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Three Teams Share $10 Million Purse in Automotive X Prize Competition

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Edison2 Very Light Car

The Edison2 car has a chassis of welded steel tubing and a body that resembles a small helicopter, but the entire vehicle weighs just 830 pounds.

Credit: Ronald Ahrens / The New York Times

The X PRIZE Foundation, an educational nonprofit prize organization, and Progressive Insurance, the United States' fourth largest auto insurance group, awarded $10 million on Thursday (September 16) to three teams who successfully completed the rigorous Progressive Insurance Automotive X PRIZE. The winning teams—Edison2 of Lynchburg, VA; X-Tracer of Winterthur, Switzerland; and Li-ion Motors Corp. of Mooresville, NC—emerged from an original field of 111 competing teams, representing 136 vehicle entries from around the world. The winning vehicles were showcased to an audience of auto industry, business and government leaders. Each of the winning teams was also presented with a towering bronze trophy designed by Harry Winston Inc.

The Progressive Insurance Automotive X PRIZE was launched in 2008 to inspire a new generation of viable, safe and super fuel-efficient vehicles capable of achieving 100 miles per gallon or the energy equivalent (MPGe). Now, after nearly 30 months of vehicle and business plan development, on-track testing at Michigan International Speedway which included dynamic safety testing by partner Consumer Reports, and laboratory verification at the U.S. Department of Energy's Argonne National Lab, three vehicles emerge as winners:

Edison2 Very Light Car$5 Million Mainstream Class Winner:

  • Edison2 "Very Light Car #98" (Charlottesville, VA)
  • Economy: 102.5 MPGe
  • Fuel: E85 ethanol
  •  Boasting the lowest drag coefficient of any car with four wheels tested in the GM wind tunnel and at the Chrysler Proving Grounds, this vehicle demonstrated over 100 MPGe on the test track, and verified in the lab, under stringent testing conditions using a highly innovative small displacement engine. Its low weight of just 830 pounds is a tribute to its use of light weight materials, reduced engine displacement and a host of other weight-saving innovations.

Li-Ion Motors' Wave II battery-electric vehicle $2.5 Million Alternative Side-by-Side Class Winner:

  • Li-ion Motors Corp. "Wave II" (Mooresville, NC)
  • Economy: 187 MPGe
  • Fuel: Battery Electric
  •  This side-by-side two-seat battery electric car was built on a lightweight aluminum chassis and weighs in at only 2,176 pounds, despite the weight of its powerful lithium ion batteries. The Wave II demonstrated outstanding low mechanical and aerodynamic drag that resulted in 187 MPGe in combined on-track and laboratory efficiency testing, a 14.7-second zero-to-60 mph acceleration time, and over 100 miles range over a real-world driving cycle.

Peraves' E-Tracer battery-electric vehicle $2.5 Million Alternative Tandem Class Winner:

  • X-Tracer Team Switzerland "E-Tracer #79" (Winterthur, Switzerland)
  • Economy: 205.3 MPGe
  • Fuel: Battery Electric
  • This tandem two-seat vehicle combines the best of motorcycles and automobiles. This clever design has two extra outrigger wheels that deploy at low speed to stabilize the vehicle. At 1436 pounds, the E-Tracer is able to deliver over 100 miles in range, led the competition with over 200 MPGe in combined on-track and laboratory fuel efficiency and achieved a zero-to- 60 mph acceleration time of just 6.6 seconds.

The awards ceremony participants included Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives; Progressive Insurance President and CEO Glenn Renwick; X PRIZE Foundation Chairman and CEO Peter H. Diamandis; Rep. Edward Markey (D-MA), Chairman, House Energy and Environment Committee; Cathy Zoi, Assistant Secretary for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy; John P. Holdren, Assistant to the President for Science and Technology Director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy; and U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA).

Also present at Thursday's announcement were several of the other vehicles that competed in the Progressive Insurance Automotive X PRIZE. Specifically, vehicles on display included: Spira4U, of Thailand; Commuter Cars' Tango of Spokane, WA; amp'd Sky of Blue Ash, OH; Aptera 2e of San Diego, CA; RaceAbout of Finland; TW4XP of Germany; Western Washington University's Viking 45 of Bellingham, WA; the ZAP Alias of Santa Rosa, CA; The West Philly EVX of Philadelphia, PA; and Illuminati's Seven of Springfield, IL.

While the prize has now been awarded, the journey continues for the winning teams. They will immediately begin leveraging their winning status, prize money and connections made over the course of the competition to catapult their vehicle into the consumer market. Under a U.S. Department of Energy-funded technical assistance program, qualified Progressive Insurance Automotive X PRIZE competitors will also gain funding support for access to key automotive expertise and test facilities. The aim of the program is to assist teams in readying their vehicles and technologies for introduction to the market.

"We've seen a shift in the market since we first launched this competition, and a greater awareness by people everywhere to think more seriously about the actions we take, and how they affect our environment," said the X PRIZE Foundation's Diamandis. "Gas mileage ranks as one of our top concerns when purchasing a new vehicle 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."

The highlights and drama of the Progressive Automotive X PRIZE will be featured in a one-hour documentary entitled, "X PRIZE Cars: Accelerating The Future" debuting Thursday (September 16) at 9pm EDT/6pm PDT on the National Geographic Channel.


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