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9 automotive X PRIZE competitors move on to the final round

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.


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X Prize,green energy,biofuelThe original field of 136 experimental vehicles vying for a $10 million prize in Progressive Insurance’s Automotive X PRIZE competition has been whittled down to just nine finalists, competition organizers said Tuesday. Each of these finalists, having passed on-track testing at Michigan International Speedway, now move onto the validation phase, where the vehicles must prove they can exceed 100 MPGe, which stands for "miles per gallon energy equivalent."

The field of nine includes:
Mainstream Class (Two vehicles, one team)
•    Edison2, Very Light Car #97 (Charlottesville, VA), Internal Combustion Engine
•    Edison2, Very Light Car #98 (Charlottesville, VA), Internal Combustion Engine

Alternative Class – Tandem (Two vehicles, one team)
•    X-Tracer, E-Tracer #72 (Switzerland), Battery Electric
•    X-Tracer, E-Tracer #79 (Switzerland), Battery Electric

Alternative Class – Side-by-Side (Five vehicles, five teams)
•    Aptera, Aptera 2e (San Diego, CA), Battery Electric
•    Li-ion Motors, Wave II (North Carolina), Battery Electric
•    RaceAbout Association, RaceAbout (Finland), Battery Electric
•    TW4XP, TW4XP (Germany), Battery Electric
•    ZAP, Alias (Santa Rosa, CA), Battery Electric

The competition centers on fuel efficiency. "MPGe is a measure of how much energy is put into a vehicle against how far it will travel using that energy," says X PRIZE Foundation CEO Peter Diamandis. Whereas competition organizers stayed out of how the competitors approached the problem, each team did need to be able to fuel their vehicle using the existing infrastructure. This meant that gas, biofuels and electricity were fair game but hydrogen was off limits.

The vehicles are broken down into three classes: mainstream, alternative tandem and alternative side-by-side. At an awards ceremony on September 16 in Washington, D.C., the winner of the mainstream class will receive $5 million, whereas $2.5 million will go to each of the two alternative vehicle classes.

During the validation phase, all vehicles undergo dynamometer simulated road testing under controlled laboratory conditions at Argonne National Laboratory facilities in Illinois. The car in each class that exceeds 100 MPGe, meets the emissions and performance requirements, and, in the case of a tie, completes a combined performance and efficiency challenge with the fastest time, will win.

Many of the competitors have been startup ventures looking to prove a concept and perhaps catch the eye of bigger players in the auto industry. The Aptera team, for example, is pushing to create a production model of its all-electric 2e vehicle within the next year. Aptera, which has received investments from IdeaLab and Google, is competing in the alternative side-by-side class, which means the design allows the driver and passenger to be seated next to one another in a small cockpit.

Image courtesy of the X PRIZE Foundation





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  1. 1. jtdwyer 4:41 pm 07/27/2010

    Judging by the photo, there’s nothing mainstream about a vehicle that uses an IC engine for power that cannot accommodate passengers who are not athletes.

    If I look around at the physique of most Americans few could ride or ‘sit in’ these vehicles. Not to mention, of course that a couple or small family would need sidecars.

    Wouldn’t a more useful contest have targeted more typical consumer requirements? How much ecological benefit is achieved by producing a new motorcycle?

    On the other hand, if only motorcycles are produced, perhaps the population will decrease…

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  2. 2. quincykim 9:01 pm 07/27/2010

    jtdwyer – I think the purpose of the competition is to get new ideas that contribute to consumer products, not become so as-is. And that comment about motorcyclists was just plain cold.

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  3. 3. jtdwyer 9:49 pm 07/27/2010

    quincykim – Perhaps you misunderstood my intent. I haven’t surveyed the market, but I think that producing an IC motorcycle that can exceed 100 MPGe is not so technically challenging. Producing a utility family vehicle that could achieve 100 MPGe would be much more useful and require significant technological advancements.

    I don’t understand your reaction re. motorcyclists – I really didn’t address any current motorcyclists. If you thought I was insulting motorcyclists physiques, I’m 60 years old with too many accumulated injuries to ride on/in any of the vehicles pictured. If you were concerned that I wanted motorcyclists to die, my comment re. the population was based on the thought that families would find transportation difficult, discouraging population growth. I think that population reduction is critical to the survival of humanity.

    I often presume that everyone understands what I mean when I say – whatever. Sorry for any confusion.

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  4. 4. lotusface 12:21 pm 07/28/2010

    Can’t one produce small amounts of hydrogen with electricity, water and a metallic part(cathode/anode?)? Why wouldn’t that be allowed as a potential fuel source/additive?

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  5. 5. jtdwyer 2:00 pm 07/28/2010

    lotusface – If you go to:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Main_Page
    and type ‘hydrogen fuel’ into the ‘Search’ field you’ll find listings for: Hydrogen Fuel; Hydrogen Fuel cell; Hydrogen Fuel enhancement;Hydrogen Fueled IC engine; Hydrogen Fuel station. You should find any or all interesting.

    As I understand, it does take quite a bit of electricity and eventually potable water may be more precious than fuel…

    Link to this
  6. 6. frankie 10:00 pm 07/28/2010

    I heard ZAP helped their competitor Liion get through to the finals. Are they nuts are just amazing good sports? Wow. Can anyone confirm this?

    Link to this
  7. 7. jerryd 12:47 pm 07/29/2010

    Something is wrong when the Tango is said not to get 100mpge.

    It’s not hard to get 100mpg in a 4 passenger car, it just takes good design, EV drive, composite body/chassis and maybe a 4kw/1000lbs of vehicle generator for unlimited range. The GM showcar, The Ultralite though done in medium tech composites instead of carbon fiber.

    Zap is a scam company already screwed many. Read details here of the many but by all mean all those screwed. I can’t believe they were even allowed in.
    http://www.wired.com/autopia/2008/03/the-zap-x-and-a

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  8. 8. ChuckLightyear 1:20 pm 08/6/2010

    I had a motorcycle that seated 2 people and a small street legal bicycle trailer and the motorcycle easily got more than 128 MPG (that is 1 mile per ounce (1 MPO) of gas, and could exceed 100MPH. Going that fast without a tachometer, I blew a head gasket after more than 2 and a half years and the bike was low maintenance and cost $2600 plus TTL. The bike was a 5-speed with a 250cc engine. But, no one sells the motorcycle because most people want powerful superfast motorcycles that cost 3 times as much and only get 60 to 70 MPG. If I find another for that price, I will buy it. It was called a Verruci Roadster by Lafin America. Also, ethanol reduces your MPG ratings by almost 25%, that might have been the other cause for my motorcycle problems at high speeds, with 10% Ethanol, I got 98 MPH unless I drove reasonable speeds and did not over accelerate, then I could still get more than 128MPG!!!

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  9. 9. ChuckLightyear 1:50 pm 08/6/2010

    And, I could easily convert my 1995 Neon 5-speed to get nearly 100mpg. The DOHC 2L engine already gets 40 mpg and if I had the money and time to convert it to a hybrid, I am sure I could achieve more than 100mpg. See, hybrids are designed to turn on the gas engine and turn off the electric motor at 25 to 30 mph, and you must use the gasoline engine to charge the hybrid battery. I’d like to get a Toyota Prius and override the electric motor speed limiter and place extra batteries in the trunk. And, be able to charge it from home on an electric windmill. Now, that car would get over a 100mpg. ****Then, you could make small battery trailers with their own electric motors and safety features and computer guided by the electric car or hybrid.*** The trailers could be rented at gas stations for extended trips, and the trailers electric motor could lower the towing weight to nearly nothing or even push the car if the car motors failed. Such a trailer could even assist a fully gas running car. And, the trailer batteries could charge the car batteries while providing electric power for all car operations, so your car would have a fully charged set of batteries when the trailer is dropped off. Eventually, you could set up an additional electric national grid on our Interstate highways next to the current electric grids and put large wind mills in all the medians and off just beyond the shoulders then eventually add solar panels ( using the windmills as structure for holding them) above the vehicles to cover the hot cement and black tar highway surfaces, the cars could run like electric high speed trains on the grid in the shade under the solar panels and charge their batteries that would allow them 140 miles of range beyond the main highway. 99% of all Americans live within 140miles of an interstate.

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