On February 5, 2009, in a private meeting at Jay Leno's Garage, 12 infamous mechanics and EV engineers kicked off The ZERO SOUTH Vehicle Integration Team. Since then this dream team has met every Tuesday for four years to build vehicles bound for South Pole. That's nearly 220 Tuesdays, but what's more remarkable is that each member of the team is a volunteer. Members include, Bernard Juchli (mechanic for Jay Leno); Mike Sabbarese (mechanic for Arnold Schwarzenegger);
Erik Hatch, Jerry Benson and Jim Nagashima (GM's Advanced Drive Division), Nick Baggarly (Drive Around the World), and seven wildly-talented, personality-rich mechanics.
Jerry Benson: Team Engineer
Nickname: The Assembler
Jerry is a classically trained and wildly experienced electrical engineer who does not mince words. Of all of us Jerry has his feet planted most firmly on the ground. He's a real realist's realist—never afraid to tell it how it is and hasn't learned the art of sugar coating—and that's just the way we like him. Some find him to be a bit negative-- and pessimistic even. If something challenging must be done you'll have to prove it to him because until you do he is likely to say it won't work. Our project has benefitted hugely from his approach and his designs. Jerry retired from General Motors a few years ago. Before that he worked for Hughes Aircraft for many years when his division was purchased by General Motors, so he finished his career at GM's, Advanced Technology Center in Torrance, CA where he worked with Jim and Eric on traction drive and power systems for all of the electric and hybrid vehicle projects. Instead of using software CAD and drawing tools, Jerry prefers to use good 'ol graph paper and a sharp pencil to make his flowcharts, schematics and designs. We call this "Jerry-CAD." Be sure to ask him what that is and get a shot of it. Jerry will make an excellent interview. We call him "The Assembler" because he's so good at taking things apart. It's kind of a joke. If you want something taken apart, call this guy. Jerry Benson has the best combination of optimism and reality. Anything is doable but the approach taken must be grounded and sound. He is always asking questions and double checking. These are very important things to do in any project and it takes a sensitive person to be the voice of reason in a positive way. There were several nicknames mentioned for you like Checkpoint and Grounder or it was going to be based on your driving at AMG's offroad course and call you CommanderOffroad, but we settled on "THE ASSEMBLER."
Mike Sabbrese: Team Mechanic
Mike is fondly known throughout the entire Hummer community as "the guy" who knows it all and has done it all. He can look at any part on a Hummer and tell you what it is. Trying to stump him is a waste of time. He's a mechanical maestro--so he'll probably have it done in two days. When he’s not working on vehicles he’s driving them in the various Baja off-road events.
Having worked on Hummers for more than a decade his understanding of the vehicle is unmatched—so much so that the manufacturer turns to him for support and design guidance. His motives for this project are sincere. He’s involved because he’s a true vehicle enthusiast who wants to lend his talents to make a difference. When told about a green H1 at SEMA and how they powder coated everything and made it all colorful he confidently said, “We could do that.” It meant taking the vehicle apart—every nut, every bolt, every washer—and he could have just said, that sounds unnecessary and like a lot of work—and he would have been right. But he’s a true enthusiast who wants to do something new and cool and different and he did it. His ZS Nickname is an appreciative one, TIMELAPS.
Jonathan Knowles: Vehicle Design Advisor
Jonathan Knowles explores the frontier of beyond the horizon technologies, provides insight on the evolving role of design-driven innovation, and conducts fieldwork to help solve some of the world's most complex problems. He is a creative thinker who researches the intersections between technology and global trends, bringing the arts, science and technology together, and connecting people and ideas. A respected voice on future trends, long-range vision, and creating the preferred future, he advises Fortune Global 500 senior executives, government leaders, and tier-one academics around the world. His expertise keeps him in dialog with designers, engineers, scientists, educators, and others seeking to imagine, design and create a better world
Dan Chutes: Team Engineer, K&N Engineering
Dan is a master machine engineer from K&N Engineering who is as competent as they come. His solutions to any problem are perfect or pretty close. He builds the monster manufacturing machines at K&N Engineering (Riverside, CA) that make their filters. Dan designed the drive motors adapters which were fabricated at Jay Leno's garage. He also designed and fabricated the engine to electric motor adapters. They took on some of the toughest engineering challenges of the project. Drive motor and generator interfaces and mount designs, did 95% of the design and even delivered some beautiful generator adapters for the engine. But when life commitments shot through the roof did he abandon ZERO SOUTH? No. Dan gave the designs and remained available for questions. We are proud to be able to show you the physical manifestation of all of your hard work—in motion no less.
Erik Hatch: Team Engineer
Spend a minute talking with Erik Hatch and you know this guy is spooky smart. Erik worked with Jim and Jerry at General Motors, Advanced Technology Center in Torrance, CA, and prior to that he worked for UQM (our electric motor supplier) for 12 years. How lucky are we to have a guy who knows our motors literally inside and out. He specializes in motor assembly, motor design, and has supported motor development projects for Fuel Cell traction motors, Hybrid motor/generator, and oil pump systems. He is great at packaging investigations. That means Erik knows how to find the perfect place for components to go, so be sure to ask him questions about how we packaged the vehicle. Erik mapped out all the "spaces" that would be available in the Hummer to put things, and then created a detailed drawing before we even started to purchase items. This was a valuable effort. He's one of those engineers who produces documentation as he goes and makes sure things are tested thoroughly. Not much gets past this guy. Erik did a lot of the initial calculations and figuring and helped us size the components we used. You helped us determine the requirement for the system. You could say you made a great contribution to the recipe. Your ZS Nickname is: MASTER CHEF
Logan Brabham: Team Mechanic
Logan is a biofuels enthusiast. Logan is the youngest member of our team. Drive Around the World was asked to award winners of the Los Angeles Science Fair and Logan's exhibit on biofuel efficiencies was so impressive we invited him to join the team. 'Fettling' is a word we made up to describe any modification, cutting or labor-intensive, expletive-screaming modifications that you have to do make something fit. Logan is good at it. Some great ideas for how to get things done have come from Logan. At 20--the youngest member of our team, he always bring a great energy to the project. He represents the generation we are working to influence so his contribution and perspective are greatly appreciated. His nickname was a tough one but we came up with what we believe will be the most coveted nickname on the team! This is something we've all done, and something we're all good at but he deserve's it more than anyone. Logan, your nickname is FETTLER.
Pat Young: Team Mechanic
Pat is a general auto mechanic who has rebuilt more than 1000 engines in his day. After 14-years with the Palmdale Water District he retired. Pat knows the most about what we are building. He has the entire vehicle in his head. He build the vehicles for previous Drive Around the World expeditions. Pat is the most honest man you will ever meet. He tells you what he knows and if he doesn't know he'll say it, but don't expect to hear this often. He knows most everything about vehicles there is to know. Pat fabricated and implemented many of the electric drive motor mounting and coupling parts. He will be installing the electric motors during the vehicle conversion. In any project there are people who go beyond contributor status. They're the ones who you say, "what would we do without that guy?" Pat possesses technical know-how, a detailed understanding of the mission and has the patience to see each and every step through to completion. During Apollo there was only one person on the ground at mission control who was authorized to talk to the astronauts as they were hurling 40,000-miles-per-hour through space on their way to the moon. One person so as to avoid communications confusion with the remote crew and this person was always an astronaut. They called him CAPCOM and Pat, that's your ZERO SOUTH nickname.
Rodney Wilson: Production Manager
Nickname: Bigwheel Rodney
Bigwheel Rodney helps wrangle the vehicle team and keeps the project task lists and schedules so we call him, Cattle Dog.
Bo Wang: Team Engineer
After he earned a Master's degree major in Mechanical Engineering from University of Southern California, Bo decided to rebuild his geared brain to be hybrid—with same path of the PTVs, for better food efficiency. So don't be surprised by his Frappuccino consumption because the brand new head cooling system needs to be filled with ice-cold coffee!
Nick Baggarly: Executive Director, Expedition Leader
Nick is known for his ability to organize ambitious team efforts to achieve meaningful objectives. A successful Silicon Valley software engineer, Nick took a sabbatical from McAfee Associates in 1997 to lead an expedition on an 8,000-mile drive through Mexico, Belize, and Guatemala. His team delivered medical supplies to remote villages for Rivers of the World, an international aid organization. In 2002 he co-founded the 'Drive Around the World' non-profit organization to produce extraordinary and relevant adventures with each project aimed at highlighting a different problem. Drive Around the World was founded with the goal of producing dramatic adventures to promote cross-border understanding and goodwill as well as to raise funds for charitable causes. In 1999, Nick led the LATITUDE Expedition—a 16,000-mile circumnavigation of the globe through 16 countries, driving from Beijing to San Francisco. During the journey, his team worked with teachers throughout California to interact with middle school students. In 2005 he led the LONGITUDE Expedition, a 44,000-mile drive through 30 countries to highlight Parkinson's Disease research. The project featured five non-profit programs including a drive-a-thon fundraising program and a global-grass-roots awareness campaign which was lauded as "unprecedented in the history of disease advocacy." Nick believes humanities' problems are merely, "seemingly-insurmountable challenges that are actually very solvable." He is a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society and a member of New York's Explorers club.
Jim Nagashima: Team Mechanic
Nagashima Advanced Technology Consulting. Cerritos, CA
Jim worked at General Motors for 12 years and worked on projects like the Chevy Volt and the original EV-1 electric car. He has over 30 years of experience in the field of power electronics, electric machines, power inverter modules, and drive systems for automotive, space, military and industrial applications.
Jim engineers solutions for Advanced vehicles including Hybrids, Fuel Cell Vehicles, Electric Vehicles, and Range-extended EVs. From 1993-2009 he worked with Jerry and Eric at General Motors, Advanced Technology Center in Torrance, CA. While there he was responsible for developing technologies and hardware in power electronics, motor drives, and controls for GM's electric, hybrid and fuel cell vehicle programs. Key technologies developed include; Interior permanent magnet motors up to 110KW, advanced power inverters from 35-200KW, sensorless motor controls, PWM algorithms, direct drive wheel motors, EMI control methods, DC-DC converters 5-40KW, battery chargers, dielectric fluid spray cooling, power electronics using wide band gap devices, novel electric drive topologies, high frequency power electronics, high power boost converters, and integrated electric traction systems. Past vehicle programs include; GM EV-1 electric vehicle, Autonomy fuel cell concept vehicle, Precept demonstrator for PNGV, GM's Two-mode strong hybrids, Belt Alternator Starter mild hybrids, hybrid bus programs, Equinox FCV, and the Sequel concept vehicle. Jim holds 29 patents in the field of power electronics and electric machines and has more than 30 patents pending. He specializes in coupling electric motors to vehicle drive systems. Jim designed the entire ZERO SOUTH battery box which was fabricated at Jay Leno's garage. He also designed the PTV's Power Distribution Unit, vehicle control box and low-voltage switch panel. When Jim is around he has such tremendous energy and drive it brings organization and stability to the project.
It is the dream of every non-profit to find someone like Jim and no where in the history of DATW volunteers have we had someone come into a project—taking such a strong leadership role—and making as much as a difference as Jim has. He's engaging, influential, a self starter, holds meetings on his own, sends emails to get others involved and he's committed to the mission. Jim's coming into this project reminds me of my chemistry days when we learned that atoms have protons, neutrons and electrons. The electrons come in and complete the make up of the atom to make it what it is and that's what Jim did. ZERO SOUTH was gelling but it wasn't quite organized enough and Jim appeared amidst the swirl and then everything with our team took off. Jim's ZERO SOUTH nickname is ELECTRON.
Todd Borgie: Vehicle Team Consultant
Todd is co-founder of Drive Around the World. Bringing an eclectic background and a wide range of experiences to the team, Todd draws from 20 years as a teacher, an electrical engineer, and a U.S. Peace Corps volunteer. He is a veteran of the U.S. Peace Corps and lived in Gambia, Africa for two years. The real story: A veteran of two previous Land Rover expeditions with Baggarly, Todd is an all-around utility player on the DATW team – and by this we mean that he knows how to play an accordion. Sadly, he will not be bringing the accordion to the build.
Joe Buechler: Vehicle Team Mechanic
Joe owns an independent Mercedes repair shop called Tony's Automotive that his grandfather started. He has been working on cars since he was a little kid. He specializes in German cars which is good because we have an Austrian engine. Joe will be leading the engine/generator installation
Bernard Juchli: Team Fabricator
Master Mechanic for Jay Leno
Car fans everywhere know that Bernard Juchli is the mechanical genius that keeps Jay Leno's Big Dog Garage running on all cylinders, but he's also one of the country's top amateur formula race-car drivers as proven by championship wins at Willow Springs International Motorsports Park. Bernard maintains a collection of 105 cars and 97 motorcycles for Jay and to keep everything in proper running order, he employs a crack team of mechanical wizards who are adept at fixing, restoring, and customizing just about every type of vehicle imaginable. Swiss-born Juchli is a raconteur whose first ambition was to fly airplanes. In 1965, he moved with his parents to Southern California where he went to high school and became immersed in the local car culture, racing both cars and motorcycles. For years, Bernard owned a Jaguar shop in the Bay Area. He's an amateur, and sometime professional, racer with a reputation for speed. When he was getting ready to semi-retire and sell his shop, he received a call from Jay Leno and has been Jay's head mechanic now for over six years. We call it the Willy Wonka story. Bernard fabricated and welded the ZERO SOUTH battery box and used Jay's CNC machine (robot arm) to make the aluminum drive motor adapters (those colorful things that hold the electric motors).
Michael Kadie: Team Mechanic
Michael owns SSI Racing. This guy builds electric vehicles that break world records and he holds several. Michael's brain works like a computer. You ask him a question and he computes an answer for you. His world is high voltage--he knows his amps watts and volts. Ask about his world records but try to keep it about ZERO SOUTH.
Yunpeng Zhang: Team Engineer
Yunpeng graduated from University of Southern California with a master degree in Mechanical Engineering. He grew up in Beijing, one of the world's most air polluted cities. He felt the urgency and responsibility in utilizing green tech to increase awareness of environmental issues worldwide.
Brandon Ybarra: Team Welder
Brandon has a specialty of working with metal. All throughout his life he has and continues search for new things to build and how to build them. Currently putting himself through school and working as a machinist, he joined the ZERO SOUTH project to blaze all day and get things done! Welding is in his blood and stacking dimes is all he does...