MAX Update No. 26: Seeking Ideas for More Horsepower


Photo by Pixabay/qimono

The rules for the Progressive Insurance Automotive X Prize have been under development for some years now, and all us entrants are on pins and needles — waiting for their release. We've had looks at rule proposals all along the way, given to us in confidence. That's really been the only challenge I've faced as a combination entrant/journalist: there have been times I've had burn-after-reading documents and had to resist my urge to blab.

But now that the latest draft of the Auto X Prize Competition Guidelines have been made available to the public, I'm going to ask for your advice.

The final rules are pretty certain to require we meet a performance standard of zero to 60 mph in under 18 seconds. Not much under, 17.999 will do, but for MAX, that's going to be tough.

What? 18 seconds to 60 mph isn't very fast, but you'd be surprised how many vehicles on the road can't do it. Fully loaded, my four-cylinder Dodge Caravan can't do it, and while it's hardly a performance car, it's adequate. Anyway, this 18 second thing is a fairly recent requirement. It wasn't in the projections when we signed up, so we had designed MAX from the get-go to hit 60 mph in 20 seconds.

Why 20 seconds? Because that's in keeping with the low budget sports cars you could buy new when I was young (and quicker than some, such as the Bugeye Sprites and the Karman Ghias) and I thought it could be done today with a 100-mpg, low-budget sports car. I'll confess we haven't hit 60 mph in 20 seconds yet. On paper it looks like streamlining will get us down to that, so I'm not worried. Or I wasn't before … but I am now.

Jack McCornack
9/8/2010 7:38:58 AM

Thank you all for these thoughtful and inspirational comments. I'm going to try implementing some of these ideas when I get back from the MEN Fair late this month. I'll be making my choices based on cheap, light, harmless, and finally, whether they seem likely to work or not. But first I'm going to take MAX up to Washington State and get a smog check. I want to have a base line before I start messing with the motor. I haven't had success getting a smog check here in Southern Oregon, the state sets the fee at $10 (which ain't much) so nobody's real excited about testing a vehicle that doesn't require testing. But I want to know, so I can re-test after any engine mods and see that I haven't made emissions any worse. For example, resetting the governor to a higher RPM limit meets the cheap (free, actually) and light (no weight change at all) and will almost certainly increase power, but what will it do for NoX? I won't know unless I test first, make the change, and try it again. Ditto turbo adjustments. The only mod I believe is guaranteed to meet all my requirements is... Well, could the pilot be lightened? :) ...and Tom, that is such a great idea that I got right on it, and have shed a whopping 40 pounds since your comment hit the blog.

Billy Clark
9/7/2010 12:12:16 PM

Generally speaking, diesel tractor engines are easliy capible of additional horsepower as they stand. If you do a little checking you'll likely find that the exact same engine you're using comes in a range of horsepower configurations. Also, generally speaking a diesel gets BETTER, yes that's right, better fuel economy with increases in power, or fueling rates. My experience with large diesel engines has shown an easy 10% increase in economy with a 10-20% increase in fuel and a slight bump in timing. With more at the beck and call the engine calls for it and gets to it's target speed and backs off rather than puffing along for miles trying to get topped out. My '99 Dodge/Cummins will get 24mpg highway with a 50 hp increase via a computer flash/programming change. It comes rated at 215 hp in the stock truck, but the EXACT SAME ENGINE can be found making up to 400 hp in other applications So, do you have a manual injector pump, or an electronic one? It just determines whether you need to turn some screws, or find a way to "tweak" the programming. Most everything is electronic nowadays with all the emissions requirements and such. Hey, give it a shot. If the fuel mileage suffers you can always set it back to stock, but I'm betting you will be pleased with the results all the way around.

Christina Ward_2
8/26/2009 12:02:56 PM

There are alot of really good ideas, here. The first thing that came to my mind was the addition of the hydrogen generator (water is cheaper than gas!). Hydrogen would give you that extra boost with either a gas or diesel powered engine combo. I don't think it'd be so great with an electric generation system,though. I'm only an intermediate "gear head", not a pro by any means. I hear the Hydrogen system actually will increase your mpg a great deal. Good Luck, Jack!!! Christi

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