Over the course of the Progressive Insurance Automotive X PRIZE, the teams posted blog entries about their successes, challenges and progress in the competition. Some teams even provided insight about what motivated them to participate in such a difficult contest. A number of posts really captured the spirit of the competition, and provided a personal look into what inspired these incredible teams. We wanted to highlight a few of these blog posts, in order to more widely share their vision. We hope that you will make it a point to visit their websites and keep track of what they are continuing to do to meet the long-term goals of the competition.
I have found a calling; I don’t know how it happened. I was working a pretty nice job when fate stepped in. I was going through life day by day then I read the Illinois Times Article “Eyes on the Prize.” I was curious about this group of guys building an X PRIZE car, and I wanted to help out in any way I could. Since I was not wealthy I offered my time not too much at first mostly because I was a not an experienced fabricator. I would make up for my initial limited commitment.
Back then Seven was to be a series hybrid which is to say you plug in your car at night and the internal combustion engine is only used to extend the range of your battery pack. This allows you all the benefits of an efficient electric drive train while minimizes the problems of gasoline and battery vehicles. Long story short you use the internal combustion engine at its most efficient RPM to convert the chemical energy in the gasoline into electricity, and use this electricity to drive the vehicle. Series Hybrid Evaro from team FVT is a very good representation of this approach. Seeing what X PRIZE was requiring for gasoline powered vehicles sealed the deal, we didn’t have the time to develop Seven as a series hybrid. Somehow I fell into the role of electrical engineer. I had the schooling for electronics, but this project was a big test for me. I mostly was on my own to integrate the electronics systems to charge, propel, and communicate. Having never done this before I made some mistakes, and would do some things differently, but the car runs fairly well.
At Shakedown is where I worked the hardest in my life using everything I could to get the car going. We were very pressed for time just finishing the car then getting it through tech required several sleepless nights building circuits on the fly, but we did it. Our drive system although beautifully engineered is cryptic to implement because the manual is lacking in thoroughness and has been translated roughly from Italian.
We made it through Shakedown a bit shaken up.
So what did I do after Shakedown? First order of business was to get the motor accelerating and regening the way it should. We got regenerative braking to work first then I figured out why the car wasn’t accelerating properly. Yes I think the car can accelerate to 60 in 15 seconds we nearly did it with 4 people in the car; that might have hurt our clutch come to think of it. After those kinks were figured out I had the brilliant Idea to rewire the car. We needed to place connectors on our components to allow them to be removed anyway. I was working on the wiring up until Seven left for knockout. I had to stay in Springfield to until the weekend; Kevin was able to get Seven through tech inspection with a little coaching. I worked every spare moment I had on Seven the only brakes were when people needed to work where I did, and on those days I would go home and sleep then come back after they were done. I only seen the sun come up a few times while still at the shop, but I had to get my stuff done I felt as though the team was counting on me.
Now what, I found something I love do to, but I am in a place that doesn’t do it. There is no industry around Springfield. I have become a big fish in a small pond. What we need now is a benefactor to recognize our talent and provide the means to realize our potential. We have proven problem solving and design skills, now we are on the sideline waiting to be put into the game. I think I can speak for most of the team members, and correct me if I am wrong; we are looking to do this sort of thing for a career, and we are pretty damn good at it.