Team Illuminati and the SEVEN X-Prize Entry – 155 wH per Mile

This week we received a visit from one of our Masterflux contest nominees – Team Illuminati and their vehicle SEVEN.

As contests go, this is not their first rodeo. Kevin Smith got involved with various University advanced auto technology build contests when he was in college for a degree in Chemical Engineering.

And SEVEN was an entry in the Progressive Insurance X-Prize competition. The X-Prize was one of the most fascinating public fiasco’s I’ve ever seen assembled. I was fascinated with this contest for the vehicle with the greatest energy efficiency. The rules were byzantine and bizarre. And they changed daily.

The Aptera was one of the entries. They simply couldn’t perform the slalom and at one point one of their doors flew open.

One of our favorites, the Future Vehicle Technologies FVT had been entered as a hybrid. By the time of the actual contest, they had sufficient range on battery only to easily complete, but because they had been entered as a hybrid, they had to fire up their engine and submit to an emissions test – which they failed.

Team Illuminati burned out their clutch during the acceleration tests and were unable to complete this segment.

The car is actually a bit remarkable – the team DROVE it here to Cape Girardeau Missouri some 214 miles on a single charge – achieving an energy usage of 155 wH per mile. We tick off about 220 on the Speedsters and Spyder at about 2000 lbs. That they got a 2900 lb car to roll with that efficiency was remarkable.

What was most remarkable was that with no particular qualifications to build anything, in a shed in the cornfields outside of Divernon Illinois, these brash, brazen people drew a diagram of a car on the floor and built one to enter for the $10 million X-Prize contest from scratch. It almost defies common sense.

Save for poor choice in a weeny transmission and clutch, they very well might have won it. We’ve burned out two clutches ourselves here at EVTV and indeed, I view clutches as a good thing. i much prefer to smoke one of those as a transmission or motor. I almost view them as a mechanical fuse in an electric car.

If something “has to give” that’s the thing – the clutch. It’s admirably designed for it. They’re relatively inexpensive and not terribly difficult to replace.

[jwplayer file=”news060411 –” hd.file=”” image=”” streamer=”rtmp://” provider=”rtmp” html5_file=” –” download_file=””]

Their electrical engineer never attended college. The head of the team is an EPA paper pusher with a Chemical Engineering degree. No particular automotive expertise. Just a bunch of people in a small town in Illinois with a big dream and a can do attitude. This is the very best of America. It’s the thing that keeps us going. It’s what EVTV is about – let’s just go to the garage and build one and to hell with a bunch of Arabs, Oil Companies, and GM executives. These guys live it. They have no resources, no knowledge, no expertise, but they DO have a Butler building in a cornfield and a dream. Gotta love it.

The result is a little ugly. Ok, it’s FRIGHTFULLY ugly. But it is quite effective to its mission, and we found some interesting innovations and really a pretty clean build. That it had WIPER scrawled on the dashboard next to a toggle switch in one inch hand drawn letters almost brought me to tears. Reminded me of building “forts” at age seven – NO GURLZ.

They are one of the 10 finalists in our EVTV “Build Your Dream” electric vehicle components contest. We have now opened the voting at

Each entry is listed and if you click on the names, it takes you to their “page” where they have text, photos, and video of their proposal.

At the bottom of the main page is a bar graph “horse race” diagram showing the percentages of total volts received. As of this morning after a week online we are seeing 730 total votes with Mike Picard showing a commanding lead with 35% of the votes.

Fortunately, or unfortunately, this ballot will be more of an endurance contest than a sprint. We’re running the voting from the end of May until the end of August. Mr. Picard jumped out campaigning with his friends in the military community and with friends he’d made online in the EV community and has garnered a lot of support – all perfectly acceptable. But in this case, I call that the “mother vote.” Anybody can get their mother to vote for them. Wives can be tricky. They’ll TELL you they voted for you and then vote for someone else so they don’t have to put up with the resulting EV project. After that it gets harder.

And so in the early days, that campaign on the web site and among the already loyal is pretty effective. As the dog days of summer goes along, those votes will slow to a trickle, and ultimately you have to garner votes on the substance of your text, photos, and videos to a public that doesn’t know any of you. Welcome to my world. In truth, my mother doesn’t even watch EVTV. Nor my wife. The brutality of an Internet with 4 billion people on it is they ALL have web pages and nobody has time to look at anything. It’s not like we had a shortage of things to read before their WAS a world wide web.

And so I would look for the race to close up a might as the dog days of summer grind on. We will black out the horserace during the final two weeks of August and announce the winner at EVCCON in September. Yes, you DO have to be present to win. And yes, we still pay shipping to your home. If I’m going to run a contest for a year and give away $20,000 of stuff, you can at least show up for the award. If it’s not that important, then it’s not that important is it?

In truth, part of that decision was driven by the fact that almost all of them are already signed up for EVCCON.

EVCCON is taking on some strange aspects. Recall Brain’s joy at the Autocross in Carlisle. The problem was, we’ve done events before. And we have a strange sensitivity to what I call “weeny thinking.” You’ll see a group, usually volunteers, who go to a LOT of trouble to put some event type thing on, and then drop the ball entirely on simple, usually expensive, stuff. The Autocross at Carlisle was a BEAUTIFUL track in a BEAUTIFUL setting with an elevated area for spectators. T hey had a signup tent and it was all very well organized.

Of course, no one announced who the car was, who the driver was, or why they were there. They just rolled out on the track and began.

They did three laps. They were timed of course. But there was no clock for the spectators to see what the times were. In fact, there was no clock for the DRIVER to see what the times were.

There were of course results, with some cars faster than others. You could go inquire at the tent. But effectively no one ever knew what the results were. There was no “leaderboard” listing the top 10 for example like in golf.

Most of EVCCON will be at our local airport. That’s where my hangar is. The local Convention and Visitors Bureau has gotten quite behind the idea of an annual gathering of EV enthusiasts coming from New Zealand and the Netherlands and everywhere else. So we’ll have to clear it with the airport and so forth, but I think it is all doable. Probably late Friday afternoon and early evening. We’ve contacted a group in St. Louis that puts on Autcross events all the time – seeking adult supervision.

So yes, I enjoyed the Autocross well enough. I am NOT a drag racing enthusiast. Vandemeer Raceway is abaout a half mile from my home in Denver. I’ve never been, though I’ve heard them many, many Friday evenings in summer.

But we were recently contacted by Ron Adamowicz of ECEDRA ECEDRA is the East Coast Electric Drag Racing Association. ECEDRA is a chapter of the International Drag Racing Association Corp.(IEDRA). Their goal is to bring sanctioned events to east coast tracks while maintaining classification and safety rules for EV Drag Racers.

In any event, Ron wanted to know if we would hold an 1/8 mile event at EVCCON. I responded that I didn’t see why we couldn’t do a quarter mile as that was typically more traditional. It might take some doing. We have some commercial flights into the airport. We have to get FAA approval for a runway closure. I have to get the airport manager and board onboard. But it all sounds pretty doable from the comfort of the first week in June. If they will man it and run it, I think we can have it. He thinks he can get Dennis Berube and some of the other drag racers to come. Might be very additive.

And so the event continues to evolve. I’ve done this before. We’ll fall short on some of our grand schemes, and others will pop up that we hadn’t thought of. It will wind up a strange mix of what we pulled off and what we didn’t, kind of like a publication.

We had another strange turn this week that I’ll not likely do much video on. Arnulf Laarsgard of Norway came through a few months ago with a grand scheme to convert cars in Davenport Iowa and export them to Norway. Norway it seemed has a $100,000 registration fee on new cars, but they were waving it for electric cars – quite a subsidy there. So Arnulf was going to build a Chrysler Town and Country and a Ford Edge models and export them to Norway.

Recall that there was a fire on the Ferry Princess of Scandinavia out of Oslo Norway caused by an electric vehicle converted by AFuture. We hosted the team driving one of these cars “around the world and indeed they have completed their trip and are home in Denmark. But the Afuture fire on the ferry has already had a couple of effects. They have discontinued allowing electric cars to charge on the ferries. And Norway is going to BAN OUTRIGHT ALL converted electric vehicles. The only electric vehicles allowed into the country will be OEM designed electric cars.

That kind of put Arnulf out of business. So this week he dropped off his Chrysler Town and Country and Ford Edge at EVTV – we bought them from him for essentilaly the component costs.

The Ford Edge runs. This conversion started in West Palm Beach and was further modified in Davenport. IT uses a Netgain 11 motor and an early version of the EVNetics Soliton1. But it kept the automatic transmission. The car drives, but the transmission shifting is a horror. And the car has a range of about 40 miles. The air conditioner and heater and power steering and brakes work very well. It just doesn’t drive very well. It’s causing me sleepless nights thinking about the Cadillac Elescalade. I had no idea how BADLY an automatic transmission could shift – hunting back and forth, very hard almost violent shifts – it’s a horror.

The workmanship was very poor. Everything is jammed together with no access to anything. The DC-DC converter was mounted with a 3 mm gap between it’s case and one of the TERMINALS on the battery pack. The batteries are not in boxes, but rather steel racks with most of the battery and all of the terminals exposed. There are two racks beneath the car open this way and with very tiny clearances between terminals and the rack itself. This car is a mess.

The Chrysler Town and Country is almost a shell. No motor, no controller, no charger, no nothing really. He had bought an AC system from Richard Hatfield and claims he was cheated out of it outright.

In any event, we really didn’t need any more junk to park, but it was an eye opener. Not all conversions are created equal.

Jack Rickard

21 thoughts on “Team Illuminati and the SEVEN X-Prize Entry – 155 wH per Mile”

  1. Hello Jack,

    The Norway-story is a horror-scenario for me. Already, over here in Europe, it’s much harder to get a car licensed than in the States, and it’s not getting any better over time.
    I’m, like some of us, trying to set up a business converting classic cars. I’ve started with an icon, the Citroen 2CV. The worst hurdle to take to get the car approved, is the so called EMC regulations.
    Anyhow, all your good work is a great inspiration and source of information (the only one, really) for me. So please, keep it up!

    Best regards, from Holland,
    Ruben Stern

  2. Jack,

    I’m sad to see Matt go. I really liked him. Was it an amicable split? …I hope so. If he does actually get around to doing a conversion business maybe you could get him to film some stuff on his builds. The more stuff that’s going on in the show the better I think. I like the odd reports Duane Ball gives. I’m kind of hoping that your able to build up a whole group of people doing conversions that we can all follow. Doesn’t have to be a big part of the show. Maybe 10 mins each week.

  3. There was no split really and it was all quite amicable. Matt came out to help with the Escalade, and originally for a “few weeks”. He was here nearly six months, and we still hadn’t completed the Elescalade. He felt he needed to get back to what he thought of as “home” in San Diego, and get started on his dream, which very much was to start a conversion shop.

    Veni Vici Vidi. He came, he saw, he conquered. And so on to the next event.

    Yes, we intend to broaden the show over time to include builds and techniques of teh community, not just our work. That was always the plan. But you have to establish credibility and get started, and in my view, learn the details of the process in an intimate fashion. That’s what we’ve been doing, and in the future we should be able to apply that more broadly. Eventually, the intent is to mirror or reflect the activity of our viewers so all can view what each is doing. An impossible task? Ultimately yes. But in approaching it, there is value.

    Jack Rickard

  4. @Goebe: EMC regulations should be no problem for your CV2s. The effectual European EMC directive only applies to electric ignition systems for vehicles built before 10/2002, and I don’t think you want to ignite anything in your EV. After 10/2002 it’s a different story, but they are not classics anyway, so you shouldn’t worry about that.

  5. More irony involving the Progressive X Prize, Progressive refused to insure my Fiero EV conversion for collision and theft, only providing basic liability. Very “progressive”.

  6. Just a comment on the Aptera door flying open. There was no door failure other than the fact that the push button for opening the door was at the right place so that the driver’s elbow hit it when making that right turn. They then redesigned the placement and/or panel around the button to fix the issue.

    That is really too bad about the fall-out from the ferry fire. So many see an incident and jump to unfortunate conclusions.

  7. Not so much a door failure; a design failure.
    The sponsor is an insurance company…………

    I’ve been blown away with that X-prize winning E-tracer and what it can do. 90-120mph in 3secs(?) and 200mph! It recently travelled 253miles with a one coffee break at an EV friendly camp site.

    No range anxiety there.

  8. With regard to Damien’s link, are the authorities going to investigate all the lithium-ion batteries in power tools that aren’t causing fires?
    On another point, no one has commented on Team Illuminati’s aerodynamics which have doubled Jack’s similar setup on his speedster?

  9. OK, I’ll take a swing at the aero. The Seven benefits mainly from sound implementation of three basic aerodynamic features:

    1. Blunt at the front. Notice how rounded the hoodline is in profile. This is what you want- ideally a hemisphere (or half-hemisphere truncated by the ground) facing the wind. The Seven is very good in front. Could be slightly better, with a more rounded profile in plan, but the front is less important than the rear, where this body really shines.

    2. Aerodynamic tailcone. There’s some debate about this, relating to the work of Drs. Kamm and Korff who said that a truncated tail with half the total frontal area is nearly as good as a full tail, but there’s no doubt that the Seven’s full tail is the source of most of its aerodynamic efficiency. Over at ecommoder there’s a mathematical model of the ideal profile, which is like this car and Dave Cloud’s Dolfin, but these tadpole shapes are the way to get through the air. See also the Summers Brothers’ Goldenrod and Polliwog LSR cars.

    3. Small frontal area. The car is more compact than it seems visually, because its long and busy-looking. Its actually small, smooth and doesn’t poke a very big hole in the air, which is much of the aero game.

    There are other details, some of which we don’t see. I’m sure the bottom is flat, maybe even with small venturi tunnels. The dip in the roof along the spine helps. The large radius on the rear of the front wheel openings is good. Many standard aerodynamic tricks are being used here.

    It could be better still. What look like the rear bumperettes from a C3 Corvette on the front aren’t doing any good at all. The motorcycle mirrors are good, but a periscope on top like the P400 Countach would be better. The flanks are handsome-looking, but the teardrop shapes around the wheels probably wouldn’t prove themselves in the wind tunnel. The windshield could be a better choice, and the whole area of transitions around the base of the windshield, cowl and onto the doors could be improved. The rear track should ideally be much narrower.

    Having said all that, its a dandy shape. Probably at the limit of streetability, too. I’m sure they scrape the corners of the tail on all manner of driveways and ramps, and the fixed windows put a lot of stress on the climate control system, but I don’t think there is one in this car.

    I especially like the tube-space frame, which is truly inspired and sort-of wicked-crazy to build. Reminds me of the famous Maserati “birdcage” racers that pioneered the technique, as it smacks of the same irrational zeal oppositional commitment. This team could learn a lot from carefully studying the birdcage chassis. Nothing like Italians building a racing car to get something figured out…

    Gotta love that car, and those Illuminati guys. If they stay on track, the next one they build is going to be a very special achievement.


  10. Another interesting feature not mentioned, which I found out about by following the development is that the rear wheels help with the steering. The problems that you think they may have with cornering, I don’t believe affect them, because the rear wheels do some of the work. In the X Prize the cars had to swerve round cones at a certain speed. It was actually the test where the Aptera door flew open. Illuminati got through this test fairly easily.

    Another thing about that kind of steering is…(and I’m not sure this is a big factor) that when the car is changing lane it should have subtly better aero performance than a normal car. I think probably you would want both tyres to turn quite a lot so that the car was always pointing forwards to minimise the drag.

    Let me disclose that I am not an expert in anything so there is always the possibility I am talking cr*p. I often do. ๐Ÿ˜‰

  11. The steering rack we used was a dual mode one from a Honda prelude where at first the wheels turn in the same direction and the more you turn the wheels then counter steer. I think we went through the moose test at 48mph. With the wheels going the same direction the inertia moment is one which doesnโ€™t accelerate the front end in a different direction from the rear the car just moves sideways kind of.
    We had to compromise on the windshield because one of the Xprize requirements was a safety glass windshield. The Mazda Miata windshield match close enough to be used and we had access to a Miata for measurements thanks George.

  12. “The motorcycle mirrors are good, but a periscope on top like the P400 Countach would be better.”

    Cameras and monitors? Looking over the rear passengers’ outside shoulders through the windows should cover the blind spots with no additional drag.


  13. Hey Jack!

    The Illunimati guys made a good trade for otherwise front-facing the rear passengers. When I was a kid, we had a Pontiac Safari station wagon with a rear-facing third-row seat. I loved it. Much better than staring at the back of Dad’s head. It was 2nd best to sitting in the front seat. Almost like having my own windshield. Especially good for making faces at the car behind us. I don’t think Pontiac back then was too concerned about aerodynamics or vehicle length. Bonus: the kids can’t kick the back of the driver’s seat! 200+ mpge family sedan!


Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Verified by MonsterInsights