As mentioned in MAX Update 100: The Shows Must Go On, the latest blog software eliminated the MAX Update index, which made finding old posts a genuine challenge. To remedy this, I’ve started an index on my own web site at Kinetic Vehicles, so posts can be located by number, title, or subject.
One reason this is taking me a while is it’s so distracting. I search motherearthnews.com for the next post on the list and then read it and…boy, since I’m starting the index at the beginning and working my way up to the now, I haven’t seen some of these posts for years, and some of them are a real trip down Memory Lane. And some make me wonder “What was I thinking?” And some claimed “I’ll get back to you on that,” and I never did. And one was deliberately evasive.
Ah yes, MAX Update No. 32: Why We Resigned From The Auto X Prize. That was about four years ago, and I still (as recently as last week, in fact) get calls saying “There’s got to be more to the story than that,” and yes, there was. I’ll touch on two of the reasons not mentioned.
I believe the Progressive Automotive X Prize (as it was eventually named) did some good by getting people thinking about fuel efficient automobiles, but the organizers seemed to lose sight of some of their initial goals. One goal was to dramatically reduce greenhouse gas production (specifically CO2) through dramatically reducing the use of fossil fuel, but that Dramatically drifted down to Better Than Average, and ended up with the only fossil fuel use restriction on electric cars was they couldn’t exceed 200 grams of CO2 per mile.
Mind you, they had their reasons for going easy on electric cars, and 200 grams per mile doesn’t sound like much, but that’s 20 kilograms—44 pounds—of CO2 in a hundred miles. That’s more than double the CO2 output of a gallon of gasoline, about double what MAX gets (and 10 times what MAX gets on straight vegetable oil) and when you consider that the majority of the “fuel” they calculated for electric cars was nuclear and hydro, setting the emissions bar at Better Than Average is not impressive. Lots of cars are already better than average (for example, any VW TDI sedan running biodiesel blend is under 200 grams of CO2 per mile) and the X Prize Foundation wouldn’t have got much press with “10 Million Dollar Prize Announced for Better Than Average Cars.”
So I wrote them a letter, as a competitor, telling them how I felt about that, and that they’d look ridiculous when my article about the rules hit print…which leads me to Reason Number 2:
When the rules were finally released (more than a year after the entries opened), they included competitor gag rules (“X PRIZE shall have the exclusive right to control and manage any Media Content…all media content arising from or in connection with the Competition, including without limitation…all forms of literary works. Team hereby grants X PRIZE the exclusive right to…the life story and personal experiences of the Team and each Team Member, as related to their participation in the Competition (known as the “Story Rights”). X PRIZE shall have the exclusive, perpetual and worldwide right to Use the Story Rights…X PRIZE shall have the right to edit, dramatize and fictionalize actual events and characters contained in the Story Rights…”) which meant anything I wrote about the competition (excuse me; the Competition) could be rewritten (or simply refused) by X PRIZE before submission to Mother Earth News (or elsewhere). It may be egotistical for me to think I may have brought this on myself with my Pen Is Mightier Than The Sword rants, but I wasn’t willing to give up my right to write, so I told them I wouldn’t sign their agreement and they gave me my entry fee back.
There were other issues, but that was the clincher. I’m a writer first and a competitor second, so we agreed to disagree, and I agreed to wait for the dust to settle before I mentioned this in print.
But I digress. The MAX Updates Index is coming along, and you can get there in a single click.