Beyond Theory to Application

We built a 4 seat BEV that has a range of over 200 miles. It achieves over 180 MPGe on the highway. It can go well over 85 mph. With its steel framework it is safe to drive in traffic. And the 10 cubic foot trunk room? You can stow a lot of groceries in there, along with a spare tire.

It can tow its own weight (tow hitch included in the design).

What started out as a bunch of chalk lines on a workshop floor is now a fully-functional car. It may be currently one-of-a-kind, but it’s no science project. And as of today, it’s been deemed safe for the road. The Secretary of State Police inspected Seven this morning and by this afternoon she had a VIN attached to her frame.

Tomorrow she’ll be sporting temporary plates.

This weekend she might be seen traveling down old Route 66.

Some weekend you may see her parked at a drive in movie.

Or she’ll pass you on the highway on your way to work.

Want to know the future of EVs? It’s happening right here, right now, and coming to a road near you.

Seven at the Drive In

Seven at the Sky View Drive In

Great Job Guys!

We did it. We built a practical 100+ mpg car, that seats 4 adults, carries groceries, tows trailers, and we did it without a major sponsor.   Josh said it best in the XPrize video on our video page. I will echo his words:  “If you have the ability to change the status quo, I believe you have a responsibility to do it!”  “Somebody has to do something, and that somebody is us.”  “I don’t like the word can’t, you look back to the Wright brothers, that the instant that, that  plane left the ground at Kitty hawk, the words man can’t fly ceased to be a truth, nobody can say that anymore, that is not a fact any longer!  You can’t get 100 miles per gallon equivalent out of a car, watch!” 

That is what we did; we took our ideas and made them a reality.   Not only did we build a car that gets 100mpge, we did it within stringent safety and technical requirements.   For all of the people that read this that were not at the Michigan international Speedway for the final event, you were not able to witness Seven after she was fixed, taking four people at a time for rides around the vehicle testing area. You were not able to see Seven leave her tire marks around the paddock. You were not there to witness Seven tow the 3200lb Tango T600 to the track for its final race. 

The clutch problem is not a problem any longer.  

I must applaud the people working for Xprize; you treated us very well.  I am happy with everything we did during the Xprize!  We had our hearts broken by some things, but I understand sometimes things just happen, if not the reason.  Pouring all of your effort into something and still failing is ok in my book, only if you did everything you could to succeed; sometimes you just have to start over from a different point.  For some people, failure is just not an option!  

I don’t know what the future holds for Illuminati Motor Works.  We now have some free time, and with the talent and drive we have proven, I hope we get to shake up the world again. 

I have asked God what is my purpose in this world;  I thought this was the answer for a time, but who am I to try to understand the will of God?  I know, silly me, the reason for being is to compete in the Xprize, but maybe this was the interview! 

 I have never worked so hard or been challenged to such an extent.  Kevin, and Nick Smith,  Jen Danzinger, Josh Spradlin, Thomas Pasko, George Kennedy, and me, Nathan Knappenburger, of Illuminati Motor Works conceived, designed, built, tested, and proved that “the 100mpge car doesn’t exist” is not a fact any longer!

Fans asked, we supplied: T-shirts

We’ve had some requests for IMW t-shirts so one late night I took a few of the suggested slogans and put together artwork and a CafePress store to sell them. There’s virtually no profit to IMW for any of the sales ($1 an item is our margin), but we figured, hey, fans asked, we’ll do it. We’re happy for the support. We’re thrilled if you want to wear our logo.

So if you want to check out what’s available (4 logos on different styled shirts and there’s a mug for sale, too), here’s the link:

And if you have a cool slogan or even artwork you’d like to donate, let us know. We just want to get the message about DIY EVs out there. We want people to know what is possible.


IMW Regretfully Declines the Zero-Emission Race Invitation

We were recently approached by Louis Palmer to represent North America in the Zero-Emissions Race around the world ( It was an amazing honor to be considered to take part in this historic race of electric vehicles across 16 countries and my initial reaction was “YES! We’ll do it! We just have to figure out how.”

Over several days, on phone calls spanning the world, Louis and I talked out the details. At home, the team worked on repairing damage done to Seven during Knockout. Jen investigated visa requirements, international drivers permits, and addresses to consulates, trying to work out how I could get everything I needed in time to travel across the world.

With such late notice, there’s no time to get enough sponsorship to finance the huge costs of this race. Jen and I talked about taking out a mortgage on the house to be able to afford my taking an unpaid leave of absence from my job and pay for my expenses in the trip.

It was this weekend, when talking with the team and getting our hands dirty fixing Seven, that I realized now is simply not the right time. Everyone is tapped out. Our participation in the X PRIZE has left us with little funds and no vacation time left. We worked so hard to get Seven ready for the X PRIZE challenge, but there’s still so much more time that needs to be spent preparing her for a long trip. Seven deserves respect. She deserves more testing and refinement.

We’ve already seen what happens when Seven feels rushed.

When Louis called today, I gave him the bad news. Illuminati Motor Works will not be participating in this year’s Zero-Emissions Race. Louis responded by inviting us to meet with the members of the race when they reach the US west cost. And, he asked if we’d be interested in racing in the next Zero-Emissions Race…in a year or two.

A year or two? Maybe we’ll be there. We’ll see what adventures IMW encounters in the meantime.


TW4XP, what a fun little car. Last night we were able to reunite with some of the friends we made through the X-prize. Martin Wolfgang and Bernd invited Illuminati Motor Works to a meeting of electric vehicle enthusiast who were hosting TW4XP in Champaign Illinois. I was treated to a demo ride in TW4XP, and I must say I really liked the car. I felt safe and secure, and found the cab surprisingly quiet, for an open air vehicle. This little car fulfills what we need a car for 99.99% of the time, and it also benefits the community. How can one little car do all that you might ask? One car cannot, but the vision of these stalwart German’s is grander than one car. I will get how a two person runabout benefits the community, but the why needs explaining. Electric cars are great, but they have one drawback, batteries are still a little on the pricy side. So how could you make electric cars more attractive, remove the cost of the most expensive component. Who is going to give you free batteries? Utility companies would give away free batteries. Why would they do such a generous thing; because if enough electric cars like TW4XP which can put electricity back on the power grid, you could decrease the size of your power generating facility? Here is how it works today, a power plant has to be able to supply peak power all the time or be able to bring extra power generating online quickly, because they cannot store energy. So power generation facilities have to be over sized, and when you run an oversized generator at less than 100% you are wasting energy. Power facilities also need to be on all the time requiring them to run off mostly non renewable resources. With vehicle to grid technology you could store energy made from photovoltaic cells, and wind energy in these batteries and when the sun is not shining or the wind isn’t blowing you could use the energy from the batteries to meet power demands. Neat experiment, place a stopwatch in your car and start it when you get in your car and stop it when you get out. At the end of the day how long did you use your car? Most days I use my car 4.2% of the day, so is sits for 95.8% of that day what if my car could be useful for that 95.8% of the time, like stabilizing the power grid? So that is how a little car, with a big idea, could change the world, and benefit everyone.
So what do you we need cars for?
Transport us from place to place when we don’t want to walk.
Carry things for us.
What do we buy them for?
So we look cool,
Because they are fun to drive.
Because they are safe.
Because they are expensive and demonstrate or success
Because they are efficient.
TW4XP is a fun to drive, good looking, safe, little car that demonstrates, you understand achieving success doesn’t have to come at the cost of the environment. Great job guys, and good luck!

Convert the car you like to drive.

We spent 2.4 billion tax dollars on developing technologies for the electric car. The technology for the electric car is here — it doesn’t need developing it needs implementing. The technology for the electric car has been here since 1900. What we needed is good batteries, but wait they are here now too. I don’t want to be rude or insult anyone that may be inclined to hire me, but if an electric car technology company is founded by an investment banker I find it hard to believe they are wanting to manufacture anything but money. If anyone has means and likes to gamble, bet on people who have built electric cars like us, better yet us. We aren’t slick but we get results. As I see it all we need to do is make the electric drive train as safe and reliable as a gasoline powered one. What do we need to do this? I would say it the electricity from drive system needs to meet the criteria that the gasoline in a car does, then the electricity is as safe as a gasoline powered car.

If a gasoline powered car is in an accident and gasoline spills it can start a fire, an electric car gets in an accident it can start a fire. How they do this is different: gasoline burns and gasoline vapor explodes. Electric car batteries can short and get hot enough to burn something. Oh wait a second, your car battery in your car now could short and start a fire also; that is one of the reasons emergency responders cut the battery cables. I see the current crop of electric vehicles being developed killing the electric car industry for years, and it will happen for no reason. Lithium polymer batteries should not be used where they are not needed they can catch themselves on fire. There is going to be a fire in one of these cars, it is going to happen. The car is going to melt down and I can see the headline “Are Electric Cars Safe?” If the industry just uses different battery chemistry Lithium Iron Phosphate, this would not be an issue. I ask you anytime you plug something to a wall outlet at home do you think wonder if it is safe? Every home I have been in has electricity running through its walls, and we never give it a second thought.

The electric car has the potential to be as reliable as any other appliance in your house, How many cars did you go through before you replaced your washing machine, TV, DVD player, ceiling fan, refrigerator, hairdryer… and when you replaced that appliance was it not working or did you just want a new one? There is nothing wrong with gasoline powered cars; they are perfect for what they do. Transport people and possessions hundreds of miles efficiently at speeds of 0-80 mph. I drive my car 99% of the time 0-60 miles at speeds between 0-65 mph. I am going to build my own electric car with technology sitting on the shelf at suppliers right now. I understand not everyone can do it themselves, but I can’t sing either. You can hire me to build you an electric car and then you would need to buy gas only when renting a car for summer vacation. It will not be cheap so pick a car you like because it will be with you for a long time. I am talking $15,000.00 to convert a car to electric.

Looking for work!

I have found a calling; I don’t know how it happened.  I was working a pretty nice job when fate stepped in.  I was going through life day by day then I read the Illinois Times Article “Eyes on the Prize.”   I was curious about this group of guys building an X PRIZE car, and I wanted to help out in any way I could.  Since I was not wealthy I offered my time not too much at first mostly because I was a not an experienced fabricator.   I would make up for my initial limited commitment.   Back then Seven was to be a series hybrid which is to say you plug in your car at night and the internal combustion engine is only used to extend the range of your battery pack.  This allows you all the benefits of an efficient electric drive train while minimizes the problems of gasoline and battery vehicles.   Long story short you use the internal combustion engine at its most efficient RPM to convert the chemical energy in the gasoline into electricity, and use this electricity to drive the vehicle.   Series Hybrid Evaro from team FVT is a very good representation of this approach.    Seeing what X PRIZE was requiring for gasoline powered vehicles sealed the deal, we didn’t have the time to develop Seven as a series hybrid.   Somehow I fell into the role of electrical engineer.  I had the schooling for electronics, but this project was a big test for me.  I mostly was on my own to integrate the electronics systems to charge, propel, and communicate.   Having never done this before I made some mistakes, and would do some things differently, but the car runs fairly well.   At Shakedown is where I worked the hardest in my life using everything I could to get the car going.  We were very pressed for time just finishing the car then getting it through tech required several sleepless nights building circuits on the fly, but we did it.  Our drive system although beautifully engineered is cryptic to implement because the manual is lacking in thoroughness and has been translated roughly from Italian.   We made it through shakedown a bit shaken up.

So  what did I do after shakedown.  First order of business was to get the motor accelerating and regening the way it should.   We got regenerative braking to work first then I figured out why the car wasn’t accelerating properly.    Yes I think the car can accelerate to 60 in 15 seconds  we nearly did it with 4 people in the car; that might have hurt our clutch come to think of it.  After  those kinks were figured out I had the brilliant Idea to rewire the car.  We needed to place connectors on our components to allow them to be removed anyway.  I was working on the wiring up until Seven left for knockout.  I had to stay in Springfield to until the weekend; Kevin was able to get Seven through tech inspection with a little coaching.   I worked every spare moment I had on Seven the only brakes were when people needed to work where I did, and on those days I would go home and sleep then come back after they were done.   I only seen the sun come up a few times while still at the shop, but I had to get my stuff done I felt as though the team was counting on me.   

Now what, I found something I love do to, but I am in a place that doesn’t do it.  There is no industry around Springfield.  I have become a big fish in a small pond.  What we need now is a benefactor to recognize our talent and provide the means to realize our potential.  We have proven problem solving and design skills, now we are on the sideline waiting to be put into the game.   I think I can speak for most of the team members, and correct me if I am wrong; we are looking to do this sort of thing for a career, and we are pretty damn good at it.

Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night

“You miss 100% of the shots you never take.”  I believe the great one Wayne Gretzky said that.  That quote has stuck with me since the inception of this project.  We took our shot. We put everything we had into it, and, in my eyes, we succeeded.  Are we walking away with one of those gaudy giant checks for $5M? No. However we did what many could  not or would not.  We had the best MPGe numbers out of ANY of the mainstream entries at Knockout.  That is fact. We  surpassed the competition’s requirements in a stage that we only had to reach 2/3 of the ultimate goal.  Think about that for a moment.  A group of 7 normal folks from mid America accomplished the base goal of an international $10M competition.  Our design was proven. Our aerodynamics work. Our weakness ended up being a standard OEM transmission, and we’re not even sure it was working properly when we smashed the 2/3 requirements for efficiency and range!  We can only imagine what our numbers would have been if we had a proper and reliable transmission.

That’s the dig. Imagine what we could have put on the track if we only had that one big sponsor. Save for that one mechanical twitch, I feel that we would have had the numbers to win the Progressive Insurance Automotive XPrize.  I am a naturally pessimistic person.  This project changed that for me.  As our  work moved forward, I grew confident. Every week we could see tangible progress to SEVEN.  We went from an “against all odds” team to a one in three  shot at taking the whole damn show.  Our entire budget, from the chalk we used to draw on the floor, to feeding the team every night, down to the travel and hotels for the events, and building the entire car was, I’m sure, less than some teams spent on a single component of their cars.

No excuses. No regrets. We did what we could with what little resources we had available.  We will finish SEVEN. We will improve on our already proven design.  We will fix what needs fixing, and we will exceed every requirement that we originally set out to meet.

In the event that there is no winner in the Mainstream Division, we are taking a preemptive approach to be ready in case XPrize should decide to invite the Mainstream teams back for another shot.

You have not heard the last of Illuminati Motor Works. You have not seen the last of SEVEN.

Audere Est Facere!     We did.