Automotive X PRIZE competitor Illuminati Motor Works Q & A

Kevin:

The design/concept phase has a rather drawn out timeline. We started out fairly confident that we could make a series hybrid work…basically an electric car with some type of generator in the ‘trunk’ to maintain the battery state of charge. However the type of motor, controller, engine/gen-set, micro turbine, etc. was all up in the air. We had a lot of successes along the way…usually followed shortly after by a real let down.

Josh:

You got that right.

Kevin:

We’d find the right part and discover we couldn’t afford it or couldn’t import it into the country, or find that the data sheet or our numbers were off and the part wasn’t all it originally seemed to be. This continued until June, when a couple things happened all at once, we had our final let down with yet another engine that was supposed to run our generator…emissions were just a little too high to meet the competition standards, our final design report was due into the XPRIZE foundation and we found a battery supplier that would supply us with batteries at 1/3 the price of their closest competitor. These things coming together like they did so late in the game really guided the decision for us, the rules of the competition require certain performance and cost criteria, so necessity being what it is, we followed her lead and she lead us to all electric. This of course after agonizing for months over performance calculations, pricing, availability and size limitations of the vehicle.

Thomas:

In the end I advised Kevin that no matter how much we liked the idea of just pulling up to a gas station and ‘filling-her-up” we just couldn’t meet the emission standards for a small gas generator regardless of the fuel we used; we didn’t have the research and development time or the money on hand to develop the complex control strategy that is used on a modern vehicle or to meet the competitions emission standards.

5. What are some of the challenges the team has faced up to this point in the build?

Nate:

Money and time, we are self-funded and all work full time jobs.

Kevin:

I agree with Nate, the biggest hurdles seem to be money and time.

George:

Two challenges probably overlooked with this project are the heat during the summer, and cold during the winter in the shop. It can get rather hard to think when sweat is running down your nose and you are reading reference material covering subjects you have not thought about in the last few years or since you were in school (long time ago). Yes, we decided to get an air conditioner to keep the computers cool; there were no objections from the humans.

During the winter the first thing we would do each day was to start a fire in the wood burning stove. When working on the computer and shivering you would look for an excuse to get up and add another log to the fire. And of course hold your hands over the stove for warmth. One of the best things we did was at suggestion from Thomas was to put a heat exchanger on the exhaust from the stove. This gave us much appreciated heat.

Kevin:

I agree George. However when the only place you have to work is in a 50 year old dirt floor tractor shed, we had to make sacrifices until we could scrap together the money for some heat and air, not to mention a couple walls, the blue tarps were great but made a terrible racket and tended to let out a little heat in the winter. So not only are we building a car we’re fixing up an old building at the same time.