Simon has been praying. All the time. I was nearly sick. Only Keith uttered the words out loud although at some point today we all thought it. “At least we’ll still have one car in the X Prize.” When we came to Michigan for the Shakedown Stage of the Progressive Automotive X PRIZE, we thought that the Focus was in significantly better shape than the GT. We were wrong.
By Tuesday both the Focus and the GT passed the technical inspection and it was time to move to dynamic testing. Big Mark took the GT to the track and quickly passed the acceleration, braking and lane change tests. It looked easy.
Then we brought the Ford over. The object of the acceleration and braking test is to accelerate from 0 to 60 in under 15 seconds, then brake from 60 to 0 in less than 170 feet. Simon had the Focus in all electric mode. He got really close on his first two runs at 55 MPH and then 58 MPH. But he couldn’t hit 60 MPH. Something was seriously wrong. Simon’s mother started praying.
We didn’t panic. We took the Ford back to the shop, worked into the night and were prepared to try it again in the morning. It didn’t work. Was there a bad cell in the battery pack? Was there a software problem? Noon came and went with no answer. We charged the car and tried again without success. Our only alternative was to run the car on the Harley to get our acceleration. That’s right: run a 3500 lb car on a Harley-Davidson engine to pass our acceleration test.
Just one problem. The Harley wouldn’t start. After what seemed like hours of intensive programming Keith and Jerry got the Harley running, but every time Simon touched the throttle, the engine shut-off. Again and again. Then it started to rain. Big Mark came back from running the durability test on the GT and worked his magic on the throttle. We were ready to go back to the track and try again.
In the meantime, Consumer Reports, which was responsible for running the dynamic tests, had left the track. When we didn’t show up on the track in the afternoon, they packed their bags and were headed out. We were the only car left to go. Fortunately, they unpacked and came back for us. First go was not good. Second time we had 0 to 60 in 16.9 seconds. We hit the braking zone at 67 mph and stopped in less than 170 feet. Half our battle – braking was okay, but we had to try again for acceleration. Third time we did it in 16.2 seconds. Then the Harley stalled out. OMG.
I waited at the finish line for what seemed like a week as the rest of the Team worked on the Focus at the other end of the straightaway. The sun came out but there was no rainbow. Finally, Simon ran the Focus with the Harley rumbling, the electric motor humming, the magnetic clutch ringing and hit the acceleration mark. I was no longer sick.
Last hurdle for the day was the lane change. This accident avoidance maneuver has to be performed at 45 mph and simulates switching 2 lanes of traffic. There are cones set up to mark lanes. Hit a cone and you’ve failed. Come in at less than 45 mph and you’ve failed. Time and again Simon came through. Wasn’t fast enough. Hit a cone. Hit another cone. Wasn’t fast enough. Ten or eleven must have been the charm, because he nailed it. In true Hauger fashion we even had 40 minutes to spare.
What a day. We have one more day of testing tomorrow. When we nail those tests all we have to do is drive home and get two cars and about 15 kids ready to come back to the Michigan International Speedway in June for the next stage of this $10 million rollercoaster ride. OMG.