Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Seeking 100 mpg

Portland Press Herald

A team based in Camden is seeking a $10 million prize for building a production-ready fuel-efficent car.

February 20, 2008

Camden inventor and mechanic Jory Squibb is leading a team of Mainers that hopes to build a 100-mile-per-gallon car and win $10 million.

The money is being offered by the nonprofit X PRIZE foundation to anyone who can design and build a production-ready car that gets 100 miles per gallon.

Squibb's team, "Maine Automotive X," is the only entrant so far from Maine. The Automotive X PRIZE Web site lists around 40 teams, and the Maine team's closest competitors are in New York.

Squibb has some experience building efficient vehicles. A native of Detroit and the son of a General Motors worker, Squibb described himself as the "oddball" of the family.

"My excitement has always been to find something different," he said. In the 1970s, Squibb built and even raced electric Volkswagon Beetles.

A few years ago, he created Moonbeam, a small uniquely shaped three-wheel car that gets between 80 and 100 miles per gallon. The vehicle is around 6 feet long and weighs 300 pounds. It can't go much faster than 45 miles per hour.

Moonbeam is only for the "true believers," said Squibb. If you're not willing to sacrifice a little comfort, Moonbeam "is just too small and too low," he said. "It doesn't have the creature comforts that frankly we're used to."

Squibb sees Moonbeam as a template for the car that Maine Automotive X is now working on.

"It's one thing to make a prototype," he said. "But it's quite another to create a vehicle that's going to change automotive history."

The team's car thus far is "not Moonbeam, but sort of 'Moonbeam-plus,'" said Squibb. The vehicle seats two passengers and rides on three wheels; it's driven by a three-cylinder diesel engine, which is in the rear. The frame incorporates elements of a Kawasaki utility vehicle.

When complete, the car will resemble a teardrop, said Squibb.

Twelve team members make up Maine Automotive X; Squibb found most of them by placing an advertisement in the newspaper. The team comes from throughout the midcoast area, Squibb said.

The group recently became a nonprofit organization, and is now raising money. They need about $107,000, Squibb said. So far, they've secured $45,000 through donations and matching grants.

If all goes well, the vehicle will be on the road next year, when all the teams competing for the prize will race their creations from city to city across the country.

But for now, Squibb is simply happy that a team from Maine is getting involved in the race.

"It's kind of exiting that little old Maine has got an entry in this contest," he said.

News Assistant Isaac Kestenbaum can be contacted at 791-6308 or at:

For information about Moonbeam or Maine Automotive X visit or call Jory Squibb at 236-8962.

Copyright © 2008 Blethen Maine Newspapers

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