The Road Less Traveled: The One Gallon Challenge Comes to Boston

Meet the man who founded the extreme MPG challenge.

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Photographs by Trent Bell

If you find yourself at City Hall Plaza on August 15, look for a 72-year-old man tooling around in a blue-and-yellow go-cart. That’ll be the Maine inventor Jory Squibb, in town for the One Gallon Challenge, a fuel-efficiency contest he founded.

Squibb’s brainchildren are two micro-cars, which he’s named Sunbeam and Moonbeam. For most of his everyday driving, he takes Moonbeam (pictured above): a car that weighs only 400 pounds and gets 100 miles per gallon. (Since Moonbeam’s top speed is just 55 miles per hour, Squibb drives a Volkswagen Golf Diesel for highway trips.) Sunbeam, meanwhile, is effectively a glorified bicycle—an electric/pedal hybrid that weighs only 105 pounds. The vehicle is an attempt to “put exercise back into transportation,” though Squibb concedes that such a goal might be most appealing to “people who are a little bit on the fringe.”

That may also describe Squibb, who grew up in Detroit during the auto-industry boom. “Anyone born in that era, almost naturally, is born with a wrench in their hand,” he says. It was in the 1970s, when gas prices spiked, that Squibb started building electric cars. Once prices dropped, and everyone returned to their gas guzzlers, Squibb kept at his passion, which has led to the One Gallon Challenge.

The object is to make the trip from various locations into Boston using just one gallon of fuel. Squibb created the competition four years ago, and it’s now held yearly as part of Boston GreenFest, the sustainability festival that this year takes place August 15 to 17 on City Hall Plaza. After stepping down this year as the One Gallon Challenge’s organizer, Squibb will still be among the competitors, a group he calls “a bunch of automotive crackpots.”

He doesn’t expect to see people driving micro-cars anytime soon, but he believes the contest sparks imaginations. “There’s a great energy that comes from feeling like you’re allied with the future,” he says. “You can drive the big dinosaur. But isn’t it much more fun to be driving the car of  the future?”

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Hot wheels: Keep an eye out for Sunbeam, a partially pedal-powered “car of the future.”

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  • Disco Dotty

    I love this story and will make sure to check out moonbeam and sunbeam at the Greenfest tomorrow. 100 miles per gallon, where do I sign up?