All Good Things

The Michigan International Speedway is filled with all good things this week. Good cars. Good technicians. Good people doing really amazing things in the Progressive Automotive X Prize. There are a whole bunch of good folks here at the Speedway chasing dreams and chasing $10 million in prize money.

At the top of the list of good things at the Speedway are the members of the West Philly Hybrid X Team. We brought 14 students and 9 adult teachers and mentors to the competition. We also brought 2 very good cars. On Friday morning, after all theofficial data from two days of varying and very rigorous drive cycles were distilled, neither vehicle had met the threshold of 67 MPGe, meaning both cars would be eliminated.

The very good members of our team were stunned. Jerry D. was the first one to cry. The crew of students all hugged him. Simon was eloquent about how proud we are of the students' work over the last 3 years, how every one of our competitors complimented the students on their performance.

I suggested that we take both the cars out of MIS and cruise the Irish Hills area of Michigan. We could go for ice cream, do some serious burnouts coming out of the parking lot and have a helluva a good time. For the first time in the 12 years I've known Simon, he was concerned about whether that idea would break the rules. Are you kidding? What can they do to us? Kick us out. They've already done that. We laughed until we cried...again.

We took the cars back to the shop to change the axles on the GT and open up the headers on the Harley so we could really have some fun. Then we got the "official" word from the X PRIZE folks, who were also crying. We were advised that we had the right to appeal.

The GT was way off the mark, so there was no question about appealing the elimination of our entry in the alternative class. The EVX Focus, however, was only 1.9 MPGe under the limit at 65.1 MPGe and had encountered serious problems the night before the 90 mile highway drive cycle. During the evacuation of the charging tent for a tornado warning, our charger became unplugged. Although the energy continued to flow and be measured by the data acquisition system, the charge did not make it to our batteries, significantly impacting our MPGe.

That was the basis of the appeal we filed to keep the Focus in the competition. We filed our appeal at 12:25 PM and waited for a verdict. In the interim, we went from riding the rollercoaster to multiple trips on the Tower of Terror. You know, the one that takes you up and drops you straight down, resulting in your stomach being somewhere north of your throat.

We actually had mixed feelings about whether we should appeal. We have fought the good fight for almost 3 years. Vacations and families were neglected. The idea of having a relaxing week down the shore is extremely appealing. But no one has ever accused West Philly of being quitters. So we waited all afternoon.

At 7:45 we got the final verdict. While we had lost some energy as a result of the charger coming unplugged during the storm, it was not enough to push us over the 67 MPGe. What we learned, however, from the PAXP's extensive analysis of our data was that our method of charging and our charging system were deficient. We were wasting a significant amount of energy.

When we analyzed the amount of energy that we actually used to power the Focus we found that we had achieved 78 MPGe . While these facts did not keep us in the X PRIZE, they say a whole lot about our truly incredible performance.

We used good American technology, great innovation and even greater grit and determination to build what Detroit has not: an affordable family car that gets 80 miles per gallon and has a range of 500 miles. By the way, we also built a hot sports car that gets 64 miles per gallon. Pretty good work for a group of West Philadelphia High School underdogs.

We work with good kids. We've had more than a good learning experience chasing our dreams. Although we have ridden our last thrill ride in the X PRIZE theme park it was a terrific journey. We will laugh and cry about it as we embark on our next adventure.

But, for today we must acknowledge that all good things come to an end.

With all our love and gratitude,



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