Re: [EVDL] X-prise a disappointment?
Just found this list, so late to the fray...
I spent most of my summer trackside at MIS (Michigan International
Speedway) helping Team TW4XP (www.tw4xp.com), comprised of many of the
folks that manufacture my vehicle -- the Twike -- from Germany compete
in the Progressive Insurance Automotive X PRIZE. We passed all of the
technical requirements and rigorous testing to win the side-by-side
class of the X PRIZE, but unfortunately unlike the mainstream and tandem
classes, where there was only one team in each left standing, 4 of our
competitors also "won the X PRIZE". This necessitated a 'winner takes
all' 100 mile race (fastest around the track over 100 MPGe wins) in
which we finished, but placed 3rd. So there were three money winners,
US$5 mill for the "mainstream" class, US $2.5 for tandem and US $2.5 for
Over the summer, as we watched our fellow competitors fall during the
shakedown and knockout stages, contingency planning occurred and our
mantra for the X PRIZE quickly became "There are many ways to win..."
Regarding my personal interest in the X PRIZE, after initially being
intrigued by it several years ago, I became disappointed after watching
the rules changing wildly (quickest way to kill a fanbase is change your
sport/events rules too often), from what seemed to be an attempt to
appease the petrol-fuel proponents: assigning a CO2 value to an EV, and
then claiming to measure "from pump/plug to wheels" An EV emits no CO2
from the plug-to-wheels.
But my interest was reignited early this year when I learned that
E-mobile Motors GmbH, a new venture comprised of many of the individuals
that are also in FINE Mobile, builders of the Twike were participating
in the X PRIZE: I'd been saving up my vacation days and rolling them
over to the maximum for a trip to Germany, to get to know and meet the
FINE Mobile folks and hopefully figure out how to get more Twikes in the
US. And the X PRIZE brought Germany to me!
I work on campus at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, and
Michigan is essentially my "back yard" (granted, MIS is 6 hours or so
away but that's MUCH closer and cheaper than Germany). So after
initially snickering and writing off the X PRIZE (my Twike already gets
200-600 MPGe, and I don't need to go 80mph back and forth the 6-10 miles
to work everyday) I again became involved with the X PRIZE, but not with
the X PRIZE per se -- my personal goal for the X PRIZE was to figure out
what Martin, Wolfgang, Bernd & Barbara needed while they were in the US,
and help them control costs so that they don't lose their shirt on the X
PRIZE and possibly put the Twike at risk. Money as well as marriages
were sacrificed for the X PRIZE. So my good friend Randy Reisinger
(CalCars.org -- the 100+ MPG Prius hackers, SugarRides.com) and I
(Founder/President, Illinois Electric Vehicle Association) became the
translation/local support and gear team as well as housing and vehicle
storage during the weeks in-between competition as part of Team TW4XP.
With respect to my personal X PRIZE goals, Randy and I won big. We now
have both a great friendship and business relationship with Martin et.
al. of FINE Mobile, and we are working with them to import and provide
service for Twikes in the US (there are about 20 existing in the US,
most from 1998-era and they're very hard to find/sought after and many
in need of some TLC). This is a dream come true for me, as this is one
of the longest-running production EV's on the road, with over 10 years
of real-world, world-wide driving testing/history.
Regarding the Edison2 (the ICE that won the mainstream 5 million),
Oliver Kuttner is on record as stating that he initially became
interested in it for the $$$, and he played the game and played it well.
As a former F1 driver in Europe, his team stacked their odds by
designing a lightweight, comparatively cheap base vehicle (compared to
the EV's) so they could enter essentially the same vehicle in every
class (two in the $5 million mainstream class, one each in $2.5 mill
tandem and side-by-side).
As part of Team TW4XP, I worked in the garage stall next to him, and
over his time with the X PRIZE he has become a very good spokesman and
advocate for high efficiency vehicles: he's no longer in it just for the
prize money. He, his team and his family personally advocated for our
team, coming to our support on several occasions where the decision
could've gone either way (when connected, the X PRIZE monitoring
equipment interacted badly with our CANBUS, causing the vehicle to
shutdown -- this happened to other teams as well). He also comes from
the business/real estate industry as well as automotive racing, and is
already proving invaluable to the EV/lightweight vehicle industry. I am
very grateful to Oliver, his family and Edison2.
BUT, while the Edison2 cars themselves met the technical rules of the X
PRIZE, (and I'm trying to say this as graciously as possible) they were
not something that appeals to me for a number of reasons and as such I
would not argue with anyone who is disappointed in the result. Edison2
did bring to light the importance of lightweighting in such a fashion to
as not be ignored by the automotive industry, and there are some key
technologies that make lightweighting possible that are in the Edison2
vehicles that. Having two of their vehicles motors fail during the
competition, and both blow during coastdown at Chelsea also solidly
sounds the death-knell for ICE vehicles in high MPGe. Oliver was able
to get a combined MPGe for the entire competition just over the required
100 MPGe, and that is both highly impressive and the end. And yet
Lotus, once king of lightweight and nimble, just announced a 3600 pound
hybrid V8... so there's obviously A LOT more work to be done, and I'm
glad we have Oliver on our team.
There were many vehicles there that were inspiring. Here are my
If Illuminati Seven's clutch hadn't blown, or they'd been allowed to
repair it by bolting the transmisison together, you would've seen a
different vehicle in the mainstream class winner's circle. I've been in
that vehicle after it was repaired, doing 90mph down a country road at
night. With 4 people in it. (www.illuminatimotorworks.org)
Rick of Commuter Cars' Tango (www.commutercars.com) solves both the lung
and artery (road) congestion problem with a very attractive vehicle that
has a broader mass appeal than the eTracer (the winner) which is a very
interesting enclosed two-wheel motorcycle with what can best be
described as retractable training wheels. Rick was out on emissions and
range (again, CO2 testing on an EV???)
But I'm a pragmatist, and so none of the 4-wheel vehicles hold my
attention for long when looking at mass-production I'm a 3-wheeler fan:
I sincerely hope that they prove me wrong, for while very close to being
ready for production IMW's Seven and Tango, like the winner of the
side-by-side class Li-ion Wave has a long, difficult road to series (and
hopefully mass) production:
Given the state of the law in the US, none of the 4-wheeled vehicles
driven in the X PRIZE has a chance to be mass produced unless the small
manufacturer/designers team up with somebody with very deep pockets for
crash testing. Lightweighting is very difficult when you have to start
tacking on Federally required safety equipment (this is why EV'ers
interested in lightweight do not typically build up from scratch, but
lightweight a stripped-down old car frame that the year of manufacture
grandfathers around the safety mandates).
As I said, Team TW4XP learned early that "there are many ways to win"
Here are just some of the wins from the X PRIZE that may lessen your
1. It spurred the rapid development of high MPGe/EV tech by
placing us next to each other in the same garage. Most teams were
*very* open with their tech and helped other teams when they were down.
Frank and honest discussions were held with each other on where to find
parts (FYI, it's almost impossible to turn down manufacturing parts in
China). What you ended up with is a gathering of folks on the leading
edge of vehicle development, unafraid and unencumbered by marketing
departments, bean counters and traditional car manufacturer mentality.
These folks don't know what a box is, let alone be found thinking inside
2. There will most likely be a post X-PRIZE consortium of
contestants, extending the results of #1. Literally years of work and
development were compressed into several months spurred by the X PRIZE
competition. We are very much in contact with each other.
3. Did I mention more Twikes in the US ;-)
4. More FUN! Folks seemed to forget this at the awards ceremony.
EV's -- especially these EV's -- are just more fun. They *ARE*
life-sized versions of the matchbox/hotwheels cars I used to play with
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