It has three wheels, weighs 400 pounds and gets 80 to 100 miles per gallon — and it costs about $6 to fill the fuel tank.

Meet Moonbeam, a tiny, two-seated vehicle constructed from what was once a pair of motor scooters. Moonbeam, which was completed in 2006, is the creation of Jory Squibb of Camden, a man who grew tired of the high price of filling the gas tank of his Toyota.

Squibb built Moonbeam over the winter of 2005-06 as an alternative for getting around town while also using much less fuel. Moonbeam tops out at about 45 miles per hour.

“It seemed pretty silly to move 150 pounds of person around in 4,000 pounds of vehicle,” Squibb said.

Squibb joined Bill Buchholz of Camden and Bob Bailey of Appleton as speakers at a presentation focused on highly fuel efficient vehicles that was held at Waldo County Technical Center Thursday, Oct. 20. Buchholz and Bailey are two of the makers of another uber-efficient, head-turning three-wheeler named the Dirigo.

Buchholz said the Dirigo was originally intended to be an entry in the international Progressive Insurance Automotive X Prize contest, a showdown held in Michigan in 2010 that offered a $10 million prize. The contest was aimed at encouraging the development of road-worthy cars that could get 100 miles per gallon or more.

Beginning in 2007, Buchholz and Bailey became part of a group of 20 local folks who met regularly over the course of six months to come up with a design for a car that would eventually become the Dirigo. When it came time to build the machine, the operation was moved to a private garage in Lincolnville.

Over time, the group dwindled to four people, including Buchholz and Bailey, but the enthusiasm of the group remained steady.

“The four of us who were left began building it. It took 18 months of Saturday mornings,” Buchholz said.

The body of the Dirigo, Buchholz told the students, is made out of parts from an ATV known as the Kawasaki Mule. The Dirigo can go up to 70 miles per hour, runs on diesel and costs $12 to fill the 4.5-gallon fuel tank.

It lacks some of the frills that many drivers have come to expect in the vehicles they drive, namely a radio or a heater, but it does have a cup holder, digital speedometer and oil pressure gauge, and a cell phone holder.

But getting the Dirigo completed in a timely manner, while also adhering to the rules of the X Prize contest, proved to be an insurmountable task for the midcoast Maine team. Along with designing and building the car, Buchholz said the contest called for various drafts of drawings, a business plan and other detailed paperwork. Buchholz said the foursome had also raised money from members of the community to get the Dirigo constructed — it cost about $15,000 for the materials alone — and that one local man had offered “a big chunk” once the team gained nonprofit status. But the downturn of the stock market, Buchholz said, caused the would-be donor to lose a lot of his money and forced him to renege on his offer.

“That’s when we knew we wouldn’t compete after all,” said Buchholz.

But that was far from the end of the road for the Dirigo. The micro-car has since traveled to places as far away as Pennsylvania and California, and secured a second-place win at the Green Grand Prix during its inaugural road trip in 2009. At that time, Buchholz said, the Dirigo got 89 miles per gallon. That achievement was a pleasant surprise, he said, since it averaged about 55 miles per gallon before it even got to the race, which was held in Watkins Glen, NY.

“We went from Camden to Rockland to get windows and we only got about 55 miles to the gallon,” recalled Buchholz. “We thought, ‘Oh this is going to be a disaster.'”

As it turned out, fully inflating the tires before the race made the difference.

“It was a total success,” said Buchholz.

The presentation was organized by WCTC general trade instructor Doug Raymond, and included students from several of the WCTC programs as well as members of the AP environmental science class from Belfast Area High School.

Since it takes all different types of skill sets to complete vehicles like Moonbeam and the Dirigo, Raymond said students interested in everything from woodworking and welding to automotive repair and science could get something out of the presentation.

“All of the programs here kind of tie into this,” he said.

After Squibb, Buchholz and Bailey wrapped up their talk, the trio invited students to get a closer look at the vehicles.

Students immediately swarmed the tiny cars and peppered the men who crafted them with more detailed questions about things like the braking system, aerodynamics and weight distribution.

BAHS senior Tim Rose found both cars to be not only fascinating, but inspiring.

“It’s not only cool to see them, but it’s eye-opening, to think of all the possibilities,” he said.

Mary-Ann Fargo, a Mount View High School sophomore who is a student in the wood shop program at WCTC, described Moonbeam and the Dirigo as “awesome” after climbing behind the wheel of both vehicles.

While Moonbeam and the Dirigo are considered finished projects, the quest to promote inexpensive and environmentally friendly transportation will continue for Squibb, Buchholz.

Squibb said he has begun building another car that he hopes will be even more efficient than Moonbeam. Buchholz said he hopes to use the Dirigo as a way to foster a better understanding of these small, eco-friendly cars among those who have become accustomed to driving much bigger gas-guzzling vehicles.

“There are cars in Europe that get 65 miles to the gallon coming right off the showroom floor,” said Buchholz. “We can’t get them here, and no one knows why. I’d like to follow some of those questions and see if I can discover some real answers.”