I love entrepreneurs who do big things, who want to change the world, who know that if they fail, they’ll fail big—but if they win, they will have made a difference. I’ve written about Elon Musk (“SpaceX: A big win for an emerging industry”) who, with SpaceX and Tesla Motors, is definitely taking on monumental, but exciting challenges. Today I want to tell you about a unique entrepreneur who also has a big vision that will give you faith that real innovation—the hard stuff—is alive and well.
I met Chip Yates while he was still a licensing manager at Boeing in 2002. By then he had already launched more than 30 mass-produced consumer products for clients; invented, patented, and licensed several automotive technologies related to 4-wheel drive traction systems (3 patents on the Jeep Grand Cherokee); and in his spare time won the SCCA ProRally Group 5 championship in a sponsored race car he had built. And that’s just the major stuff. Fortunately for me, we have remained friends all these years and he has continued to bolster my hope that real innovation will continue to be supported and rewarded.
Yates has never been one to rest on his successes. No, for the past few years, he and his world-class engineering team worked without pay, using $270,000 of Yate’s own money, to pioneer one of the world’s most successful electric vehicles. The 258 horsepower electric superbike, achieving speeds over 200 mph, carried Yates to 8 official World Land Speed Records, the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb World Record, 4 AMA National Records, and 4 AMA National Championship Titles. His invention now holds the official FIM record for “The World’s Fastest Electric Motorcycle.”
After succeeding in demonstrating performance equivalent to gasoline engines, he donated the superbike to the Petersen Automotive Museum
in Los Angeles where you can find it in the Alternative Power Exhibit Hall.
But wait! There’s more! On May 22, Yates announced his plan for an all-electric Charles Lindbergh Transatlantic Flight
in—you guessed it—an all-electric plane. “Our purpose in setting out on this very difficult path is to force innovation that drives electric flight technology forward in a significant and measurable way.” One of the big challenges of all-electric flight is the ability to remain aloft for the entire 3,600 mile flight. Of course, Yates and his team have that all figured out with a worldwide patent on the ability to dock with flying UAV battery pods. Dubbed “The Flight of the Century,” Yates will pilot the Long-EZ aircraft that was designed by Burt Rutan and converted to all all-electric test bed for Yate’s Infinite Range Electric Flight (REF) technology. The team is expecting ground tests to begin in July at the Mojave Air and Space Port
. The aircraft should be ready for its first all-electric flight later that month.
Yates has received a ton of media attention but he keeps his focus on the prize—an electric airplane that can “fly forever.” If anyone can do it, he can.
You can see a great video that PBS
did with Yates that will give you a sense of who he is and how he conceived the superbike and now the Flight of the Century
! Keep an eye on him – he’s definitely a pioneer and a winner!