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Ingenious: A True Story of Invention, Automotive Daring, and the Race to Revive America by [Fagone, Jason]
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Ingenious: A True Story of Invention, Automotive Daring, and the Race to Revive America Kindle Edition

4.3 out of 5 stars 62 customer reviews

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Length: 386 pages Word Wise: Enabled

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Fagone, author and journalist, tells the true story of the race to capture the Automotive X Prize, the $10 million offering by a California foundation to anyone who could make a safe, practical, 100-mile-per-gallon car. The only standard for winning was the quality of the machine, and all contestants were welcome, big companies and entrepreneurs alike. Fagone zeroed in on four teams, ordinary people striving to be extraordinary. We follow the teams with Fagone, including the winning entry, the Very Light Car built by the Virginia-based team Edison2. The author tells the remarkable stories of the contestants as they sought the prize money during the recent economic downturn and in the process transformed their lives with their creativity, courage, and determination. This is an entertaining book that offers insight and inspiration for a wide range of library patrons who could be thinking about inventing something that matters. --Mary Whaley

Review

"[Verner's] near perfect phrasing and articulation make every syllable clear." ---AudioFile

Product Details

  • File Size: 3866 KB
  • Print Length: 386 pages
  • Publisher: Crown (November 5, 2013)
  • Publication Date: November 5, 2013
  • Sold by: Random House LLC
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B00A5MRFGK
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #581,214 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By David Wineberg TOP 500 REVIEWER on November 7, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition
Ingenious is the story of driven (there's just no way around car metaphors in this society) tinkerers. They still exist, but the outlets for their creativity are fewer and fewer. Between monolithic industry and monolithic government, it's just harder to break out. This is the inside story of several teams that competed for the X Prize for cars.

It was a rocky road, with ever changing rules, ever changing demands, ever changing requirements, and of course - underfunded participants. Jason Fagone, who fortunately for all readers is not a car or racing fanatic, visited and followed them as they designed and built, tested and ran their exceptionally green vehicles.

Even the grand prize money got halved, as additional categories were included later. The winner received $5 million, intended to help commercialize the winning design, but of course almost all the money went towards backfilling the gaping pothole the project created, and the car has yet to see anything like production.

The hands down outstanding character in this drama is Oliver Kuttner, a man who continually defies characterization, let alone stereotyping. He is many things to many people, and his actions, reactions, attitudes and demeanors can never be assumed. His passions run deep, his skills are many, and his team deservedly wins, thought the victory is at best bittersweet (which for spoiler reasons is all I can say). He is fascinating.

That a bunch of guys (and the occasional spouse) in places all over the country can design and build cars that get four times the mileage of the major manufacturers says lots. Not to dwell on the negative, it says we still got it. We can summon up the ingenuity and desire to creatively destroy an industry - if it weren't such a monster.

Ingenious reads like a reality show, cutting back and forth between the teams, focusing on individuals and moving on. Our culture in a nutshell.

David Wineberg
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Ingenious is an excellent tale of the challenge to build more efficient automobiles, all driven by an old concept - pay a prize for technological innovation. Ever since the prize was claimed for the solution to longitude at sea, the motivation of a prize for innovation has been appealing when it comes to taking a huge leap in technology. In the story of ingenious, we learn not only about the technologies required to get to more efficient automobiles, but the people behind those stories.

The book is well written, and the author has a good handle on both the human aspect and the technological aspects of the challenge for efficiency. Many proponents of alternative energy powered cars don't quite get the basic laws of physics - just running your car on ethanol or solar isn't enough. Gasoline is one of the highest density for weight fuels available, and the challenge is largely based on car design in general. In fact, the winning automobile was gas powered. It's not just about alternative energy.

A few times in the book, the author lets his style get away from him and he leaves the proverbial rails. For instance, while talking about poorer students who are working on efficient automobiles, he surmises that poor people "care more" about global warming because they can't move to higher ground when the cities on the East coast get flooded like richer people can. On it's face, this is a bit of a ridiculous claim. Alternative energy cars are largely playthings for the wealthy - most of the poor can't even afford these cars. Most support for these initiatives come from the wealthier segments of society anyways. I think the motivation of poor students to innovate has to do with achieving and building something, rather than fear of their neighborhoods getting flooded.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Ingenious tells a rather engaging story of the pursuit of the Automotive X Prize, a contest to design a car that can achieve one hundred miles per gallon and still be practical and usable. The most remarkable part of the story is how "small time" many of the key players are. It's not MIT and major engineering corporations that the book highlights (though a few larger players were in the mix, at least initially), but instead a high school in West Philadelphia, a couple of small start-ups, and a few groups of what can only be called hobbyists. Yet, these are the people who decide to set out on this phenomenally challenging goal. That the story shows how much they can achieve. Every one of the groups that the book follows makes a real push to win the prize. It certainly raises the question, why can't the major automakers do better? (And maybe the better question is why don't consumers push for it?) And one of the fascinating ironies of the book is that the winning vehicle in the primary class was not electric or hybrid or some other innovative and obscure technology but was powered by a motorcycle engine. The technology is here (and probably has been for a while).

The book is an interesting mix of personal stories, interesting technology, and one great big race for the prize. It's well told, and you can tell the author dedicated many years to getting to know these teams and follow their exploits. My biggest complaint is that there aren't way more pictures. When you're talking about unfamiliar technology, or when so much rides on innovative and unfamiliar designs, it would be really helpful to actually see what he's talking about, instead of having to search online for pictures of the odd-looking machines he describes. There are a few snapshots, but not nearly enough. But that doesn't take away from a this book. It's a good read, and an interesting one. Enjoy.
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