illuminati motor works

“ELECTRIC CAR SAVES THE DAY” (Wednesday, October 27, 2010)

When Kevin pulled up to the driveway, I couldn’t believe my eyes. Was expecting something small like a Nissan Leaf. Instead, I was looking at a cross between a silver DeLorean (complete with gull wings) and the Batmobile.

Kevin’s the Team Leader of Illuminati Motor Works, and this was “Seven,” the electric car he and six other team members had spent the past three years building to compete for a $5 million prize at the Progressive Insurance Automotive X PRIZE competition. In June, their homemade, 4 seat, 3155 pound electric vehicle achieved 182 MPGe on a 134-mile run at Michigan International Speedway. Talk about American ingenuity.

So we loaded up the trike, picked up team member, George, and hit the road for Champaign. “Seven” gets 200 miles on a single charge (twice the range of the much-touted Tesla), and I’m happy to report successfully transported 3 adults, a rocket trike, and a trailer 100+ miles to Champaign. This is likely a world record, as none of us has ever heard of an electric car accomplishing such a feat. Whoever thinks electric cars lack for power just needs to ride in one. To demonstrate, Kevin peeled rubber as we headed down the road.

In Champaign, we met up with Matt Childress, who had arranged for our electric vehicles to be displayed on campus as part of University of Illinois’ Sustainability Week. He drove me to campus in his two-seated, fully-electric bike called the TWIKE.

While there, did an interview with Local ABC News affiliate WICD15, which ran a nice piece on their 10:00 news:

Also did an interview local CBS affiliate WCIA3 news:

Then did an interview with Celeste Quinn of Illinois Public Media local NPR affiliate WILL, “A Journey to Promote Green Energy.”

Here WILL provides a close-up tour of the rocket trike’s features:

Then rolled downtown and popped into WPGU’s studio.  You can hear the full interview here:

Then talked to the Daily Illini:

Ended the day by riding around the beautiful campus quad before heading back to Matt’s house to join his family and friends for dinner, where we schemed on ways to mainstream the electric vehicle market.

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“TORNADO WARNINGS & 80 MPH WIND GUSTS” (Tuesday, October 26, 2010)

As I was preparing to head out this morning for Champaign, via Clinton, got a call from Terri warning me about extreme weather. The news was reporting wind gusts of up to 80 mph for the region (several semis had already been knocked over) and tornado warnings and watches were in effect. No way I was going to chance that and risk shooting through the air like a real rocket. Very disappointed, though, as I had really wanted to present on a panel tomorrow at the University of Illinois’ Sustainability Week. So emailed my regrets and got to work updating my website from my room with a view of a coal plant.

Matt Childress, however, was determined to get me there, and started scheming with colleagues on how to transport me to Champaign in a way that would maintain the integrity of my ride. Turns out one of the other panel speakers lives in Springfield and owns an electric car, which he is offering to use to tow me and my trike over to the university in the morning. What a great analogy for moving forward as a nation: by working together and being creative, we can always find a way.

Sarah Phillips Eccles and her 6-month old daughter Ursula from next door stopped by to offer me breakfast(!). She and her husband Randy had been working the local radio stations on my behalf, which led to a couple of interviews, including with Springfield-based WTAX. Sarah later dropped off some homemade cookies, and shared with me a heartfelt blog she wrote (below). Thanks for everything, guys!

Got a call tonight from Matt’s buddy, Kevin Smith, asking about the dimensions of my trike, so he could rig up a special trailer for it (a project that kept him up until 2am). Just before calling it a night, saw an AP article from my friend Paul Alexander on today’s “massive windstorm,” saying “the unusual system mesmerized meteorologists because of its size and because it had barometric pressure similar to a Category 3 hurricane, but with much less destructive power.” Really glad I hunkered down through that. It meant not being able to swing by the Clinton nuclear power plant, which I had hoped to profile tomorrow, but there should be others.

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