Plus a must-see video of the winner’s acceptance speech
Three design teams from Mooresville, North Carolina, Lynchburg, Virginia and Winterthur, Switzerland have succeeded in building extremely fuel efficient vehicles that are capable of traveling at least 100 miles per gallon of gasoline (or equivalent, MPGe). The teams survived a series of performance lab and road tests that eliminated 133 other vehicles from the first ever Progressive Insurance Automotive X Prize competition.
The goal of the competition, according to the X Prize Foundation, is to leverage the elements of public interest, entrepreneurial spirit and cross-disciplinary innovation to bring about radical breakthroughs for the benefit of humanity. Using a $10 million purse as an incentive certainly helps to stimulate the creative spirit.
Edison2’s Very Light Car took home the $5 million grand prize by winning the mainstream category of the competition for four-wheel, four passenger vehicles with a minimum range of 200 miles. The Very Light Car achieved 102.5 MPGe, and was the only vehicle in the mainstream class to top the 100 MPGe threshold. It weighs in at a feathery 830lbs and is powered by a turbocharged 250cc Yamaha motorcycle engine that can run on pure gasoline or E85 ethanol. Other design highlights include its ultra low body drag coefficient (0.15) and lightweight collapsible front wheel assembly. The Virginia based design team has patented this innovative technology which can absorb and divert large impact forces away from passengers in the even of an accident.
Here is part of the amazing acceptance speech of Oliver Kuttner on behalf of Edison2:
Two electric-powered vehicles split the remaining $5 million prize. The Swiss X-Tracer won the alternative tandem division with a conversion of the eTracer, an enclosed motorcycle that is currently for sale in Europe. It was able to travel 205 MPGe on a single charge of its 20kwh lithium ion battery pack. Retractable wheels that look like miniature landing gear deploy automatically to provide additional stability at lower speeds.
Li-on Motors’ Wave II electric roadster won the alternative side-by-side division by traveling 187 miles after a single charge of its lithium-ion battery pack. The stylish two-seater has made appearances at the New York and Detroit Auto Shows and retails for around $40,000. The Auto X Prize competition proves that achieving 100 MPGe is quite possible. The real challenge will be creating a market for these small, futuristic-looking vehicles. It is doubtful that they will be able to compete with industry giants unless federal fuel efficiency standards are significantly increased — at least until peak oil seriously kicks in.
To find out more about the contest and the contestants, check out these links…
Ben Kaldunski is an intern with CAP’s Energy Opportunity team, and a recent grad from the University of Wisconsin at Madison.