Automotive Innovation at the San Diego International Auto Show


Lon Bullard CEO Spira4U


Photos: Tom Abbott

Dec 31, 2015 (San Diego) The San Diego International Autno Show is not just a place where you can find the latest production vehicles, but also concept vehicles. This year you can go see a second place in the 2010 XPrize competition. This little vehicle will surprise you. The innovations in it are impressive. The goal of producing a vehicle that uses less energy during production, and less energy overall, and has recycled materials points to the way to real innovation.



It is out of the XPrize that a term we are all starting to get used to emerge: Equivalent Miles per Gallon, EMPG for short. This means what would take to move something 100 miles on regular fuel.

These were the guidelines set by Progressive Insurance and the XPrize Foundation. They also used funds in a public-partnership with the United States Department of Energy. 


  • Mainstream class entries were required to seat at least four passengers, have four wheels, and have a minimum 200 mile range
  • Alternative class entries opened up the design space a bit by reducing the requirements to seat at least two passengers with a minimum 100 mile range and no minimum on the number of wheels
  • Regardless, to win, vehicles must have completed all on-track tests, demonstrated fuel economy numbers equal to at least 100 MPGe, passed all FMVSS requirements, and completed validation testing on the chassis dynamometer.
  • Beyond these, the fastest time clocked in the Finals Events won

We spoke with Lon Ballard, CEO of Spira4U about his vehicle. He told us that this is “the cleanest, greenest vehicle on the road. Because if you are going to drop an egg would you put it in heavy metal like all these cars?” He also pointed out that over a million people die around the world from vehicle accidents every year. About half of them die outside vehicles.


He also added that the pollution kills 2 extra million. This would be from things like asthma, for example. The World Health Organization has found that indeed millions die from air pollution a year. The number, as of 2012, was 7 million.

He sells two versions of this. A gas version, that sells for $6,ooo dollars and an Electric version that runs $10,000. Here are the characteristics of this vehicle, both versions:

  • EPA certified @ 90mpg gasoline test mileage
  • 420 pounds (190 kg) Net Weight with recyclable light foam, fiberglass, and plastics
  • Three wheel vehicle with a 150 cc automatic engine for 53 mph (85kph)
  • Patented honey comb composite chassis
  • Foot brake to 3 disc brakes and foot gas pedal
  • 57” wide x 49” tall x 107” long (1450 x 1250 x 2700mm)
  • Millions of small air bags in foam offer crash protection for both passengers and pedestrians
  • 33″ wide for 1 large or 2 thin persons


  • GAS – 440 pound with 150cc engine
  • 2-1/2 gallon tank for 200 mile range
  • 53 mph top speed 80 mpg
  • Foot brake to 3 disc brakes
  • $6,000 plus shipping


  • ELECTRIC – one or two 10 kw 72V motors
  • 140 mile range with 144 amp hour batteries
  • 70 mph top speed 300 mpgE
  • 520 pounds
  • from $10,000 plus shipping

Currently they are made in China and imported into the United States and he is looking for dealers. He did tell us that he is willing to share the technology because the goal is to save lives and reduce the use of materials when building vehicles.

Right now the  gas version could not go on a freeway, but the electric version can. It also has a longer range.Oh and it plugs to any outlet, thee is no need for specialist outlets. So your 110 volt home outlet is good enough.

Part of the engineering for this level efficiency, is not just the aerodynamic design, but also the weight to engine ratio. The vehicle is so light that it has a good acceleration. It has been crash tested, and the central steering column will go to the side and bend, absorbing the energy and preventing injuries. The foam like material acts also as millions of air bags, and prevents injuries that way.

You could increase the range of the EV version by putting more batteries, but those will have less and less of a benefit since they add weight to the vehicle. For the size of the vehicle, it has a pretty roomy trunk.

We are also embedding the video that Ballard did during the XPrize project. And yes, the vehicle met all requirements. Oh and did we mention this one floats on water?

While the high performance vehicles at the show awe many of us, There are more than a few awe worthy rides, visit the Eco friendly section. This little vehicle might very well be the basis for future innovation.

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