Viking-Series Cars: A History

Viking I

Viking 1 was the first car designed and built at the Vehicle Research Institute. This vehicle was designed to win the Urban Vehicle Design Competition held at General Motors Proving Grounds in Milford, Michigan. A unique feature of this car was "extreme Ackerman steering" which allowed the car to be parallel parked in a space only 10″ longer than the car.

Viking I won the maneuverability and parkability awards and finished 3rd overall in the competition behind the University of British Columbia and the University of Florida.

Viking II

The Viking II used a propane fuel system similar to Viking I for the 1975 Student Engineered Economy Design Rally which ran from Bellingham, Washington to Los Angeles, California. By this time the VRI had acquired emission test equipment and a chassis dynamometer to run simulations of the L. A. 4 emission test cycle. The Viking II was the first essay into aerodynamic design for automobiles. A series of 1/10 scale wind tunnel models were built. The design chosen had low frontal area with a well rounded front and tapered back to a minimum area on the rear. Viking II won the SEED rally against opposition from schools in the USA, Canada and Japan with a fuel economy of 58 MPG on propane and established the lowest exhaust emissions measured in the contest.

Viking III

Viking III was a conversion to propane on a Datsun B­210 fastback with add on aerodynamic modifications. This has been the only non scratch­built car to receive a Viking number.

Viking IV

Viking IV is an aluminum monocoque streamlined coupe originally built to win its class at the Bonneville National Speed Trials with an 1146 cc Wankel rotary engine. At one point this car was fitted with a 500 cc Wankel built in the VRI and achieved 55 MPG. Later it was fitted with a 1500 cc turbocharged diesel engine. In this guise it entered the Sea to Sea Econorally winning awards for lowest emissions and best economy as well as 1st overall. One of the unique features of this car was a special 5 speed transaxle with overdrive on both 4th and 5th and freewheel on fifth gear. The VRI began its investigation of low rolling drag radial tires with this car which is now fitted with a 998 cc 3 cylinder turbo diesel. This car can achieve highway fuel economy of more than 100 MPG at 50 MPH in cross county rallies.

Viking V

Viking V is a lightweight version of Viking IV using a fiberglass aerodynamic shell in place of the aluminum one on Viking IV. This car had been fitted with a variety of engines and drive trains in the last few years including: Subaru diesel engine built at the VRI Isuzu 2 cylinder 800 cc diesel Honda 50 cc single and a 2 cyl/4 cyl Subaru (In this form the car could run with five different displacements) Turbocharged, intercooled natural gas 4 cylinder Subaru which set a record at Bonneville Salt Flats for methane fuel V6 2400 cc Mercury outboard power head mounted up to a Subaru 5 speed transaxle Viking V remained in the shadow of Viking IV always finishing second to IV in the cross country economy runs.

Viking VI

Viking VI was developed under a contract with The National Highway and Traffic Safety Authority in 1978 to show that a fuel efficient, low emission vehicle could meet or exceed federal crash­worthiness standards. Two of these vehicles were built. The first unit was fitted with anthropomorphic dummies and crashed at 43 MPH into a concrete barrier. The dummies survived with no injuries. The second Viking VI was further developed into a show car to demonstrate fuel economy and compliance with exhaust emission standards. At present the car can achieve 118 MPG at 50 MPH.

Viking VII

Viking VII is a high performance sports car built to determine if high fuel economy and clean exhaust could be maintained while offering "Supercar" levels of performance. Although fuel economy on the highway is only 50 MPG and less on the LA 4 cycle the car accelerates to 60 MPH in 5.3 seconds and can generate over 1 G in cornering power. The car has won the A-Modified class in local Autocross competition two years running.

Viking VIII

Viking VIII was an effort to capitalize on the success of Viking VII and introduce an limited production sports car to be built in Costa Rica and sold in the USA. Although the car would look like the successful Viking VII it would incorporate an American built engine transaxle assembly from Chrysler and use an all composite monocoque body­chassis unit. A single prototype was built along with tooling suitable for an initial production run. Unfortunately the client ran into financial difficulties and the initial production run never materialized.

Viking IX-IXX

Viking IX was a prototype for an Autocross type competition. A vehicle that students could build for themselves at low cost. Each student in the summer session of 1989 paid a $1,600 lab fee and purchased a 1970 vintage rotary engine (RX3, RX4, or RX7) car to serve as a donor car for the engine transmission rear axle for their Viking car. Viking numbers 10­19 were assigned to the Autocrossers built that summer. Although these cars are socially irresponsible a lot was learned about efficient limited production as the cars were built in nine weeks.

Viking XX

Viking XX was designed and built by students at Western Washington University's Vehicle Research Institute (VRI) under the direction of Dr. Michael Seal. It was 2nd in the 1990 GM Sunrayce USA (Orlando to Detroit), 5th in the 1990 World Solar Challenge in Australia, and 1st in the California Clean Air Race (Sacramento to Los Angles). In all the races it was the first 2-person vehicle to finish. This solar car is unique because it is designed to be turned around and driven from the other direction at midday so that the sloping solar panel can take maximum advantage of the sun's changing position. The 10,324 solar cells are space grade, monocrystalline silicon of approximately 15% efficiency. The peak power is 1800 watts.

The body is made from carbon fiber and other composite materials to form a monocoque chassis. The vehicle has a 10-horsepower Unique Mobility, permanent magnet DC brushless motor which is 95% efficient. The batteries are Eagle Picher, silver-zinc. The steering is cable and bobbin. The two 20″ wheels on the battery pod side steer the vehicle. In addition all three wheels can be steered to allow yaw of the complete car to reduce aerodynamic drag during crosswind conditions. The suspension is leading and trailing link, with parallel wishbone on the battery pod side. Non parallel unequal length wishbones are used on the driver side with air/oil suspension at each wheel. The motor is direct mounted on suspension, unsprung. Total weight is 600 lbs.

The top speed is 70 MPH under battery and solar power. Average speed on the highway is 50 MPH. Average speed city/highway during competitions is 32 MPH.


1990 GM Sunrayce USA

  • 2nd Overall

1990 World Solar Challenge in Australia

  • 1st in Two Person Class
  • 5th Overall

1991 California Clean Air Race

  • 1st Overall

Viking 21

The solar/electric car is rapidly becoming a viable alternative as an urban commuter but has little hope with the current battery and solar cell technology of being acceptable for inter-city use until a battery is developed that will allow greater range than is currency possible.

Following the success with Viking XX, Michael Seal decided to see if it would be possible to put the lessons reamed in the previous 20 years of Viking cars into a prototype for the 21st century. Viking 21 has been designed and is funded by the Washington State Ecology Department, The Bonneville Power Authority, Puget Sound Power and Light Co. and supporters from throughout Whatcom county.

Viking 21, a parallel hybrid is the Vehicle Research Institute's solution to the consumers desire to do what they can to help the environment yet not give up the freedom to travel by personal transport over long distances. The Viking 21 does not of course eliminate CO2 production but should go a long way towards reducing these emissions. It will use presently available technology and requires a minimum of adjustment on the users part. In the urban environment it will have a 100 mile range on solar/electric power while converting to a clean, fuel efficient internal combustion powered vehicle with an additional 200 mile range on compressed natural gas.

The solar/electric hybrid is a two seat coupe with both occupants seated side by side. The front wheels are powered by two brushless DC electric motors. The rear wheels are powered by a Yamaha motorcycle engine through a 5 speed gearbox. A third electric motor also drives through this gearbox to provide additional power for climbing grades and starting acceleration. This car can be driven as a zero emission car in an electric mode or as a low emission car running on compressed natural gas in its internal combustion engine mode.

All four wheels can be driven during ice and snow to enhance traction. Solar cells will be mounted on the new carbon fiber body panels and will collect solar energy to store in the fiber NiCad batteries while the car is stopped at a stop light or parked. The turbo charged, intercooled, fuel injected, natural gas engine will power the car at speeds over 50 MPH. The final chassis will be composite materials with a filament wound natural gas tank.

A unique feature of Viking 21 are wheels that mount two tires on a single rim much like a dual truck tire assembly. The two tires will be very different however, as the inner tire will have a hard compound rubber and round section giving a very small contact patch. The outer tire will have a wider tread patch and use very soft high grip rubber. The wheels will normally run at negative camber so the outer tire does not quite touch the road. During cornering normal chassis roll causes the outer wheel to become perpendicular to the road surface, the outer tire now grips the road securely allowing higher cornering power. When the brakes are applied a micro switch sends a signal to a solenoid high pressure valve which allow high pressure from the air pump to pressurize a central pneumatic system. Slave cylinder mounted at the outer end of each wishbone cause all four wheels to become perpendicular to the road greatly increasing traction when stopping. This system is currently being patented and a tire manufacturer is interested in the system.

Although Viking 21 doesn't have all the answers it will demonstrate to the public and to the world's auto makers that an advanced concept car that is comfortable and easy to drive can significantly reduce CO, CO2, H and NOX emissions and as well as reduce fuel consumption to minimum levels.

The Viking 21 "Mule" competed in the first Solar Electric Challenge for Pikes Peak. It won overall and was first in its class.

Viking 22, 24, 26, 28, 30 & 35

These cars have been built by the Formula SAE team.

Viking 23

Electric Reformulated Gasoline Hybrid Car


To demonstrate that a purpose designed and built electric hybrid vehicle will have adequate range, responsiveness and safety while providing low emissions.

Viking 23 – A solar electric hybrid vehicle was completed in August 1994. This vehicle's chassis and body were constructed from carbon fiber. The vehicle was designed to keep its batteries charged through the solar cells mounted on its body. The solar array should have produced approximately 700 watts of power. However, due to cell damage and problems with cell leads it has never been a viable source of power for the battery instead a battery charger is used to charge the batteries. The Honda 900 cc water-cooled motorcycle was converted to run on either methane or gasoline. Both fuel systems were fuel injected through programmable computers and drove the rear wheels. Viking 23 electric drive system utilized two Unique Mobility brushless D.C. motors driving the front wheels through a gearbox.. The car in this configuration was third in the 1996 American Tour de Sol.

In 1998 Viking 23 was converted to run on reformulated gasoline instead of CNG and a Daihatsu 993 cc, 3 cylinder fuel injected single overhead cam engine replaced the Honda. It was entered in the 1998 American Tour de Sol which ran from New York to Washington D.C. It won its class for best fuel efficiency and the most tour miles.


1988 – American Tour de Sol:

  • First Place DOE Hybrid Class
  • Most Efficient Hybrid

Sponsors 1992-1996

Washington State Dept. of Ecology & Energy, Bonneville Power Authority, Puget Power and Light Co. Cascade Natural Gas, Heath Tecna, Fiberite, Rocky Mountain Institute

Vehicle Specifications - 1998 American Tour de Sol

Carbon fiber with solar array upper panels
Carbon fiber monocoque with aluminum or steel reinforcements at mounting points.
11 kW hours of SAFT NiCad batteries charged by either the solar cells or household current.
I.C. Engine:
Daihatsu, 993cc, 3 cylinder fuel injected single overhead cam, fueled by reformulated gasoline.
Electric Motor:
Two Unique Mobility brushless D.C. motors driving the front wheels through a gearbox.
70 miles in zero emission mode at city speeds and approximately 400 miles at highway speeds.

Viking 25

Chrysler Neon – Electric Hybrid/Cng Conversion

Conversion of a Chrysler Neon to a hybrid vehicle with as little intrusion into the passenger compartment and trunk area as possible with components such as batteries, CNG tank and electric motor. The converted vehicle should retain all the desirable characteristics of the original Neon but achieve improved emissions (ULEV) standards in hybrid mode and zero emissions in electric mode.

Viking 25 is a stock Dodge Neon that was converted to an Electric Hybrid. This vehicle took fist place honors for consumer acceptability, application of advanced technology and range as well as heating, air conditioning and ventilation at the Hybrid Electric Vehicle Challenge in June 1995. In May 1996 swept its class in the Tour de Sol road rally winning best Neon conversion, lowest emissions, best use of materials, energy economy, range, consumer acceptance and engineering design. This vehicle meets ULEV!


1995 Hybrid Vehicle Competition

  • 1st Place in the Following
  • Most Range
  • Best Use of Advanced Technology
  • Most Consumer Acceptable Vehicle
  • Best Heater, Ventilation and Air-conditioning System
  • 3rd Place Overall

Vehicle Specifications And Modifications

Electric Motor:
Unique Mobility 32 kilowatt SR 218 brushless DC motor and controller. The motor is mounted in the engine compartment. It utilizes a Morse HV chain drive adapted to the five speed Neon transmission.
5 kilowatt hours of Saft nickel cadmium battery mounted in two battery boxes under the rear passenger seat. A power supply manufactured by Xantrex will charge the battery in 6 hours from complete discharge. Running the car in a regenerative braking mode will quick charge the battery to 90% in approximately 15 minutes.
I.C. Engine:
Neon engine converted to run on fuel injected compressed natural gas.
CNG Fuel Tank:
An 80 liter EDO carbon fiber fuel tank mounted under the trunk floor with a Kevlar protective shield. A Sherex dual stage regulator reduces CNG pressure to 1.24 MPA. The fill receptacle is an ANSI/AGA NGV 1 mounted in the original gasoline filler space.

Control Strategy

The vehicle has three modes of operation: EV - Electric Only, Internal Combustion Engine Only (ICE), and Hybrid - Both Electric and ICE running together. To encourage electric vehicle operation, the vehicle always starts in the EV mode and stays in that mode unless the vehicle performance drops below what the operator desires. If the battery is nearly flat, performance will drop off and the car will be at full EV throttle position for too long (more than 6 sec) and a timer will signal a start up routine which will start the IC engine. Once the ICE has been started, it remains running until the vehicle has been shut down with the start-stop switch.

Viking 27

Viking 27 is a Crysler minivan which has been converted to run on propane.

Viking 29

A Thermophotovoltaic Series Electric Hybrid

The Viking 29 is a ground-up two-seat electric sports car designed and built at the VRI. The battery charge is maintained by a Thermophotovoltaic (TPV or "Midnight Sun") generator. Funding for the TPV generator and the vehicle was from a US Department of Energy (DOE) grants in concert with an industry partner, JX Crystals of Issaquah, WA. Final installation and finishing was supported by the MURI Dept. of Defense grant. The 8 kW generator makes use of gallium antimonide photovoltaic cells surrounding a central emitter heated by a compressed natural gas flame to 1700 Kelvin. The infrared photons generated activate the photovoltaic cells to produce electricity. This generator is very clean and quiet. The electric motor is a Unique Mobility 75 kW (100 HP) motor which is 95% efficient through most of the operating regime. The motor is mounted end on to a single dry plate clutch assembly running in ball bearing in separate housing designed to remove all thrust loading from the electric motor. The clutch assemble is mounted end on to a transversely mounted, four speed wide ratio transaxle mounted between the rear wheels of the vehicle.

As further funding was not available to develop the TPV generator system, this form of power generation is not currently a viable source of power generation for vehicles.


To demonstrate thermophotovoltaic generation of power in a custom designed series hybrid vehicle


The US Department's of Energy and Defense, JX Crystals of Issaquah, WA and the Vehicle Research Institute at Western Washington University, Bellingham, WA

Vehicle Specifications

Thermophotovoltaic Generator:
The 6.5 kW generator makes use of gallium antimonide photovoltaic cells surrounding a central emiter heated by a compressed natural gas flame to 1700 Kelvin. The infrared photons generated activate the PV cells to produce electricity that maintains a charge in the battery. This generator is very clean and quiet.
Electric Motor:
Unique Mobility 53 kW motor which is 92% efficiency through most of the operating regime. The motor is mounted end on to a single dry plate clutch assembly running in ball bearings in a separate housing designed to remove all thrust loading from the electric motor. The clutch assembly is mounted end on to a transversely mounted, four speed, wide ratio transaxle mounted between the rear wheels of the vehicle.
Ten kW hours at 360 V of Saft NiCd batteries.
I.C. Engine:
Daihatsu, 993cc, 3 cylinder fuel injected single overhead cam, fueled by reformulated gasoline.
Electric Motor:
Two Unique Mobility brushless D.C. motors driving the front wheels through a gearbox.
Composite materials in a vinyl-ester matrix. All of the air ducts have been made structural to provide increased chassis stiffness.
Currently untested at this time. It is expected to have a range as a series hybrid of approximately 200 miles.


Viking 32

The Viking 32 is the last Viking car to be built under the direction of Dr. Seal. It was funded with $200,000 from WWU and an $800,000 contract from the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA). The Viking 32 hybrid safety vehicle attempts to show that a vehicle designed to produce little or no CO2 can provide the desired features of a sport utility vehicle without giving up any of the desirable features of a passenger car. Unlike the hybrid vehicles currently sold in the USA which make minimal use of the electric drive, the Viking 32 has 100 hp (75 kW) available from the front drive electric propulsion motor and 100 hp (75 kW) from the rear drive internal combustion engine (ICE). Each system is used during the driving range in a manner that provides the highest efficiency possible unless maximum performance all wheel drive (AWD) is called for at wide open throttle (WOT) when both power plants run.

In May 2004, the Viking 32 competed in the sixteenth Tour de Sol five day competition sponsored by the Northeast Sustainable Energy Association (NESEA). This year the event started in Burlington, New Jersey, where technical inspection was completed, and fuel economy, acceleration, and braking tests were run over a three day period. The event then had an economy run to Trenton, New Jersey. After being on display in Trenton, the cars competed in an Autocross before moving on to the Seaport in New York City. They were displayed for the day, and in the late afternoon the awards were given out to the winners. Viking 32 won all the performance awards: best acceleration 0-74 mph in 6.2 seconds, best in braking, best time in the autocross. It achieved 50 mpg in fuel economy (our target for the contract). It was third overall in the light duty modified/prototype hybrid class.

Viking 33, 34 & 36

These cars have been built by the SAE Mini Baja team. Check out their website:

WWU SAE Mini Baja

Viking 40

Viking 40 (V40) is a fully carbon fiber vehicle built as a prototype to our 100+ MPG Viking 45, our entry in the X-Prize competition. V40 is built the be ultra-aerodynamic and ultra-lightweight (1080 lbs) while producing large amounts of power (est. 250 hp) from a gasoline powered, turbocharged Honda 4-cylinder engine. This vehicle was fabricated entirely by students from the Vehicle Research Institute at Western Washington University.

Viking 45

The successor to V40 is V45, which will be our entry into the Automotive X-Prize competition in 2009. V45 will share the same carbon monocoque chassis as V40, but will introduce some economy-boosting features. Among these are a fully enclosed cockpit for better aerodynamics, lightweight carbon suspension members, and a new hybrid drivetrain. V45 will also have the flexibility to incorporate different innovative engine types, such as biomethane, CNG, and all-electric.

Page Updated 03.06.2019