a pedestrian with it, chances are they won't die. Or rather, the chances of surviving are a bit better than getting hit by a regular car. The Spira can travel as fast as 70 mph with its 110cc engine. Even a nerf ball can hurt when it hits you at 70 mph. Oh sure, Ballard's dream is for everyone to drive a foam car, in which case we'd all be safer, but in reality you have to worry about the Mac trucks you share the road with.

Spira is competing for the Automotive X PRIZE, to win 2.5 million dollars in development money plus priceless publicity. Will people drive a three-wheeled two-seater vehicle made of foam that looks like a Croc shoe?  I honestly doubt it. But it may have a great future as a cooler for your camper.

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May 18, 2009 - 4:11am
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