“The Little Engine That Shouldn’t Have…”

This story bagan back in the late 70’s when I originally came up with a concept for an electric free-flow electric turbine motor for commercial shipping vessels. At that time the technologies required to make this a cost effective and practical reality simply did not exist. Then in 2005 I found myself presented with an opportunity for this technology to be actualized. It all began when his friend Sara Troy showed me a letter and began explaining the concept for a new business venture that her and another friend of hers were in the process of building. The letter that she presented along with her description of the purpose and meaning to how this business venture was going to serve the betterment of humanity resonated in harmony with his own personal journey in life. Her business venture involved importing electric bikes in North America. From the revenues generated from the sales of the bike a percentage was to be directed into supporting other peoples Humanitarian work efforts. At the end of the conversation Sara asked me to do something for her that would change the directions that both our lives would take. My eldest son and I were very active in the extreme mountain biking world. Sara asked me to take the sample electric bike she had home with me for a few days and give her my honest evaluation of it.

This is where the story begins to take a very unexpected twist. I took the bike home and over the next few days I had everyone in my family test out the bike. Everyone found the bile to be a blast to ride. Acceleration provided by the electric motor got the adrenaline flowing, the ability to climb up steep hills effortlessly was a godsend, the practicality of being able to travel quickly over long distances without ever breaking a sweat was refreshing. Most importantly the bike worked well as a typical bike under pedal power. This sounds like the bike would provide the perfect solution for Sara’s business. So you are probably scratching your head wondering how this could possibly change the direction of my life so profoundly. Here are the major shortcomings we discovered with the bike…

  • The overall construction and component quality of the bike would lead to serious reliability issues over a short period of time– future warranty and servicing nightmare!
  • The bike was very poorly balanced which caused some pretty serious handling and safety issues- potentially huge legal liability and safety issues.
  • Consumer cost to benefit ratio on the pricing model was way too low!!! Very hard to sell at the suggested retail price. Due largely in part to the massive duties and tariffs placed on imported fully assembled bikes.

After discovering these shortcomings I found myself in a very difficult situation of having to give Sara both the good and bad news about the bikes. Sara’s business concept was sound and had high potential to succeed, the problem was that the product she was planning to sell would have ultimately crippled the business from ever achieving that full potential. The night before Sara and I were to meet up so I could deliver the good and bad news of our findings and still unsure of how I was going to tell Sara the overall negative impact his findings would have on her business, I found myself helping my son turn up his bike for the next day’s ride. I was working on the disk braking system on the bike while my son was rebuilding the suspension system. As I was adjusting the disk brakes an image popped into my head… It was an image of a really cool electric motor concept based on research work I had done back in university that could be built around the disk braking system on the bike. Within minutes of this my mind began working on the prototype of how this new electric motor would work and could be made. By the next morning I knew exactly how to break the bad news to Sara.

The next morning I met up with Sara armed with my new innovative bike motor concept along with all the other news he had to update her with. I started off the meeting by sharing all the good news, then proceeded to give her all the bad news. At this point Sara was clearly shaken up by my findings. Then I took out a piece of paper and began sketching out and explaining this new electric motor concept he came up with the previous evening. How this new electric motor technology could potentially revolutionize how all electric motors are designed and manufactured in the future. Upon hearing Bill’s description of this motor, Sara had an epiphany that no matter what this motor had to be built.

Over the next year I built and tested literally thousands of prototypes of the motor until I had a design that he knew would work. In November of 2006 we began building the first prototype. Also during that time we had also approached some of the leading electric motor manufacturing companies in the world to find a controller that could be used to power and operate the prototype. Every single one of them upon hearing me describe how his motor worked they all said that’s impossible and that it didn’t matter what motor controller you choose the motor will never work!! These are the things that I love to hear from people- it’s what drives me to achieve the incredible things that I have been able to accomplish in life.

Undaunted I knew I could come up with an innovative way to power and control the motor. Having an extensive background in  the pro and consumer audio industry I figured I could just use a car amplifier to provide the power required to drive the motor and to control the motor Apple had just introduced a new Ipod that I figured out a way that it could be used as the motor controller. Using the Ipod only required me to use Ableton’s Live audio software and my midi keyboard to record a whole bunch of audio loops that when played back through the Ipod would control the motor’s speed and direction. 

Over the Christmas 2006 break we had all the parts made and everything else we needed to begin building and assembling the prototype. I had everything finished off by New Years eve and was going to surprise Sara on New Years day with the working motor. There was just one thing that I wanted and needed to test out before then. It was not whether the motor would work or not, it was a technical matter of figuring out which way the motor’s drive coils needed to be mounted in order to deliver the best performance. New Years day I invited Sara to join me in the dining room and unveiled the finished prototype to her for the first time. I then picked up the Ipod from the table and pressed the play button and the motor immediately jumped to life! 

Here’s a video showing the working prototype of a really innovative electric motor technology that everyone said would never work…

“Often it is the very person that you would never have imagined of who accomplishes the things no one else could have ever imagined to be possible”

Bill Macquis – ‘LIFE’ explorer,discoverer and pioneer.

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