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One “Mainstream” Team Left Chasing $10 Million Progressive Auto X-Prize

A battle royal still underway for the “alternative” class victory – and the $5 million in cash reward.

by on Jul.27, 2010

Theirs to lose...the Edison2 Very Light Car, likely winner of the $5 million Progressive Auto X-Prize mainstream award.

With the final stage fast approaching in the long and grueling Progressive Auto X-Prize competition, it’s now up to just one team to hold things together long enough to claim $5 million in cash, organizers have announced.

The X-Prize, designed to prove it possible to produce an attractive and affordable mainstream car capable of getting 100 miles per gallon may be demonstrating exactly the opposite.  One after another, promising designs and technologies simply haven’t been able to live up to the challenges set by organizers who were hoping to show that lean and green automobiles are ready for prime time.

Following the past week’s shake-out, with only a few hurdles left before the awards are formally announced, in Washington, D.C., in September, two vehicles survive in the tough mainstream class.  Both are fielded by the Edison2 team, which is led by European car dealer Oliver Kuttner, and brings together an assortment of motorsports and defense specialists.

But there’s still a bitter battle underway between more than a dozen teams hoping to claim a pair of $2.5 million prizes for alternative, high-mileage vehicles.

Modeled after the Orteig Prize, which helped motivate Charles Lindbergh’s legendary trans-Atlantic flight – and the Ansari X-Prize which spurred the first private manned spaceflight, in 2004 – the Progressive Auto X-Prize was designed to encourage the development of clean, high-efficiency vehicles.


But the goal, stresses Eric Cahill, an energy researcher and now the senior director of the Auto X-Prize, has been to do more than just reward a brilliant piece of technology that could never make it into production.  Each of the 115 teams that originally signed up for the competition has not only had to meet strict technical mandates, but also prove that it could mass produce its entry at an affordable price — and demonstrate why the offering would actually generate a market.

Ironically, when the project was first announced, in April 2008, “We were getting criticized for making it seem too easy,” says Cahill.  “Many thought that getting the equivalent of 100 miles per gallon wouldn’t be a problem.”


Teams Closing in $10 Million Auto X-Prize

Competition aims to deliver a marketable, 100 mpg auto.

by on Jun.24, 2010

The remaining teams seeking the Progressive Auto X-Prize will go through a shakedown at Michigan International Speedway, in the coming days. Several entrants are seen here at an earlier test.

Roughly two dozen teams have been descending on Michigan International Speedway, or MIS, about 100 miles west of Detroit, this week, and the stakes they’re after are pretty significant – a total of $10 million in cash.

But the Progressive Auto X-Prize isn’t the typical sort of high-speed race.  In fact, victory likely won’t go to the fastest car on the track.  Modeled after the Orteig Prize that, more than 80 years ago, sent Charles Lindbergh aloft over the Atlantic Ocean for his legendary solo flight, the Auto X-Prize aims to encourage the development of super-clean, ultra-high-mileage automobiles.

But the competition also puts the emphasis on real-world practicality.  The winners of the X-Prize, sponsored by Progressive Insurance, will have to demonstrate that their vehicles not only can achieve the equivalent of more than 100 miles per gallon, but that they can be put into production at an affordable cost – all the while meeting both customer expectations and federal regulations.

Your High-Mileage News Source!

Revised federal regulations recently began ramping up the Corporate Average Fuel Economy, or CAFE, standard to 35.5 miles per gallon by 2016, a roughly 30% increase, and most industry observers expect Washington to bump the numbers even higher by 2020.

“We’re not only hoping to accelerate the pace of change but also serve as a broker of information to the consumer,” says Eric Cahill, the Auto X-Prize executive director.