Fuel-Efficient Finalist Vehicles Announced for Auto X Prize
These 15 vehicles at the start of the final stage of the Progressive Insurance Automotive X Prize were whittled down to just nine vehicles at stage's end.
CREDIT: X Prize Foundation
The racetrack portion of the $10 million Progressive Insurance Automotive X Prize competition is over and the ultimate winners of this fuel-efficient, car-of-tomorrow contest will be announced in the coming weeks.
Three stages at the Michigan International Speedway have winnowed a field of 136 vehicles from 111 teams to just nine vehicles from seven teams.
All are competing to achieve one hundred miles (161 kilometers) per gallon of gasoline or the energy equivalent (MPGe) from alternative fuel sources, such as electricity from a battery .
The Progressive Insurance Automotive X Prize is one of several ongoing public competitions supported by the non-profit X Prize Foundation to foster technological breakthroughs. The first and highest profile contest to date was the $10 million Ansari X Prize, awarded for commercial spacecraft development to Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipOne in 2004.
Peter Diamandis, chairman of the X Prize Foundation, told Alan Boyle of Cosmic Log that he feels the current automotive contest has had as much of an impact as the Ansari X Prize.
"The paradigm we're trying to change here is that, after the competition, we want people to know that you can have a beautiful, fast, affordable, safe car that also gets over 100 miles per gallon energy equivalent. You don't have to choose between safety and efficiency, or speed and efficiency, or cost and efficiency. You can have it all," Diamandis told Cosmic Log.
The remaining contenders
Three classes of vehicles will divvy up the $10 million purse should there be a winner in each class.
Five vehicles are still competing in the alternative, "side-by-side" class that seats two people. All five cars use a battery to juice up, and these three-wheelers stylistically range from the alien hot rod of the United States' Li-ion Motors to the capsule-like pod of Germany's TW4XP.
Only one team, though with two model cars apiece, is left standing in both the "mainstream," four-seater class and the alternative, "tandem" two-seater class.
Virginia's Edison2 and the Swiss X-Tracer teams, respectively, must like their chances having made it this far. However, the teams' vehicles as well as those in the side-by-side class still must pass lab tests at Argonne National Laboratory in Illinois next month in the last "validation" stage before seeing any prize money.
Moving through the stages
The first "shakedown" stage subjected vehicles to safety inspections including braking speed, acceleration and lane changing ability. The second "knockout" stage required vehicles to meet at least two-thirds of the stated 100 MPGe goal while satisfying standards for driving range, emissions and performance.
The final stage, which began July 19 and wrapped up yesterday, included timed on-track challenges as well as aerodynamics testing , meaning that speed was of the essence.
Edison2's formula for success was lightness, with its vehicles weighing only 800 pounds (363 kilograms) that still meet safety standards, according to Cosmic Log.
The vehicle relies on a one-cylinder motorcycle engine that uses an 85 percent ethanol blend yet still reaches a respectable 60 miles (97 kilometers) per hour.
Edison2's two remaining vehicles look somewhat like big versions of pinewood derby cars crafted by Darth Vader.
The yellow X-Tracer vehicles, which resemble closed-cockpit motorcycles, rely on batteries for their power, like the five side-by-side vehicles.
"These finalists highlight true innovation in fuel efficiency, and prove that their vehicles have the ability to withstand strict safety, performance and emissions requirements," said Eric Cahill, senior director of the Progressive Insurance Automotive X PRIZE in a statement. "These cars redefine what is possible and set a new standard of efficiency that promises to revolutionize the industry."