MAX Update No. 32: Why We Resigned from the Auto X Prize


“When I gave up cigarettes, my dad called me a quitter.” — an old McCornack joke

We have officially withdrawn MAX from the Progressive Insurance Automotive X Prize competition. It was a no-hard-feelings decision by both parties.

Have no fear, this doesn't mean the end of MAX. It doesn't even mean an end to our involvement with the Auto X Prize competition. I intend to be there for their race events and cover them as a journalist. And I expect MAX will be the most fuel-efficient vehicle in the press corps.

Jack and MAXBut from a competition standpoint, it is clear that we and the X Prize Foundation are marching to the sounds of different drummers, so it’s time we take our hat out of the ring.

For the first year or so, the X Prize Foundation thought MAX was pretty neat. They didn't have many applicants yet, and we were one of the few with an actual car on the road. The MAX Project and the Auto X Prize were good for each other in the early days.

But lately, this competition has been interfering with our goal for MAX: a high-mileage car you can build on a budget. The final rules have no place for a DIY car, and preparing MAX (even on paper) for factory production — as in 10,000 cars a year — has been sucking up our resources like you wouldn't believe. In the last year I have literally spent more hours filling out X Prize Foundation paperwork than I've spent developing MAX, and MAX has suffered for it. Instead of working on streamlining to improve the car’s gas mileage, I've been writing business plans and tech documents and getting price quotes, for every single part in the car. Imagine trying to figure out the cost of 20,000 windshield wiper blades to be delivered in five years, etc., etc., etc.

9/21/2009 6:19:03 PM

Please Please, Please Don't listen to Ben H or Neil!!! I don't want some POS hacked Ford or Toyota that you DIY'd into decent gas mileage. I want Max! A cute, sexy. FUN roadster that happens to get 100 MPH (I don't care if you only hit 80). Re use the good stuff...Miata suspension (maybe the 6 Sp manual), brakes etc but skip what's coming out of Japan, Detroit or Europe when it comes to styling. I have to admit that the Tesla's turn my head but since max costs less then the SALES TAX on a Tesla guess which one I might actually be able to get! Where do I sign up for Max's waiting list? There'll probably be 10K Max's on the road before whoever wins the x prize (doesn't deserve a capitol X) produces their first production vehicle! It would be ironic if you show up as a spectator and still kick their a$$!!! Keep up the good work and let me know when I can order one!!! I'll beg/borrow/steal the cash! :-)

8/27/2009 12:00:13 PM

Sorry to see Max out of the race. Your approach was refreshing, as I have had a Midget, the idea seemed viable. The scope of the race has changed from inception. It was at first touted as a "Cross Country Rally" type race to have legs in various cities across the states. Then it was reduced to a smaller number. Now it doesn't seem like much more than a showcase for a few upstart producers. The spirit of invention seems to have flown out the window to the EV-1 scrapyard! Seems like this event has suffered from Litigeous Lawyeritus. The Eco Challenge in Australia is what the X Prize race should have been.

Neil Larkins
8/25/2009 8:30:06 PM

Jeff, I like your idea. There are already local high-mpg competitions all over this country. Jory Squibb, he of "Moonbeam" fame (Google his site), has entered his 100 mpg car in several, notably the one in his home state of Maine. A national competition would be nice, if for no other reason than to showcase the best DIY designs for others to emulate. Something else: Designs like MAX have been around for awhile - R.Q.Riley's 128 mpg Centurian being one of them. (In fact, MAX is remarkably like it in its propulsion method, though the Centurian has been in existence since the late 70's, I believe.) Nevertheless, if such a competion could show people how do-able these designs can be by someone with slightly above average mechanical skills with a decently-equipped shop, and at a cost well within MAX's target cost, then a lot would be accomplished.

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