Automotive X-Prize Winner

Automotive X-Prize Names Winning Vehicles.

The Washington Post (9/17, Shin) reports, “A team lead by Charlottesville developer Oliver Kuttner has won an international competition sponsored by Progressive Auto Insurance and the US Department of Energy to build a car that can go 100 miles on a gallon of gasoline.” By achieving 102.5 miles per gallon with its Very Light Car, Kuttner’s Edison2 “was awarded the largest chunk of the $10 million purse offered by the X Prize Foundation, which created the competition.” The vehicle achieved the increased efficiency by “using lightweight materials, aerodynamic design and a combustion engine. It beat out vehicles that relied on batteries, which are heavier — and thus create more drag — more expensive, and dependent on electricity generated by greenhouse gas-emitting power plants.”

Reuters (9/17) quotes X PRIZE Foundation Chairman and CEO Peter Diamandis as saying, “We’re living in a day and time where literally anything is possible. … A man or woman can go out and build a spaceship or a 100 mile per gallon car. This is only the beginning.”

The Los Angeles Times (9/17, Hsu) reports Edison2 received $5 million for taking first place in the mainstream class. Meanwhile, the tandem class was won by Switzerland’s X-Tracer team and its “battery-powered E-Tracer #79,” which “can run up to the equivalent of 205.3 miles per gallon and has two extra stabilizing wheels that emerge at low speeds.” X-Tracer was awarded $2.5 million. Similarly, “Li-ion Motors Corp. of North Carolina won $2.5 million in the alternative side-by-side class with its Wave II electric vehicle,” which achieved “the equivalent of 187 miles per gallon.” The Times notes, “The three winners now qualify for a Department of Energy program that will help prepare the vehicles for commercialization in the United States.”

Focusing on Edison2 and its Very Light Car No. 98, the AP (9/17) reports that, according to Kuttner, “a team of around 100 people – including many racing veterans – developed the car. They opted for a one-cylinder, ethanol-capable engine instead of an electric car because batteries add weight and gas is readily available. But the team said its innovations in aerodynamics and the use of lightweight materials could apply to any kind of vehicle.” A racecar driver himself, Kuttner said “We’ve been working on these types of solutions, really, all our lives. … In racing, fuel is a precious resource. One less pit stop is the difference between winning and losing.”

“The X Prize is only the beginning,” Kuttner is quoted as saying in the Wired (9/16, Squatriglia) “Autopia” blog. “We need to demonstrate that low-mass cars can be safe and meet FMVSS safety standards. We need to show how our Light Car principles can dramatically improve efficiency for electric, hybrid, diesel and natural gas systems. And we need to create cars to fit the wide needs of consumers: SUV’s, family sedans, sports and utility models – all light, aerodynamic, safe and incredibly efficient.”

NPR (9/17) reports that, according to David Champion of Consumer Reports, “car engineers still need to iron out kinks with braking, emergency handling and acceleration.” Scalability is also an important consideration, experts said. But while these vehicles are still “very much in their development stages,” Champion said the competition “really showed the passion and the drive and the ingenuity of these engineers to produce these cars that were extremely fuel efficient.” X Prize Foundation CEO Peter Diamandis said, “This is a prize to show the public that you can have a car that is beautiful, affordable, fast, safe and, ‘Oh by the way – it can get over 100 mpg or the gas equivalent.’ And why would you want anything else?” The Wall Street Journal (9/17) website carries a slideshow of the winning vehicles, and ultra-efficient cars in general.

Reposted from the 9/17/10 ASEE First Bell.

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