Automotive X Prize Winners Announced

By Tom Martin

September 17, 2010

Three vehicles were named Thursday to share the  $10 million Progressive Insurance Automotive X Prize.  The X Prize Foundation established the competition with the basic tripartite goal of encouraging the creation of cars that achieve 100 MPGe (miles per gallon equivalent) efficiency, produce less than 200 grams/mile well-to-wheel CO2 equivalent emissions, and could be mass-produced for the consumer market.

There are two vehicle classes competing for the prize: Mainstream and Alternative. The Very Light Car designed by Edison2 of Lynchburg, Virginia won the Mainstream Class prize of $5 million. The Alternative Class has two prizes of $2.5 million, one for side-by-side seating and one for tandem seating. The former prize was captured by the Wave II, designed and built by Li-Ion Motors of Las Vegas, Nevada. The tandem win went to the E-Tracer, developed by X-Tracer Team, Winterthur, Switzerland.

A team with sports car racing experience developed the Very Light Car, including members of the Audi Sport North America R10 team. A single cylinder, 250cc internal combustion engine running on ethanol and making about 40 horsepower, powers the Very Light Car. The car holds four passengers, and is about the length of a Mini Cooper, but as the name implies, it weighs just over 800 lb. The Very Light Car achieved an MPGe of 102.

The Wave II is an electric two-seat car that is for sale to consumers. It boasts a coefficient drag of 0.157, which helps explain its rather organic shape. The Wave II has heating, air conditioning, and power windows, along with a claimed range of 150 miles and a top speed of 80 mpg.

It will be interesting to follow the advance of technology on the efficiency front. Based on the competition, one might imagine that a new class of vastly lighter vehicles is on the horizon. Based on history, one might imagine that technological advances will allow OEMs to continue to build large, heavy luxurious cars.