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The Great Race

The Global Quest for the Car of the Future

About The Book

The Great Race recounts the exciting story of a century-long battle among automakers for market share, profit, and technological dominance—and the thrilling race to build the car of the future.

The world’s great manufacturing juggernaut—the $3 trillion automotive industry—is in the throes of a revolution. Its future will include cars Henry Ford and Karl Benz could scarcely imagine. They will drive themselves, won’t consume oil, and will come in radical shapes and sizes. But the path to that future is fraught. The top contenders are two traditional manufacturing giants, the US and Japan, and a newcomer, China.

Team America has a powerful and little-known weapon in its arsenal: a small group of technology buffs and regulators from California. The story of why and how these men and women could shape the future—how you move, how you work, how you live on Earth—is an unexpected tale filled with unforgettable characters: a scorned chemistry professor, a South African visionary who went for broke, an ambitious Chinese ex-pat, a quixotic Japanese nuclear engineer, and a string of billion-dollar wagers by governments and corporations.

“To explain the scramble for the next-generation auto—and the roles played in that race by governments, auto makers, venture capitalists, environmentalists, and private inventors—comes Levi Tillemann’s The Great Race…Mr. Tillemann seems ideally cast to guide us through the big ideas percolating in the world’s far-flung workshops and labs” (The Wall Street Journal). His account is incisive and riveting, explaining how America bounced back in this global contest and what it will take to command the industrial future.

About The Author

Photograph by Glorianna Tillemann-Dick

Levi Tillemann is the Cal and Jeff Leonard Fellow at the New America Foundation. He previously served as Special Advisor for Policy and International Affairs at the US Department of Energy. Prior to that, Tillemann was the CEO of IRIS Engines—a company he founded with his inventor father to develop a smaller, more efficient, and more powerful combustion engine. Tillemann was also an Associate Director at IHS Energy. He has a PhD from The Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies and speaks Chinese, Japanese, Spanish, and Portuguese.

Product Details

  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster (January 20, 2015)
  • Length: 352 pages
  • ISBN13: 9781476773513

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Raves and Reviews

"The Great Race captures the drama of a global competition for markets and new technology that is changing the auto industry and indeed the world in which we all live. It is a gripping read that takes us inside critical decisions in China and Japan and the United States. Tillemann’s experience as a tech entrepreneur focused on cars, his skill as a linguist (he is fluent in Chinese and Japanese), and his expertise on energy policy enable him to bring unique insights. The result is an epochal saga of leadership, money, power, global competition and innovation; and Tillemann tells it all superbly. Whether your "thing” is the clash of nations or the battle for global markets -- or how fast you can get from zero to 60 -- you’ll like The Great Race a lot. Indeed, you will race through it!"

– Daniel Yergin, author of The Quest and The Prize

"It is simply the best book out there on not just electric vehicles, but the complicated nexus between innovation, energy security and smart energy policy for the 21st century."

– Robbie Diamond, Founder and CEO, Securing America's Future Energy (SAFE)

“If you like cars, you will love this book. If you care about climate change, you will love this book. And if you want to find out how the United States is retaining its competitive and innovative edge in the world, in a tale that reads like a spy novel, you will love this book!”

– Anne-Marie Slaughter, President and CEO, New America

"No one is better positioned to write this book than Levi Tillemann. This book has much to say about how governments can succeed and also fail. Above all, The Great Race is a Great Read."

– Peter Bergen, author of Manhunt: The Ten-Year Search for bin Laden from 9/11 to Abbottabad and CNN's National Security Analyst

"Tillemann’s vivid story of capitalism, innovation and politics in the international economy hits the mark. The Great Race brilliantly captures the three-way tug of war between industry, the government and markets and how it inexorably drives the global auto industry forward."

– Eric Ridenour, former COO of Chrysler

“To explain the scramble for the next-generation auto—and the roles played in that race by governments, auto makers, venture capitalists, environmentalists and private inventors—comes Levi Tillemann’s “The Great Race”… Mr. Tillemann seems ideally cast to guide us through the big ideas percolating in the world’s far-flung workshops and labs. He is an inventor himself: With his father and brothers, he conceived a gasoline engine, the IRIS, that is smaller and theoretically more efficient than standard designs of the same output, and over the past decade the design has won attaboys from NASA and ConocoPhillips.”

– Wall Street Journal

"Mr Tillemann, an energy expert, writes about the car guys with the grasp of an insider. This seems to have been gained from founding a company which tried to bring a low-emission car engine to market and by the rigour of having led negotiations with Detroit. Fluent in Chinese and Japanese, he is able to take the adventure to the heart of the world’s other automotive powers.”

– Economist

“Free-market and small-government purists will find much to quibble with here, but the author is skilled, and sometimes relentless, at highlighting the ability of official industrial policy to work in the public interest. “Since the time of Henry Ford,” he writes, “no automobile industry in the world had ever become internationally competitive without . . . government intervention.”

– Washington Post

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