Auto X Prize Leads to 100+ MPG Vehicles

By Paul Riegler on 19 September 2010
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The $10 million Progressive Insurance Automotive X Prize was awarded at a ceremony last week in Washington, D.C. to three teams that built cars capable of achieving 100 miles per gallon (2.35 l/100 km) or the energy equivalent (MPGe).

After thirty months of planning and testing, which involved 136 vehicles from 111 teams across the globe, top honors were awarded to Edison2 of Lynchburg, Virginia; X-Tracer of Winterthur, Switzerland; and Li-ion Motors of Mooresville, North Carolina.

The competition included vehicle and business plan development, on-track testing at Michigan International Speedway (including dynamic safety testing by Consumer Reports), and laboratory verification at the Department of Energy’s Argonne National Lab.

The competition was broken up into two classes, namely Mainstream and Alternative. Mainstream was for four-seat vehicles and Alternative had two divisions, one for two seats side-by-side and one for two seats in a tandem, fighter-jet configuration.

The Edison2 Very Light Car, created by Edison2, a company based in Lynchburg, Virginia, won $5 million in the Mainstream category.

The body of the Edison2 resembled a small helicopter and used an internal combustion engine and E85 fuel to generate 40 hp.  The Edison2 had the lowest drag coefficient of any car with four wheels tested in the GM wind tunnel and at the Chrysler Proving Grounds.  It achieved over 100 MPGe on the test track, a figure verified in the lab.  The Edison2 weighed just 830 pounds (376 kg) and featured many weight-saving innovations including the use of lightweight materials.

The Edison2 driving team included many with extensive racing experience, a characteristic shared by the other winners.  While the competition included students and inventors, it was teams backed by investors or specialty companies that took top honors.

Two other teams won $2.5 million each in the Alternative category.  In the Tandem sub-category, the X-Tracer Team Switzerland won with the E-Tracer, an enclosed battery-electric motorcycle that achieved the energy equivalent of 187.6 mpg (1.25 l/100 km).  In the Side-by-Side sub-category, Li-Ion Motors won with the Wave II, a battery-electric vehicle which managed the equivalent of 187 mpg (1.26 l/100 km).

The driving force behind the competition was fuel economy, according to X Prize Foundation CEO Peter Diamandis.   “Gas mileage ranks as one of our top concerns when purchasing a new vehicle, “ he said, “and I believe strongly that the innovations showcased throughout the life of this competition will continue to impact and improve our car buying options for the future.”

Oliver Kuttner, a BMW dealer turned  real estate investor who is funding and managing Edison2, was born in Munich and moved to the U.S. in 1975.  He has reportedly spent millions developing the Edison2 vehicles and is reportedly developing new versions of the Very Light Car based on knowledge acquired during the X Prize competition.