The RORMaxx revolution

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Malibu teen Maxx Bricklin and his friend Rory Handel have developed a prototype that would satisfy any racecar motor head, as well as any “green-” minded revolutionary.

By Melonie Magruder / Special to The Malibu Times

Building and racing your own car has been the American adolescent boy’s dream since soapbox derby days. But Malibu teen Maxx Bricklin, along with school chum Rory Handel, is taking it to the next level.

The partners in the recently formed company, RORMaxx, are creating a new vehicle that not only sets the heart thumping with its sleek Formula 1 design and futuristic Batmobile image, this car is set to run on fully clean, renewable energies, starting with wind.

“I was test-driving a Lotus with my dad, who designs cars, and we got to talking about the energy crisis a couple of years ago,” Bricklin, 17, said in an interview with The Malibu Times. “Then I saw some windmills and started thinking about mounting a windmill on a car.”

It’s not as silly as it sounds. The RORMaxx prototype has air intake vents in the front that gather airflow into four small turbines. The electrical charge from this is stored in ultra capacitors that permit the kind of pick-up crucial to a racecar motor head-vision, with further fuel provided by ultra-thin solar panels that are essentially painted onto the car’s hull.

“This is the first time someone my age has had a chance to contribute a really revolutionary idea in this new energy paradigm,” Bricklin said. “We think it’s a small window of opportunity, so we’re working like crazy.”

Bricklin’s visionary instincts come from his genes. His dad, Malcolm Bricklin, was a designer and CEO of several car companies, including Subaru of America, which offered the first commercial gull-wing sports vehicles in the country (predating John DeLorean’s ’80s DMC-12), and inventor of electric bicycles using alternative energies. Maxx Bricklin grew up in Malibu and is a senior at Harvard-Westlake, with plans to attend USC’s Marshall School of Business. According to his mother, Diane Malecha, Bricklin is a born entrepreneur.

“When he was a boy, Maxx would load up his wagon with baseball cards and pull it around the neighborhood,” Malecha said. “He’d charge 25 cents for a look through his memorabilia. Then he offered ‘free’ lemonade. It came with a ‘donation.’ He’d make about $70 in an hour.”

At Harvard-Westlake, he met up with Rory Handel, who is driven by a lifelong fascination for engineering (his personal motto stated on their Web site, www.formulaae.com, is, “Imagination is more important than knowledge!”). Launching a working relationship that Bricklin’s mother termed “a match made in heaven,” the two seniors set out to design a vehicle that would meet the renewable energy demands of America’s automotive future, while totally satisfying the sports car aficionado’s aesthetic.

“Obviously, the body has to be ultra light, so we have an aluminum-based chassis covered with a hemp-based carbon fiber for the body,” Bricklin said in describing their prototype. “Hemp is ridiculously easy to use and will keep the cost down.”

Bricklin acknowledged being razzed for the use of hemp-the common name for the non-psychoactive variant of cannabis, the family of plants that includes marijuana-but said he is much more concerned with finalizing designs for the lithium-phosphate batteries that should ultimately offer 250 miles travel distance off the plug-in charge of the finished product. His design team is also working on two forms of solar power for the vehicle -tiny solar panels, thin as paper, and a viscous, brush-on, solar trapping material similar to the latest generation of thin solar panels used in commercial projects.

Bricklin and Handel have put together a board of advisors for their start-up, including their fathers, Malcolm Bricklin and Richard Handel one of the firm’s financial advisors. Also on the board are Tom Urban, a specialist in business development and strategic planning, Paul Lambert, whose experience in Broadway production prepared him as a public relations guru, and a couple of financial advisors who have a combined 90-plus years in business management. They are also working with R-3 Motor Sports of Van Nuys and have received donated solar paneling.

“We’re figuring it will cost about $120,000 to produce a prototype RORMaxx,” Bricklin said. “Optimistically speaking, we’d like to see it retailing for about $40,000. The future of energy is obviously in renewables, so we think our car, like the Tesla, is one of the few cars out there ready to fill that niche.”

More information on the RORMaxx can be obtained online at www.formulaae.com