Enter MAX: 100 mpg or Bust

Reader Contribution by Staff

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.”

And that’s how MAX got started.

Look for much more on the infant days of MAX in Here Comes the 100-mpg Car. And follow our progress through this blog, the Green Energy & Great Homes e-newsletter and my Kinetic Vehicles Web site.

Stay tuned, this is going to be a heckuva fun ride.