Kevin Smith and the crew from Illuminati Motorworks took a detour in their quest
for the Progressive Automotive X Prize (AXP), but, as Smith says, “It was an offer we
With Smith at the helm, the local team of engineers, automotive technicians and car enthusiasts began working in August 2007 to design a fast, inexpensive, 100-mile-per-gallon car. They plan to trounce their 60-plus international competitors and win the $10 million prize purse in a head-to-head road race scheduled for 2010 [see “Eyes on the prize,” March 27].
Illuminati Motorworks was contacted in the fall by Hyundai Motor Company’s public relations firm asking them to contribute to an eco-friendly project in return for a $10,000 sponsorship for the AXP.
Their assignment: to retrofit two 2009 Hyundai Sonatas with off-the-shelf products to increase fuel efficiency. With one of the cars, they were to implement cheap solutions; with the other, the sky was the limit — with complete funding from Hyundai, Smith says.
Illuminati Motorworks received the Sonatas on Oct. 9 and was expected to showcase their new designs nine days later at the inaugural Maker Faire, a Hyundai-sponsored event that celebrated do-it-yourself projects.
“They wanted us to order the parts, make the modification, prove out the design changes, and drive them down from here to Austin, Texas — keeping in the spirit of Maker Faire, here’s what’s possible if you’re willing to put in the time,” Smith says.
The team bought a mileage gauge on eBay and tested the vehicle’s fuel efficiency on the highway near Smith’s Divernon home. They tried complex measures from installing ultra-low rolling resistant race tires to side-mounted cameras in place of side-view mirrors — both to reduce wind resistance. They also tried more simple techniques such as switching to Royal Purple synthetic oil, transmission fluid and radiator coolant conditioner. All of these increased mileage, Smith says.
In the end, the team took the “spare-no-expense” vehicle to Austin on Oct. 18 with the race tires, side-mounted cameras, synthetic oil, engine block heater and tinted rear windows (which, Smith says, blocks out 83 percent of the radiant energy from the sun). These parts cost around $3,500.
The “lower-end” vehicle appeared with tinted windows, synthetic oil, transmission fluid, and radiator coolant conditioner, and aerodynamic moon-eye wheel covers. The total cost was less than $700.
So what did they discover? The “lower-end” vehicle achieved better fuel efficiency, Smith says, with a seven miles-per-gallon, or 22 percent, increase over the Sonata’s baseline 30.4 mpg rate. The higher-end vehicle achieved an 18 percent increase in fuel efficiency. If all of the fuel-saving measures were combined, Smith continues, it would further increase mileage.
Illuminati Motorworks discovered an added benefit from attending the Maker Faire. In addition to talking with editors from MAKE Magazine and other national media outlets, the team was interviewed for “BRINK,” a new Science Channel series produced by CBS that highlights cutting-edge technology and research.
The series’ premiere episode aired Friday, Dec. 12 and featured the team and their Hyundai and AXP projects.
Visit www.illuminatimotorworks.com for more information.
Contact Amanda Robert at email@example.com.