Monday, April 26, 2010

It Takes a Village

I just got a call from my brother John telling me that the folks over at Eastside Saw & Sales have generously discounted a bunch of materials critical to sanding and shaping fiberglass---or what will be SGT01's body. Their store in Bellevue, Washington, isn't far from the garage where all of the work has been going down pretty much nonstop for weeks now. We load up the trailer on Wednesday to head to Michigan for Shakedown, and all hands are on deck. So Eastside Saw's help couldn't have come at a better time. A special shout-out to Curtiss, who put in a lot of time fielding questions in order to help us figure out exactly what we needed.

Go check them out at

Thank you, Eastside Saw!

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Pieces of the Puzzle

I have spent the last few days babysitting my nieces, while work on the WikiSpeed car continues day and night at the shop. The girls and I have watched Dora the Explorer, had princess parties in the backyard, and pretended we were fish swimming in the ocean. One of my favorite things has been playing a board game called Blokus. It involves fitting Tetris-shaped pieces together in puzzle fashion until you have used all your pieces. Who ever uses the most pieces and is not blocked by another player wins.

At one point my three-year-old niece asked if we could do it differently: could we just use all the pieces, fit them together, and create our own picture? "Sure! That is a great idea," I told her. Inside I was thinking, "This little one knows how to think outside the box and knows how to collaborate . . . NICE!"

I continue to be shocked and amazed by the number and the caliber of people drawn to this project. Take Mike: Yesterday, someone from the Seattle Robotics' Yahoo! group showed up at the shop to solve an electrical problem. We had never met him, but he agreed to come by and give up his Saturday afternoon to fix a couple things!

Then on Friday I received a message that Todd, the owner of the canopy-manufacturing company had made an offer we could not refuse---he proposed that if we would fly him out to Seattle, he would build the canopy frame and mount the canopy to the WikiSpeed car for free. He was willing to offer his time away from the shop, his expert skill, and his labor gratis. Because of his help, we will be guaranteed to get it right the first time. Furthermore, he'll be able to give us pointers for the layup of the next version of our car. (Joe is always thinking of the next iteration . . .)

Don't let me forget Bryan. Last Wednesday we posted the following on Craigslist:
Mechanic/MacGyver (Michigan International Speedway)
Team WIKISPEED is competing in the final rounds of the Progressive Automotive X Prize, and we need a fantastic Honda mechanic to support our team at the Michigan International Speedway the week of May 2-8. We're building a prototype car that will go 100 mpg and will retail for under $20k. The challenges we'll hit will probably be pretty novel---no repairs are routine on a prototype car. Ideally, the candidate would be willing to work at a reduced rate or gratis, since we're a small team of volunteers. An appreciation of MacGyver is helpful.
About our team: We are a group of high-energy volunteers who want to change the way we think about cars. We started building the car in a garage in Denver, have moved to Seattle, and now, with volunteers from all over the country, are heading into the most exciting part of the X Prize challenge, the competitive road tests at the MIS. Sound like fun to you? Join us! For more information, please call us ASAP. Because we're so close to the event and we need to get you credentials, we'll only accept calls regarding this post April 21-22.
WIKISPEED for the Win!
Would you believe it? We had ONE call. His name is Bryan. He is an ASE-certified technician with Honda experience, specializing in electrical systems. Furthermore, he said he's willing to take off work (and work is hard to find out there right now) to volunteer at the Shakedown.

At WikiSpeed we threw out the rules of traditional automobile construction a long time ago. Thinking outside the box and building the car using agile principles is fundamental to our efforts.What is amazing is that every time we open ourselves up to collaboration an expert shows up at just the right time and fits in perfectly.

Nice to know that the next generation of WikiSpeeders get this already!

Monday, April 19, 2010

Haiku 2

Our Earth cries for help.
Don't just silence it; bring change!
Let the Wiki win.

A Gesture

After the the big smoosh, things at WikiSpeed went into overdrive!

Joe continued to pull multiple all-nighters in a row. Our engineer offered a brain dump before flying off to Mexico. Friends descended on the garage to build axles, create the plug for the mold for the body, attach X PRIZE-required gadgets, etc. They drove in. They flew in. They flew their friends in.

The family was even recruited. Luckily, Joe happens to have in his immediate family alone a project manager, several attorneys, an accountant, a long-distance driver, and multiple geeks who can build gadgets.

Within a couple, days all of us were showing fatigue, even though none of us had put in the effort that Joe had.

But, you see, Joe has a secret weapon.

I (The Voice of WikiSpeed) called Joe the day of the crash. He had been awake for days, driving in the rain. The vital parts of the car were covered by a plastic tarp. He was exposed to the cold and wind. Nineteen miles short of our goal, he crashed. You could hear it in his voice: He was tired. He was scratched up. I think his heart was tired. All I could say was, "What can I do to help?" It wasn't much---just a gesture, really, since I was thousands of miles away, sipping my coffee, reading my e-mail, about to road-trip home to Colorado, while he was in the garage in Seattle.

But that simple gesture counted. He paused. He choked up a little, and he said, "Just hearing you say that makes all the difference."

Soon the deluge of help flooded in. They were working in the garage all day and logging progress and researching late into the night. The lights kept going off in the garage every hour. It was cold and greasy in there. Now, taking Joe's lead, the volunteers were pushing their own limits.

But then my sister-in-law offered another simple gesture. She sent cookies. Homemade. Lemon. Cookies.When I called Joe to ask how it was going, all he could say was, "We have cookies! Jak sent lemon cookies!" The hope and vitality was back in his voice.

Joe's secret weapon is a large group of volunteers who offer whatever they can in support. It may be small---like baking cookies---or big---like taking a week off work and flying in to build.

We believe. We believe in WikiSpeed.

If you want to see what we have been up to, friend us on Facebook or follow us on the Team Site. The link is at the top of the page.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Haiku 1

Our sister Ruth is the haiku goddess of the family. Please enjoy her poetry.

100 miles . . .
Long distance on one gallon?
Can YOUR car do this?

We Did It! PIAXP in Detroit, Here WikiSpeed Comes!

This just in:
Joe and WIKISPEED Team – you did it . . .
On behalf of the Progressive Insurance Automotive X PRIZE, I would like to welcome you and your vehicle to the upcoming Shakedown event at Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn, MI.
After careful consideration of your submitted materials, the Technical Team has accepted your 3rd Technical Deliverable. Your scorecard from TD3 is attached . . . Thank you for the additional information . . . Well done!
You will be regularly receiving, and should have received, some additional information regarding Shakedown in the last day. This information will cover the inspection checklist and a list of items to bring to registration.
We are almost there . . . See you at MIS for Shakedown!!
Warm Regards,
Julie Zona | Director, Team Development & Relations, Progressive Automotive X PRIZE

Tuesday, April 6, 2010


I remember growing up watching the Wide Wide World of Sports. The announcer would boom out "The thrill of victory . . ." and then he would growl, ". . . and the agony of defeat!"

WikiSpeed hit a wall today. Literally. We have hit several figurative walls in the past few weeks. We had a broken axle, wiring weirdness, and an overheated engine, but this was different. This was spectacular. And just like the skier on the Wide Wide World of Sports, it made us all cringe.

This is what Joe wrote:
WikiSpeed and I were introduced to a course cement wall. All people involved are fine, no injuries (just a scratch on my head, maybe a bruise). Wiki's crush zones worked exactly as calculated, which is reassuring. I do need to figure how to get a few hard-to-obtain parts here same day---I'll be making parts and reassembling tomorrow.

So what happened? I was going wide on a turn to clear some track debris (some screws sticking up out of a broken hinge/board that I thought could puncture Wiki's tires) and realized I was going too wide and headed for the wall. I panic stopped---stomped on the clutch and brake. Well, in Wiki, due to a late-night wiring incident, the accelerator is were the clutch would be. I stomped on the gas and the brake. The gas won, and I accelerated into the wall. The front-right wheel and bumper took the load, crushing neatly and in order of aluminum grade---softest bumper first, then intermediary post, and barely a deformation on the final absorption barrier before communicating load to the much more rigid frame/passenger cell. The tie-rod end flexed beautifully---with a yield strength about half its ultimate strength---preventing the steering rack from banging my legs. The expensive Skunk2 ProC custom damper package was also a casualty, unfortunately, and I'm not quite sure where or how I'll get one of those by tomorrow, but I'm definitely gonna try.
I think the thing that strikes me most about this is that Joe seems to always hear one voice in his head. It is always about "The thrill of victory!" It is victory for good gas mileage, victory for living green, victory for crush zones. It is victory for the average consumer. It may even be victory in the X PRIZE.

So go, Joe, go! Bring on the 100 mpg supercar. WikiSpeed for the win!

Friday, April 2, 2010


We have been getting some great questions from the press. Popular Mechanics contacted us and asked for some information, so I thought that I would include the answers here!

Who is Team WIKISPEED's primary sponsor?
Alibre Design (CAD), AmpsTech (FEA/CFD), and Skunk2 Racing are primary sponsors. The car is primarily funded by Joe, with a Wikipedia-like army of volunteers. His wife and he were saving for a house in Seattle and decided together that instead they would fund this vehicle company and attempt to level up the environmental friendliness of automotive transportion.

Approximately how much does the car weigh?
1300 lbs dry. When done, we hope it will be the lightest four-person vehicle ever to be fully road legal and mass-produced. We still have some sound deadening to do and other creature comforts to add in, so the for-public-sale version (unless people option for a type-R ultralight version) will likely weigh 1500lbs dry.

What type of chassis is used?
We use an aluminum extrusion chassis with a hot-swappable power-train module. With three grades of aluminum used, we can optimize material properties by part location. We hope for this to be the lightest chassis ever to pass all federally mandated impact/crash scenarios, from offset frontal impact to roof crush.

If someone wanted to buy the SGT01, how much would it cost?
We have a target of $17,995.00 USD. We are trying to price compete with existing economy vehicles, with an even lower total cost of onwership.

What is the car's best tested MPGe to date?
Currently all mpg's are simulated. UDDS (city) models show us 104 mpg, HWFET (highway) models show us 114 mpg. Test data is coming in now, and we may have useful test data for you in May, depending on your article timeline.

How fast does the car accelerate from 0-6 mph?
The car can achieve 60 mph in the five-second range, but that uses quite a bit of fuel. At 100+ MPGe running, 0-60 comes in less than fifteen seconds.

What is the car's top speed?
The calculated top speed is 149 mph.