In Hawaiian, wiki-wiki means fast (actually, fast-fast). On the Internet, wiki has come to mean collaboration. In the Automotive X-Prize, Wikispeed isn't a redundant phrase, but the name of a team that is building a modular vehicle intended to be very fuel efficiently. It still uses gas, "just a lot less of it."
This is the message of the Wikispeed team, which has entered a vehicle called the SGT01 into the competition. Some ideas in the SGT01 are ones we've seen before – build a lightweight car, a DIY mentality – but the open-source, volunteer-based team is, as best we can tell, unique in the X-Prize. It's not just the participants in the project that are flexible, but the car itself.
Team founder Joe Justice is trying to make the car as modular as possible, because he wanted to be able to prototype the parts separately. He was very careful to lay out the connections so that things were easy to put in and take out, said team member John Justice, who has been involved in the effort for about three months (also, Wikispeed is a bit of a family affair). The engine, for example, is on a cradle and can be completely swapped out with a new one in an hour or an hour an a half. When the car first went into the tech inspection at the Michigan International Speedway, X-Prize officials gave the team a list of things that needed to be altered. Ninety minutes later, the car was stripped down to the frame and the team got working on making those changes. What did the judges want? More support in the engine cradle, a change to the suspension design, a different type of latch on the canopy and different kinds of seats. Not exactly easy alterations, but when we stopped by the team garage, everyone in an orange team Wikispeed shirt was busy trying to get the tasks done. Joe organized his team of volunteers, family and some contract help, who all swarmed around the car in the MIS garage issuing and following orders. Most members had only met each other the week of the competition, while the car has been the works since Joe shifted his mechanical focus from tuning sports cars for speed to environmental concerns in 2008.
One of the alternations was a new set of seats, which had already been fixed by the time we visited. The team had fabricated their own seats out of sheet iron to make them perfectly match the shape of the car. "But we found out this is a contest that changes," John Justice told AutoblogGreen, "and sometimes the requirements are only clear when you show up here and that's just the way it is." So, instead of the homemade seats, the team went scrambling to find certified seats and installed them. "I think it was something that wasn't specified," John said, adding that some requirements are part of the X-Prize's rules and some things are part of standard automotive regulations. As for the list of things that still needed doing, John was confident in the team. "We're making really good progress. We're close," he said. The latest from the team is:
When up and running, the SGT01 weighs around 1,300 lbs and has a simulated miles per gallon rating of 114 highway / 104 city using the EPA's Urban Dynamometer Driving Schedule models. The car's calculated top speed is 149 miles per hour. Should the car ever make it to market, the target price is $20,000. Read more about the car here.After learning that we had not passed our final inspection, the team was given four hours to submit an appeal to stay in the competition. We completed and filed the appeal document and organized the workspace while waiting to hear the results. We wanted to be ready to get back to work on the car.