Monday, July 30, 2012

Building the Wikispeed in Northern California

This post is taken from the San Mateo Daily Journal, Friday, July 27, 2012.

Performance-efficient and cost-effective
July 27, 2012, 05:00 AM By Brian Grabianowski Daily Journal correspondent

What was once a race for miles-per-gallon efficiency has become a battle for a lower price tag, with commuter cars like the Chevrolet Volt and sports cars like the Tesla Roadster making it difficult for themselves to stay in contention while selling for less than ideal prices.
Fortunately, however, a new company understands not only the importance of affordability but also importance of a public forum. San Mateo-based Wikispeed is, essentially, upping the game in the miles per gallon war, and it would seem is light years ahead of anyone else. Literally.
The man who founded Wikispeed, Joe Justice, a “software guy,” had and currently maintains a vision to see an affordable, highly efficient car with an open-source business model in which owners of the car contribute their findings of ways to make the car better. This process is made possible by agile scrum, a software allowing for quick revisions so the feedback can be implemented as quickly as possible. Making it that much easier is the ability to remove the car’s shell in 15 minutes.
The result? A $25,000 sports car, that boasts more than 100 miles per gallon. But what can you expect from a sports car with a price tag of less than a Honda Civic? Since the car is designed specifically for the ultimate in performance and efficiency, comfort has been somewhat sacrificed. However, for a car that can do 0-60 in less than five seconds and deliver a top speed at 149 mph, it seems the sacrifice gets left behind staring at the tail lights. What’s more is it only weighs about 1,400 pounds. That’s only 300 pounds more than an Formula 1 car.
The project has sparked the interests of several investors, one being Jeremy Beck, a program manager for Guidewire Software.
“The ever-increasing challenges of [gas prices and engine efficiency],” Beck said, “was something that drove me toward the direction of Wikispeed.”
In his research, Beck has found a few ways of improving the model, to make it more efficient and environmentally friendly. One of those is the implementation of Industrial hemp in the body work, much like Henry Ford did in the 1940s.
“The biggest challenge,” Beck said, “is we don’t have a mass production model.”
However with the open-source business model, Beck concedes it’s taking the production one step closer to a (in a positive light) “McDonaldsization.”
Even now they are not far off, the basic tools and a 1,000-square-foot garage required to build the car only cost around $5,000. And they are currently looking for a location in the San Mateo/Belmont/Redwood City area. It seems everything is in place for Wikispeed to take off, and once they do, we’ll see if they can live up to their implication of delivering the most performance-efficient-cost effective car.

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