Goodbye Bay Area!

city skyline during golden hour
Photo by KEHN HERMANO on Pexels.com

Sometimes, a change of scenery is good

Well, 2021 has been chock full of surprises. For one, I’m finally able to walk around without a mask (since the California Mandate was lifted for vaccinated individuals). Two, I decided I needed a change of scenery to focus more on building my skills. So after several years living in the San Francisco Bay Area, I’ve decided to move! Goodbye Bay Area!

Half of my reasoning for this decision comes from opportunity. In simpler terms, an opportunity to completely change my lifestyle came up and I decided to take it. This of course doesn’t mean I’m giving up on automotive photography. After all, The Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion is just around the corner! Instead, what this means is that I would have a better chance at accomplishing my own personal goals outside of the Bay Area. And with remote work becoming a more viable solution, many other people are making this same decision. Sometimes a change of scenery is good!

Where Am I now?

grass field during sunset
Photo by Annette Bauer on Pexels.com

I’m not too far away now. I decided to pitch my tent in Gold Country, east of Sacramento! I’m only 2 hours away from the Bay Area, so if there’s a special event happening, I could still be there. Even more importantly, I can still attend classes at The Academy of Art University! Since everything is still online right now, it’s no problem for me! Should physical classes come back, I can just drive down and crash at a friend’s place the night before.

Also, cities like Sacramento, Folsom, and El Dorado Hills have some interesting car-related events happening all over, so I’m itching to get out there and see what drives by. There’s also some hidden gems out here. Maybe I’ll get lucky and find some interesting stories to write about. Or even better; a barn find or two!

So for now, Goodbye Bay Area. I’ll see you again soon!

The Final Word on the Eco-Racer

In my last post, I shared my recent discovery about the Eco-Racer and its true heritage. Originally, I believed the Eco-Racer was Osaka Sangyo University’s ENE-1 GP racer from 2011 to 2017. However, I took a closer look. I discovered these were actually separate vehicles! The ENE-1 GP racer had several differences in its construction compared to what I had. This included a different design for it’s canopy and tail cowling, and a different steering system. This led me to believe that my car was either an earlier prototype, or possibly the earliest version of the ENE-1 GP racer from 2011. I concluded that post by mentioning that I had reached out to the University for more clarification. All that was left to do was to wait for an answer. Well, I’m happy to say that answer came! Here it is; the final word on the Eco-Racer!

An Early Morning Email

I awoke to an email in my inbox with a Japanese email address. Upon inspection, I discovered the email was from a gentlemen named Takashi Sudo. If that name doesn’t sound familiar, maybe this picture would provide a clue:

Takashi Sudo is one of the designers, builders, and the actual driver of OSU’s Panasonic Oxyride Race Car from 2007! This car was built by the university in an attempt to set the speed record for a AA battery-powered car. They succeeded, and made it into the 2007 Guinness Book of World Records for setting a speed of 65.83 mph!

In his email, he very kindly explained to me that the he was one of the people that worked on my car! In fact, he was a teacher during the duration of the project. According to him, my car is in fact a sister car built by a team of interns from Stanford University studying carbon fiber reinforced plastics manufacturing in 2009! This means that my car and the ENE-1 GP Racer were both made at the same time in the summer of 2009!

This picture was attached to the email sent to me by Takashi Sudo. This is the CAD model showing the original design of the Eco-Racer

Takashi Sudo went on to explain that he was the person who helped design and manufacture my car. He participated in the ENE-1 GP, and can be seen in the photos I shared working on the ENE-1 GP car at Twin Ring Motegi. In my last email exchange, he stated he was currently making a smaller car to compete in the next ENE-1 GP.

This picture was attached to Takashi Sudo’s email. Here he is kneeling next to the ENE-1 GP racer in 2013!

Here is the original email in its entirety below:

Dear Mr.Wayne

Nice to meet you. This is Takashi Sudo.
At that time, I designed and manufactured the car in the photo at Osaka 
Sangyo University.
sorry. Since I am using translation software, the text may be strange.

Thank you for researching the cars we made.
This car was specially designed for students who came to an internship 
from Stanford University in 2009 to learn about CFRP in a group called 
New Energy Vehicle Project, Osaka Sangyo University when I was just a 
teacher at that time. ..

At first I participated in the battery competition Ene-1GP to compete 
for the ranking, but it is so big for us to ride, so now I am making a 
small car and participating, and now I am a driver I am participating as 
a practice car. There used to be a lot of photos, but my computer broke and there are almost no photos left. sorry

For inquiries about electric vehicles
Also, when I was a student, I made and rode an Oxyride Battery Vehicle.
Now that I’m away from my teacher’s job and working as a clerk at Osaka 
Sangyo University, it’s difficult to make a new car, but I’ll be 
participating in the 2021 Ene-1GP!

If you have any questions, please contact us.

Thank you

– Takashi Sudo

I couldn’t believe it! Here was definitive proof of the history of the car straight from the source! But, I still had a lot of questions. If my car was the sister car to the ENE-1 GP racer, then why were there differences in the canopy design and the steering system? Also, I wanted to know if my car raced as the previous owners once stated, and what was used for the original power source. I wrote another email to Takashi Sudo (with translation from English to Japanese) with the hopes of gaining a clearer insight into my car.

The “Super-Sanda”

Takashi Sudo replied to my second email and provided much needed insight into the design of my car. Originally, the OSU car was developed for a race series called the “World Econo Move GP”; a race series similar to the ENE-1 GP in which electric cars powered by 2-4 motorcycle batteries competed for endurance. According to Takashi Sudo, the first race the car attended was at the Eco Car Festa 2009 for the 4th round of the 2009 World Econo Move GP. From what I was able to gather, this race was held at Sportsland Ikoma between September 22nd and 23rd. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find pictures of the car at the race, but did find a photo of the participants of the race, as well as the practice, qualifying, and race results. The OSU race car was listed as car No.9 “Super-Sanda”, and placed 10th overall with 47 laps completed!

A wallpaper of the participants in the Eco Car Festa 2009, provided by Taisei Techno.

Takashi Sudo went on to explain that while the OSU “Super-Sanda” was designed for the World Econo Move GP, its sister car was the car developed at the same time by the student intern team from Stanford University. The Stanford car was designed and built using the same molds that were used for the Super-Sanda, but with slight differences in its construction that set it apart from the original car. So why were there differences in the design of the Stanford car and the Super-Sanda?

The Stanford Car

This photo was attached to one of Takashi Sudo’s emails. This is actually the car I now own, without the Stanford decals!

Takashi Sudo explained in his email that the he had designed and built both cars in the same shape in order to make the manufacturing process more simple. Both cars were actually completed at the same time, but, Takashi Sudo and the students decided to utilize different concepts for each car. For easier clarification, I’ll be referring to The Stanford University Car as #1, and the OSU Car as #2.

The most notable difference between the cars were the design of the canopies and bulkheads. #1 utilizes a two-piece canopy and tail cowl, whereas #2 uses one solid piece. Takashi Sudo explained that car #1 was designed so that less people were needed to carry the canopy and service the car. This meant that a smaller team could use the car at events. The bulkhead of #1 was also designed to not only position the canopy and the tail cowl for better airflow, but also acted as a built in rollbar to protect the driver in case of a rollover. Car #2’s canopy was designed for ease of access of vital equipment, and to be more aerodynamic. Because #2 was used as a research car, the team needed to access the testing equipment more quickly.

Both cars side-by-side! You can see the Stanford car I now own off to the left with the stickers on it! here you can clearly see the differences between my car and OSU’s car!

As for the differences in the steering system, Takashi Sudo provided enlightenment. Both cars use a slightly different steering system from each other. In car #2, the steering system was developed to resemble the steering system in a typical car. This in theory made it simple to operate, as it would operate just like a road car. However, Takashi Sudo had difficulties keeping the car straight with this type of steering because his arms would float in the air during operation. So when the steering system in car #1 was designed, it more resembled the steering system for a motorcycle. The mechanisms were also slightly lowered as opposed to car #2. This made it so that the arms would be extended and resting on the driver’s abdomen during operation, which made it easier to keep the car straight when in motion.

In other words, car #1 (the Eco-Racer) has a small set of improvements over the original car. I have yet to take the Eco-Racer out for a test drive, so we’ll have to see how easy it is to steer!

The Final Word

The OSU car appears in this educational video from NHK.

While both cars were developed and completed around the same time, only the OSU car was used for racing. Takashi Sudo explained that the Eco-Racer was sent to the United States upon completion of the project. It would eventually end up in the hands of one of the students that worked on the Eco-Racer, and ultimately into my own hands. As for the OSU car; it was used for various events and demonstrations, including participating in the ENE-1 GP. As of now, the original OSU car is no longer being used for demonstrations as far as I can tell.

When I became the owner of the Eco-Racer, I only had a vague idea of where it came from based on what I was told. Little did I know, I would embark on an incredible journey rediscovering the history of this brilliant machine! In my last email to Takashi Sudo, I had asked him to kindly share our email exchange with the university so that anyone else who might have been involved with the project would be able to share their experiences. While it’s unfortunate that Takashi Sudo’s records of the both vehicles were lost, but perhaps someone else may have something? Maybe they’ll be excited to see the Eco-Racer alive and well in the USA!

Right now, the Eco-Racer is currently sitting in storage as I’m going to be moving to a new location soon. But, as soon as I’m settled, I’m getting this thing back on the road again!


A very special thanks to Takashi Sudo for reaching out to me and revealing the history of this car! I am looking forward to hearing more from you my friend!

-W

1 Slide

UPDATE: Is the Eco Racer a prototype?

Something is a little off.

Yesterday, I posted an update on the origins of the Eco Racer, and how I found out that my car might have been the same car Osaka Sangyo University built to race in the ENE-1 GP! I’m super excited to find the heritage of this machine! But, after doing some more research, I’m starting to think this might not be the same car at all. In fact, I think it’s something even more special. Is the Eco Racer a prototype?

The evidence

The image above was the biggest clue to the true origin of the Eco Racer. While all the cars that raced in the ENE-1 GP’s KV-1 class are similar to this one, this car and the car I have are a little different. Although both of the cars look exactly the same, the canopy in this car is a one-piece canopy. However, the canopy used in my car ends at the bulkhead for the engine compartment. The tail section is also it’s own separate piece.

Also, if you look closely at the racer in the 2013 picture, some of the internal structures are different. In my car, the steering linkages are placed lower than the top of the front wheels. In the pic from 2013, the linkages are higher than the tops of the wheels. The linkage geometry is also different.

The placement of the steering linkages in the 2013 picture looks like it could be a revision of the system from my car. The higher placement would make for a little more legroom, and it could also affect steering. With this and the one piece canopy in mind, you can see the difference between my car and the race car in this video from the 2014 ENE-1 GP at 12:58 and 22:10:

Other than these glaring differences, both cars are extremely similar in design. In fact, I believe the bodies could have been pulled from the same mold. Which begs the question:

What exactly do I have?

Two possible answers

There are two possible answers for the true origins of my car. The first answer is the most obvious: I have a proof-of-concept prototype that was tested and evaluated before the actual race car was built. In other words, I have the test mule for the ENE-1 GP racer, and not the actual car. While this is disappointing, it is also very intriguing. In most cases, prototypes like this are either destroyed or kept in a museum or private collection. Seeing as this car was kept by a private individual, this could very well be the case!

The second possibility is more exciting. In my last post I mentioned that I had possible video evidence of the car taken during the commemorative photo session for the inaugural ENE-1 GP in 2011. I found more videos of an extremely similar looking car at 04:28 thanks to the same source!:

The video in question shows the 1st Attack session for the KV-40 Class at the 2011 ENE-1 GP. In the timestamp above, a car with the same exact shape of the OSU car can be seen in still images, with less markings on the body than the later cars. Unfortunately I can’t find much else on the 2011 ENE-1 GP or this car. Could it be possible that this is my car? Do I actually have the KV-40 car from the 2011 ENE-1 GP? Who knows?

The likeliest scenario…and some answers

In all likelihood, I have a very early version of the KV-40 race car for testing purposes. A prototype for a prototype even. This corroborates the story I’ve been told so far, since the original owner stated that the car was built as early as 2009. As I look further into the details, more questions are being raised. If this is the prototype for the KV-40 car, then where are the records for it? Shouldn’t there be some documentation somewhere showing how this car was built?

Suffice to say, it looks like this mystery isn’t solved at all. However, I am extremely close to solving it! I now know that this car and its possible sister car was built for the KV-40 class. This class was unique, as it was sponsored by Panasonic and the cars used a 40 AA battery rechargeable power cell. According to this new research, this car was competing in this class and not the KV-1 class I thought earlier. This also could explain why the battery pack was replaced with two 18-volt scooter batteries. Perhaps the original battery pack was taken out of this car and put into the racer?

What next?

Before writing this post, I actually managed to write an inquiry to Osaka Sangyo University (see my Instagram) requesting verification of what I had. Of course when I wrote it, I believed I had the actual racer and not a possible prototype. Either way, I hope that my inquiry will be answered as I could finally have the final word on what I actually have!

But, there is also the possibility that I may not get an answer at all. Whatever happens, I’m still very certain that Osaka Sangyo University did build this car! I just have to wait and see!