Washington, DC: A car that provides a strong protective cage covered with soft foam on both the outside and inside has been one of the most intriguing vehicles competing for the Progressive Insurance Automotive X Prize, a competition to see who can design the best 100-miles-per-gallon car.
All competitors have their eyes on $10 million in prize money but the team behind the foam-wrapped Spira4u has yet another goal — to save lives.
Spira founder Lon Ballard, an American working in Thailand, said more than half the fatalities on the road in large cities and developing countries are pedestrians and motorcyclists. So the concept behind the Spira4u was to create a safer alternative to motorcycles and scooters for the Asian market — hence the foam.
Based on a Kawasaki motorcycle engine and transmission, Spira4u has a honeycomb core surrounded with a fiberglass-composite structure and covered in soft polyurethane foam. It weighs 500 pounds and seats two.
Before the competition, the Spira4u also took some unconventional tests: the car took a dip in the ocean (it can float) and was loaded with a pig carcass and rammed by a truck.
Ballard and his team have been working on the vehicle for two years.