Your Stories: Racing to Change the World

By: Chris Papst Email
By: Chris Papst Email

POSTED: Thursday, April 1 at 5:00 p.m.

This is one of "Your Stories."

"I like wheeled things," said Chris Beebe, owner of Foreign Car Specialists. "I raced bicycles. I raced tricycles when I was a little kid."

For his entire life, Beebe has been fascinated with perfecting vehicles.

"I raced big powerful things, 800 horse power. It's just the power to weight that's entertaining. It's fun to make improvements and try to better the vehicle against the competition."

But, he's never been in a race quite like this one.

Last March he entered Progressive Insurance's Automotive X-Prize competition. Teams from all around the world set out to change the way we drive.

The X-Prize competition has three categories. The self-educated, Milwaukee native entered two. A Honda Insight will enter one of them. The diesel/electric car must eventually seat four.

"This has an electric clutch," Beebe pointed out.

The other vehicle he will enter is a two seater tandem. The aluminum, light-weight vehicle will run purely on Lithium Ion batteries.

"They should be able to get this vehicle up to 60 miles per hour in about four seconds," he added.

If Beebe and his team of four can be the first to make a car that gets 100 miles per gallon, be worth $30,000 and be production capable, they will win 10 million dollars.

Beebe's latest race started with 200 teams. After a series of eliminations, the latest being earlier this week, it's now down to 31.

To win this competition Beebe no longer works in the garage fixing cars. Instead, he devotes all his time, countless hours over the past year, building new ones.

"If we can make a car that's an improvement or superior to any other thing," stated Beebe. "It's a good thing for the world."

The next elimination competition is on April 26 in Michigan. The remaining teams will have to show their vehicles can run at least 65 miles per hour and get 67 miles per gallon.

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