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The Progressive Automotive X PRIZE

by Jeff Wysaski
March 12, 2009


Over the past several years it has become clear that improving fuel efficiency will be a driving force of future vehicles. Today, hybrid, electric and other alternative fuel vehicles are slowly gaining acceptance in the mainstream. And while most would say the automotive industry is moving in the right direction, some would also say that the market isn't moving fast enough.

Enter the X PRIZE Foundation - a non-profit organization that is intent on accelerating inventions and technologies that globally benefit humanity. And just how does the X PRIZE Foundation motivate such lofty visions? Money. And lots of it.

Among the numerous prize competitions that the foundation has announced is the . The winners of this competition will share a prize in the form of $10 million.

Of course, earning a piece of that $10 million is no simple task. The foundation's goal for the contest is to "inspire a new generation of viable, super-fuel efficient vehicles that help break our addiction to oil and stem the effects of climate change."

No matter what your idea of a viable, super fuel-efficient vehicle is, the foundation has its own definition. Specifically, in order to be eligible to win the prize money, an entrant's vehicle must be able to achieve 100 MPG (or equivalent) in real-world conditions. Furthermore, guidelines are focused on producing a vehicle that will result in a vehicle that is both capable of mass production and functionally appealing to the average driver.

The rules and regulations dictating this consumer viability of the vehicle depend on which of the two Progressive Automotive X PRIZE competitions the entrant chooses to take on. The main event is the Mainstream Class competition. Guidelines required of the winning Mainstream vehicle include:

  • Interior room for at least 4 passengers
  • Storage room of at least 10 cubic feet
  • A maximum speed of 100 MPH or more
  • The ability to drive at least 200 miles without refueling
  • The ability to accelerate from 0 to 60 mph in at least 12 seconds

The second class of competition, dubbed the Alternate Class, features less stringent guidelines, including:

  • Interior room for at least 2 passengers
  • A maximum speed of at least 80 MPH
  • The ability to drive at least 100 miles without refueling

The winner of the Mainstream Class will be awarded $7.5 million and the winner of the Alternate Class with be awarded $2.5 million. A number of other guidelines and procedures are necessary to qualify for the prize than those listed above. For example, teams must submit a business plan that provides realistic details on how production of the prototype vehicle could feasibly reach 10,000 units each year.

As of February 28, 2009 (the cutoff date for registration), at least 60 teams from around the globe have submitted their application to compete for the Progressive Automotive X PRIZE (along with a $5,000 entry fee). Competitors come from all walks of life, and include teams assembled from large auto manufacturers, engineering students and backyard inventors.

In early 2009, competitors will take place in a qualifying race. Those vehicles that achieve 75 MPG (or equivalent) over the course of this race will qualify for the Grand Finale. The Grand Finale, to take place later in 2009, will likely be a cross-country race that incorporates varied terrain in an effort to simulate average real-world driving conditions. The team in both categories who achieves the fastest time, as well as meets all the criteria guidelines, will win the prize money. If no vehicle meets the guidelines, then no prize money will be awarded.

The main goal of the Grand Finale is not to award the money, but rather to educate the public about the importance of fuel efficiency and minimizing gas consumption and vehicle emissions.


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