Escape From Berkeley…By Any Non-Petroleum Means Necessary


The alt-energy experimenters who I wrote about in this May reason feature are sponsoring a unique road race this weekend, which launched from Berkeley yesterday and is expected to end in Vegas on Monday. The idea is, from the event's own site:

the rally challenges contestants to start their "engines" on something other than petroleum based fuel, and by any means necessary, cause their "vehicles" show up in Las Vegas three days later- using only fuels/power/motive force scavenged "for free" along the route.

All types of vehicles are welcome. All schemes for non-petroleum based transport are encouraged. In short, everything is permitted– just as long as your "fuel" is from a non-petroleum based source, your acquisition of "it" does not require money, and you start the race with no more than 10kwh of "it" on board.

The full field of power generation and conversion is open for your pleasurable scavenging and creative hacking– biomass gasifiers, WVO, steam, on board fermentation stills, fast starch anaerobic digesters, solar, pneumatic, creek side hydro and lots of batteries, tesla free energy vortexes, cold fusion, humans, hamsters, etc etc etc.

Want to test out your 40% efficiency triple junction PV cell covered Prius? Or maybe see if your steam cracking anaerobic digester hydrogen producer can keep up with the intake of your fuel cell Honda Civic prototype? We welcome you to join us- and risk getting beat by a young punk on a rat bike, running on granulated McDonald's napkins and hair spray.

DARPA had a Grand Challenge. . . the rednecks a Cannonball Run. . . and the hippies a bunch of WVO buses broken down on the side of the road. Now, NASA scientists and junkyard fabricators go head-to-head in a no holds barred battle of engineering prowess and creative excess. Hanging somewhat in the balance, are bragging rights for saving the world. That, and a grand prize of $5,000.

At least one of the cars had not quite moved a block in the first hour–they were still chopping wood for their gasifier engine.

This long East Bay Express feature profiles some of the racers and their scheme. Wired.com does the same in this story.

I have the good fortune to be one of the event's official judges (important in a race where actually reaching the finish line could be unlikely for many entrants) and expect to be reporting on some of what I learned here in the future.