Automotive X Prize: $10 Million for the Greenest Cars

X Prize - Team Edison2's Very Light Car

Some of you green geeks may remember the big X Prize drama in 2004, which saw a privately developed spacecraft (by Burt Rutan and Paul Allen) win $10 million by flying successfully to the edge of space.

The X Prize Foundation has created some spinoff X Prizes, one of which is for cars, and that competition is now entering its final stages in Michigan. The prizes are designed to stimulate and leverage private investment, develop real-life innovations, and create effective change strategies to get us out of oil consumption.

Now the Automotive X Prize is entering its final stages, and you can watch the progress here. Team Edison2’s Very Light Car (above), for example, developed in Lynchburg, Va., by a group of racing and engineering nuts, is still in the running. The VLC is a four-seat sedan, weighs 700 pounds, and does 0-60 mph in 7 seconds. It meets all U.S. safety requirements.

ZapThe Edison2 guys decided that batteries just weren’t worth the extra weight, so they are running an ethanol-gasoline engine and going with super-light weight. Many of the cars are using batteries. One still in the running is the Zap (right), a three-wheeled electric that is going to be made in China for $35,000. Al Unser, Jr., is driving the Zap during the X Prize trials.

Twelve out of 111 teams (represented by 15 cars) remain in this very rigorous competition. They must meet minimum requirements of 100 mpg and a range of 100 miles in the “alternative class” or 200 miles in the “mainstream class,” plus adhere to a bunch of required safety standards.

If you’re around Brooklyn, Michigan, today, you can watch the competition free at the track and see cruising range tests performed. If you’re in Washington, D.C., next Thursday (July 29), the X Prize Foundation will hold an important press conference. They will announce a multi-million-dollar Oil Cleanup Challenge

to inspire entrepreneurs, engineers and scientists worldwide to develop innovative, rapidly deployable and highly efficient methods of capturing crude oil from the ocean surface.

We think that’s a pretty good idea.

Do you think the technology transfer from the Automotive X Prize will actually make a difference in the real world of car design and production?

—jgoods

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