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Ingenious: A True Story of Invention, Automotive Daring, and the Race to Revive America

4.12  ·  Rating Details ·  126 Ratings  ·  35 Reviews
An epic tale of invention, in which ordinary people’s lives are changed forever by their quest to engineer a radically new kind of car

In 2007, the X Prize Foundation announced that it would give $10 million to anyone who could build a safe, mass-producible car that could travel 100 miles on the energy equivalent of a gallon of gas. The challenge attracted more than one hu
Hardcover, 384 pages
Published November 5th 2013 by Crown (first published January 1st 2013)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 580)
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Dysphasiatic Danz
Let me preface this review by stating that I approached it with the bias that comes from being a lover of cars, a believer in electric vehicles, and an XPRIZE contender.

One of Fagone's strengths as a non-fiction writer is his ability to take fact and tell it in a way that reads like a novel, full of characters, dramatic scenes, a pace with much forward momentum, and even subtle parallels one would find in a great work of fiction.

Only this is real. It happened, mostly under the radar of the mass
Aaron Baker
Nov 26, 2013 Aaron Baker rated it it was amazing
Can regular people with clever ideas design a better, more fuel-efficient car, or is that something only possible with the big-money resources available to the major auto manufacturers? In 2007, the X Prize Foundation put up $10 million to answer that question and Ingenious is the story of four of the teams vying for that prize.

Quite simply, this book is fantastic. True, it’s a book about a car contest, so there is plenty to keep any car enthusiast interested, but for me, the strength of the boo
Patrick Brown
Jan 07, 2014 Patrick Brown rated it really liked it
Jason Fagone wrote one of the best magazine pieces I'd read in a long time about former Syracuse and Indianapolis Colt wide receiver Marvin Harrison (Spoiler alert: He's apparently not a great guy). After reading it, I started following Fagone on Twitter, and so of course when I saw this book was coming out, I added it to my to-read list.

And I was not disappointed.

The storytelling flare that Fagone showed in the GQ piece is given a greater scope in Ingenious, the story of the automotive X Priz
Nov 14, 2013 Ann rated it it was amazing
I love books about cars, history, and invention. Ingenious, Jason Fagone’s new book has all of that set against the background of the 2008 recession and the collapse of the American automotive industry. I know. I was there glued to every minute of the Senate hearings on the bailout. By the time of the hearings – November 2008 – the Automotive X PRIZE was underway and I was the manager of the EVX Team, one of the teams highlighted in Jason Fagone’s terrific story about the quest to build cars tha ...more
Nov 27, 2013 Jim rated it it was amazing
To the number of nice reviews here, I'll add a few more things.

This is a book as much about passionate people trying to solve a hard important problem as is is about technology. I found it to be an engaging story.

The start of it is found here:

Road Trip! If you are in NC,VA,DC,NJ,NY,MA area in December 2013 , you have a chance to see the author Jason Fagone and Kevin Smith of the Illuminati Motorworks and their car: Seven. This should be a cool event.

Craig Pittman
Dec 13, 2013 Craig Pittman rated it it was amazing
Remember when America seemed to be a nation of inventors? Back when Tom Edison, Henry Ford and Harvey Firestone hung out together? Whatever happened to that country?

That's the subtext of Jason Fagone's fun and fascinating book about four of the teams that competed in the recent X Prize competition to build a better car. In 2007, the X Prize Foundation announced that it would give $10 million to anyone who could build a safe, mass-producible car that could travel 100 miles on the energy equivalen
Chi Dubinski
Aug 20, 2013 Chi Dubinski rated it really liked it
Story of four teams competing for the ten million dollar X Prize in automotive engineering. A page- turner, even if you can't tell an engine from a transmission.
Oct 12, 2013 Jen rated it it was amazing
Amazing book, even if you're not a car person
Oct 28, 2013 Jay rated it really liked it
Shelves: business, first-reads
Do you wonder about those people that work to create machines, to invent and to build things that haven't existed before? Where do they get their ideas? how do they deal with failures? What drives them? Those are the kinds of questions asked in "Ingenious", in this case about energy efficient cars created to compete for the Automotive X Prize in 2010. The cars are the focus at times, and Fagone describes the philosophy behind each car and some of the technical aspects of the cars in an unthreate ...more
Leland Beaumont
Oct 13, 2013 Leland Beaumont rated it it was amazing
The automobile industry stagnated decades ago. In 1908 the Model T Ford got 25 miles to the gallon. A century later the average American car gets only 28 miles to the gallon. In contrast only 66 years after the Wright Brothers flew the first airplane in 1903, astronaut Neil Armstrong walked on the moon. It seems that once the car became big business the automobile companies no longer risked innovation.

Despite all of the romantic stories told about him, the truth is that Charles Lindberg flew acr
Sep 08, 2013 Kari rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-in-2013
My dad made sure I could change my own oil and change a tire, but I wasn’t sure I would be able to follow a book about building cars from scratch. Thankfully, it was so interesting I didn’t even have to worry about that. Ingenious follows teams who are competing in the X Prize, trying to create cars that will meet certain efficiency standards (100 miles on the energy equivalent of a gallon of gas). All the teams involved were interesting and I definitely found myself rooting for a couple of them ...more
Dec 04, 2013 David rated it really liked it
These crazy people tried to build a better car ... not just a slightly better car, a much better car. This is their story or stories. Ingenious is the history of the automotive x-prize, a cash prize awarded to the winners of a competition to build a next generation fuel efficient vehicle.

The major automotive manufacturers didn't participate. Instead you have entrepreneurs and tinkerers. A public school.

I found this book to be rather interesting. I like a bit of history mixed with science. I'm sl
Feb 18, 2014 Larry rated it it was amazing
I guess it says something about why we have such highly polluting, fuel inefficient motor vehicles that many copies of this well-written and interesting book sit unread on my library's shelves. Nominally, this is a book about a multimillion dollar contest to develop an extraordinary car in both fuel efficiency and pollution control while still meeting much of the driving capabilities we expect from "normal" cars. The author follows multiple contestant teams through the long process of developing ...more
Dec 31, 2013 Venkatesh-Prasad rated it really liked it
If you are interested in cars, technology, engineering, tinkering (have taken tools to your toys as a kid), and pushing the envelope, then you will enjoy this book.

The book describes the highs and lows of various competitors during the X car prize contest -- design a fuel efficient car. What each team thinks will make a car efficient and how they go about trying to achieve it is truly remarkable and a great example of combining creativity with practicality.

While the narration does digress in the
Denise Morse
Apr 05, 2014 Denise Morse rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
Honestly, I was really not expecting to like this book as much as I did. I know absolutely nothing about cars except that you put gas in and it goes, but this book made me understand more about the potential future. The character stories were interesting and riveting, I felt emotional when some of the teams were eliminated and really was pulling for others. I wish that the contest and the cars had gotten the attention that they deserve and the backing from actual car makers. Here's hoping that t ...more
Jan 31, 2014 Rama rated it really liked it
An interesting tale of invention

This is a story of invention in old sense of the word. This is about what people in America are capable of when thrown back on their heels and forced to improvise in an inclement financial environment. It is about the ordinary men and women whose lives have been transformed by a remarkable quest that combines all the elements of preparing for Olympics, NASCAR race and junkyard wars.

When gas prices were going up and oil reserves were going down, X prize foundation
Andrew Martin
part of the late 2013/early 2014 innovation/new economy thread - or more precisely, I read "As an aside, if you, too, think cars should be much more efficient, and that efficiency is more of a priority than making your car speak your Tweets to you, read Ingenious, by Jason Fagone" in this O'Reilly article and nodded, even though I don't have a car (although that, too, is just apparently a matter of time).

to use the argot of Ingenious this one was 4 stars (good yarn + actual insight about the way
Apr 06, 2016 dejah_thoris rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, history
This is great coverage of several American inventors competing for the automotive X Prize. I would have given this five stars, but Fagone really shows his ignorance of the manufacturing world in the first few chapters. For example, he asks a welder working on a prototype if he really trusts ALL of his own welds compared to the "accuracy" of robotic welding, which is frankly insulting. (I'm surprised Fagone didn't get a punch in the jaw for that comment.) Fortunately, he explains why he's so damn ...more
Tara deCamp
Jul 05, 2014 Tara deCamp rated it liked it
In 2007, the X Prize Foundation announced that it would give $10 million to anyone who could build a safe, mass-producible car that could travel 100 miles on the energy equivalent of one gallon of gas. The challenge attracted more than one hundred teams from all over the world. Jason Fagone follows four of those teams in this interesting tale of invention and ingenuity. This is about what people in America are capable of when thrown back on their heels and forced to improvise in an inclement fin ...more
Erin McKenna
Dec 26, 2013 Erin McKenna rated it really liked it
A fast fun read about a topic I knew little about before picking up this book. Well written, easy to follow, and I wished it was a little longer!
Michael Clifford
Mar 01, 2014 Michael Clifford rated it it was amazing
Excellent book about the X prize, a $10 million dollar challenge to design and construct fuel efficient vehicles. The author focuses on 2 or 3 of the teams - one of which wins the prize. Lots of different kind of teams (corporate, schools, etc.) chase the prize using a variety of different technologies. The winning team uses an approach to lightweight a vehicle and gets it under 1000 lbs. Ironically, their solution uses an internal combustion engine, not an electric or hybrid drivetrain. They en ...more
Joerg Rings
Mar 14, 2014 Joerg Rings rated it liked it
Ingenious shows the struggle of a few American inventors and engineers participating in the X-Prize to make a fuel-efficient car that could be mass produced. It was a nice enough read, and a very interesting topic, and it's also easy to read and you want to know how it ends.
But I have a couple of problems with the book, among them
* The book reads like a very long magazine article, the conversational style sometimes feels a bit breathless
* I'd sometime like a bit more technical answers, instead o
Mar 15, 2015 Bruce rated it liked it
A fun and easy read about the $5 Million X Prize, created by a private foundation to stimulate activity in designing super-efficient cars, with MPG of > 100. The author tells the tale in episodes profiling 4 very different teams - a group of high school kids, lifelong car professionals and racing buffs, an inner-city high school Auto Tech class, a quirky engineer in the Illinois cornfields.

The author mixes his description of the automotive details with the personal situations of the principa
Nick Lauinger
Mar 09, 2015 Nick Lauinger rated it it was amazing
Jason Fagone’s second book has delivered a truly innovative story about four groups of extraordinary men who take on the monster that is the automotive industry. Ingenious follows four teams in a race to revive the gasoline crisis.

In 2007 the X Prize Foundation announced that they would give 10 million dollars to anyone who could create a car capable of being mass produced, that could get 100 miles on the energy equivalent to one gallon of gas. Jason Fagone follows four teams that all have diffe
Doug Cornelius
In 2007, the X Prize Foundation announced that it would give $10 million to anyone who could build a safe, mass-producible car that could travel 100 miles on the energy equivalent of one gallon of gas. The challenge attracted more than one hundred teams from all over the world. Jason Fagone follows four of those teams in Ingenious: A True Story of Invention, Automotive Daring, and the Race to Revive America .

The X Prize Foundation is most famously known for its first challenge to launch a space
Jan 10, 2014 AJ rated it liked it
I received this book as a First Reads giveaway. The idea of an engaging story about diverse people competing for a cash prize by creating a super car might seem improbable for some history readers, but Ingenious by Jason Fagone DID, in fact, manage to keep my interest throughout the entire book. And instead of simply running through the facts and statistics, the author describes this event with wit, humor, and humanity, and with just the right seasoning of personal details from the people involv ...more
Jan 27, 2014 Krista rated it it was amazing
Shelves: science
It took me a little while to sort out the whole cast of characters in this book. It follows 3-ish teams on their race to design a car and compete in the automotive X-prize. But once I had the teams straight- I loved this book. I know NOTHING about cars, but this made me want to learn. It made me want to know how to build things and tinker and teach.
Apr 01, 2014 Zed rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
When you build something, especially a complicated something, to fulfill a practical need or prove a point, the result is a sense of accomplishment that goes beyond the usual paper pushing that we often find ourselves trapped in.
Jun 11, 2014 Lisa rated it it was amazing
Great job weaving life and design challenge together. You really get a feel for the personalities and life of the designers in the competition.
Joe Loncarich
Jul 13, 2014 Joe Loncarich rated it really liked it
As anyone who has ever seen me around power tools can attest, I am in no way a gear head. Still, this book was really fascinating.
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I've written about science, sports, and culture for Wired, GQ, Men's Journal, Esquire,, The New York Times Magazine, The Atlantic, Slate, Philadelphia, and the 2011 edition of The Best American Sports Writing. A few years ago, I wrote a book called "Horsemen of the Esophagus," about competitive eating and the American dream. For the last three years, I've been working on my next book ...more
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“His car, he envisioned, would be almost completely recyclable, the death of one car giving birth to part of another in an endless cycle, a concept known as “cradle-to-grave sustainability.” 1 likes
“Ford convinced the American public to believe in gasoline cars. And then Ford became Ford, and America became America.” 1 likes
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