From Window magazine: Total Dedication

Matthew Anderson ('06)
For Window Magazine
  • Alone in the crowd: WWU’s Viking 45, center, appears in a parade during the X PRIZE finals as the only hybrid vehicle to make it to the last round of competition. In fact, the car could draw on three separate sources of power: two electric motors and one
    Alone in the crowd: WWU’s Viking 45, center, appears in a parade during the X PRIZE finals as the only hybrid vehicle to make it to the last round of competition. In fact, the car could draw on three separate sources of power: two electric motors and one

Don Hayward takes one look under the hood of the sleek, modern car and frowns.

The longtime auto racing guru is staring at Viking 45, Western Washington University’s ultra-fuel-efficient entry in the Progressive Automotive X PRIZE competition, and he’s perplexed.

“What I saw was a wad of wires on top of some structure that I couldn’t understand,” Hayward would later recount. “I frankly thought that this car was not appropriate for this competition.”

This is the shakedown stage of the X PRIZE, when serious contenders are separated from also-rans. Hayward, a consulting engineer at Grand Am who notes stints with Rahal Letterman Racing and Ford Motor Company Racing on his resume, should know an also-ran when he sees one.

He begins listing the problems for the students gathered around: Occupants aren’t fully sealed from the engine compartment. There is no horn or windshield wiper. The complicated electrical system has several ground faults and not enough weatherstripping to prevent water from ruining the electronics or creating a shock hazard.

“It’s a pretty stressful experience, being ripped apart like that,” says Kyle Foley, the team’s crew chief, “but it’s also a really good learning experience.”

As far as Hayward is concerned, Western’s run in this four-year, $10-million competition is over. Of the 136 vehicles that began the contest, only 27 would move past the shakedown stage. WWU would not be among them, Hayward thought after grading Viking 45. But while he got a good look at the car, Hayward didn’t know the students who built it. They had no intention of going home.

Read the rest of the story on the website for Window magazine.

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Wednesday, December 1, 2010 - 11:21am

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