DIY





Enter MAX: 100 mpg or Bust


| 7/11/2008 7:42:12 AM



Hello, I'm Jack McCornack, and this is the first blog entry in the chronicles of MAX, the Mother Earth News Automotive X Prize entry.

The Progressive Insurance Auto X Prize is a competition to develop high-mileage vehicles. You can read more about it here and here, but in brief, the target is 100 miles per gallon, and the cars have to be suitable for mass production. 

Oh, sure, the $10 million in prize money is attractive, but the big outfits say that's a drop in the bucket compared to what it takes to develop such a car. But then again, for an automaker, the publicity of winning would be worth much more than the prize money.

For Mother Earth News and me, the prize money doesn't matter because we aren't going to win any of it. We're in this to show what concerned do-it-yourselfers can do on a small budget, with readily available materials and present day technology. And if that's only 90 percent as good as the winners, well heck, I wouldn't mind driving a 90-mpg car that I built myself. Will it be suitable for mass production? You bet. In fact, it'll be so suitable for production that when we're done, we're going to tell you how to produce one of your own.

Last summer, I showed up at the Mother Earth News headquarters for the first time in a quarter century. While the faces had changed, the spirit felt the same. I met with Cheryl Long (the editor in chief) and John Rockhold (the green transportation editor) and we talked about old times. Even though this time I was the old-timer, the conversation followed a familiar path: what can we do to make things better?

Personally, I think Mother Earth News’ greatest contribution (cue the violin music) has been seeding our nation with (stirring trumpets enter here) folks who are happy with conservation (kettle drums, muffled snares), despite living in a culture where highest honors are given to (rim shot) waste and excess (whoopie cushion). Seriously now, how can people take pride in houses with 4,000 square feet of floor space per resident, and cars that get 11 mpg, and ...?



So after I stopped jumping up and down and foaming at the mouth, the editors said, “Yes! Let's do it, let's demonstrate that dramatic improvements in fuel economy are within reach. Jack, you’re the project manager — go for it! But please wipe that foam off your mouth, it looks creepy.”

Tom Whitehead
10/30/2008 5:23:30 PM

kudos to Jack for pointing the way. It's sad to say that we can't count on our political leaders to do anything, nor can we count on big business either. Chevrolet took out a full-page ad in the scientific American ballyhooing that their Chevy Tahoe had been selected "green car of the year". At 14 miles to the gallon (city). so now we are left to our own devices, so we'd better get working.and that's the beauty of the Locust concept, you can pretty much do anything you want with it. if you want more ground clearance, just mount the suspension a little bit lower.if you want a little more carrying capacity, stretch the frame out a bit, or add a trailer hitch. I've been looking into a lower-cost engine alternative. It turns out that Thermo king refrigerator units (or freezer units) used a four-cylinder Daimler Benz engine that would probably be ideal. It was the same engine that they used in their automobiles from 1953 to 1962. at that time they were rated at 40 hp at 3200 rpm They kept producing them as an industrial engine up into the 80s. they derated them to 25 hp.I don't know what they did to derate them, but they might just have turned them a little slower. I hope this helps, Tom


Tom Whitehead
10/30/2008 5:23:05 PM

kudos to Jack for pointing the way. It's sad to say that we can't count on our political leaders to do anything, nor can we count on big business either. Chevrolet took out a full-page ad in the scientific American ballyhooing that their Chevy Tahoe had been selected "green car of the year". At 14 miles to the gallon (city). so now we are left to our own devices, so we'd better get working.and that's the beauty of the Locust concept, you can pretty much do anything you want with it. if you want more ground clearance, just mount the suspension a little bit lower.if you want a little more carrying capacity, stretch the frame out a bit, or add a trailer hitch. I've been looking into a lower-cost engine alternative. It turns out that Thermo king refrigerator units (or freezer units) used a four-cylinder Daimler Benz engine that would probably be ideal. It was the same engine that they used in their automobiles from 1953 to 1962. at that time they were rated at 40 hp at 3200 rpm They kept producing them as an industrial engine up into the 80s. they derated them to 25 hp.I don't know what they did to derate them, but they might just have turned them a little slower. I hope this helps, Tom


Jack McCornack
7/16/2008 5:56:48 PM

>Is the MEN version going to be able to handle rural roads and lifestyles? Rural roads? You bet; MAX will go anywhere a 28-year-old Toyota Corolla wil go. Lifestyle? If you're lugging haybales 'twixt field and barn, it's going to take you a lot of trips. My own rural lifestyle doesn't include livestock, so I've got it easy, but in general, I favor multiple vehicles as appropriate for multiple tasks.




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