It’s not really “magnificent.” In fact, it’s kind of an ugly duckling. But the new Illuminati Seven electric prototype car—built in an Illinois barn by a team of gearheads—gets mileage that any automaker would envy. As opposed to the Nissan Leaf’s official EPA sticker rating of 99 miles per gallon, the Seven holds claim to 207MPGe, the EPA’s equivalent of miles for gallon for electric vehicles.
The fully street-legal concept car originally was created to compete in the Progressive Insurance Automotive X-Prize (PIAXP)—a global competition held in September 2010 that awarded a total of $10 million to three teams that built passenger vehicles that achieved at least 100 MPGe in real-world driving. The Seven made it as far as the semifinals, only to be eliminated by a malfunctioning clutch.
The winning team, out of Lynchburg, Virginia, was Edison 2, with the Very Light Car, which achieved a combined 102.5 MPGe through a series of tests at the Michigan International Speedway and Argonne National Laboratory. That vehicle uses a motorcycle engine burning E85, a blend of 85 percent corn ethanol and 15 percent gasoline.
The runners up were the Li-Ion Motors Wave II, a battery-electric vehicle constructed by a Las Vegas-based team, which posted of 187 MPGe. and the enclosed battery-electric motorcycle X-Tracer from Team Switzerland, which achieved 187.6 MPGe.
After the competition, Illuminati Motor Works, led by Kevin Smith, spent months repairing and fine-tuning the Seven before they took it to Chrysler’s test track in Michigan recently, where they ran it through the official EPA fuel economy test for electric-drive vehicles.
The 3,155-pound, four-seat Seven is battery vehicle, with a 200 horsepower MES DEA. With its four gull-wing doors and a length of 17.5 feet (about a foot longer than the Ford Taurus) —plus a width that tapers from 70 inches wide in front to a more slender back—the Seven might not find a parking space on a city street.
On its website, Illuminati describes its team as “a largely self-funded, volunteer group of engineers, automotive technicians, graphic artists, and car enthusiasts who have worked on alternative means of transport and alternative energy for many decades in their professional and personal lives.” In addition to Smith, the current Illuminati team includes: Nate Knappenburger, electronics technician; Jen Danzinger, graphic artist/ web liaison; Kevin Smith, team leader/engineer; Josh Spradlin, graphic designer/parts hound/ fabricator; Nick Smith, master craftsman; Thomas Pasko, master automotive technician; and George Kennedy, engineer.
Although the Progressive Insurance Automotive X-Prize competition goal was not only to meet or exceed 100 MPGe while maintaining driver comfort, safety and performance—but to enter a vehicle that could be mass-produced and brought to market, in a recent interview with AutoObserver.com, Smith said that the Seven isn’t likely to go into production because the Illuminati team doesn’t have the funding or the expertise to bring a marketable version to fruition.
Smith still hasn’t quit his day job. He works as an analyst for the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency, reviewing air permit applications from steel mills, grain handling facilities, and power plants.
However, he and the team do have one ambitious plan for the future. In the same AutoObserver.com interview he said, “I’ve driven the car about 2,400 miles since September. We realized a lot higher efficiency than we got on the track at Michigan. We thought, ‘Well, what kind of records are out there?’ We want to say we set a Guinness world record at this [and] do it at X-Prize standards: four-seat, street-legal, 100 MPGe, even at top speed. We can go over 100 miles per hour while averaging 100 MPGe and have four people in the vehicle. We will be defining new categories and setting records for some existing ones—efficiency, range, tow capacity —everything that you’d want in a standard vehicle. We want to do 0 to 60 times, quarter-mile, anything that we can think of.”
Cheryl Kaften is an accomplished communicator who has written for consumer and corporate audiences. She has worked extensively for MasterCard (News - Alert) Worldwide, Philip Morris USA (Altria), and KPMG, and has consulted for Estee Lauder and the Philadelphia Inquirer Newspapers. To read more of her articles, please visit her columnist page.
Edited by Jennifer Russell