Automotive X Prize X-plained
By EV World
The Automotive X Prize is a multi-million dollar international competition to develop a manufacturable passenger vehicle with fuel economy equivalent to least 100 mpg (2.3 liters/100 km). And as strange as it might sound, it has its origins in Charles Lindbergh's 1927 New York to Paris solo-flight across the Atlantic.
It was in 1994 that X Prize founder Dr. Peter H. Diamandis read Lindbergh's "The Spirit of Saint Louis". It was then that he realized that "focused and talented teams in pursuit of a prize can change the world," states Automotive X Prize senior director Christin Lindsay in her closing plenary session address to the 23 Electric Vehicle Symposium.
The original X Prize challenge to fly three humans to the edge of space was announced in 1996 and subsequently renamed the Ansari X Prize because of the generous financial support of the Ansari family.
"The $10,000 prize inspired 26 teams from seven countries to spend more than $100 million just to meet the goal to send a three-person, reusable spaceship to 100 kilometer altitude twice in two weeks."
That competition was won in 2004 by Burt Rutan's Spaceship One, which now hangs in the Smithsonian next to Lindbergh's 'Spirit of St. Louis.' Multi-billionaire mogul Richard Branson bought Rutan's technology and formed Virgin Galactic, igniting a race to ferry paying passengers to space.
It turned out that the Ansari X Prize was the second biggest news story of 2004, garnering worldwide media exposure for the participating teams and the X Prize Foundation. The combination of a tantalizing prize purse and the hero status that comes with competition are what makes competitions like the original Orteig Prize that inspired Lindbergh and his fellow competitors so effective in inspiring innovation and risk-taking.
As Lindsay puts it, "..revolution through competition."
Since the conclusion of the Ansari X Prize, the foundation decided to apply this successful model to other societal challenges in four specific areas:
- Energy and the environment
- Education and entrepreneurship
Ms Lindsay then turned her attention to the Automotive X Prize those goal is to inspire teams to create practical but super-efficient motor vehicles that will reduce mankind's dependence on fossil fuels and thus stem the impact of global warming. The teams will compete in multi-stage races.
Lindsay defined the terms "viable" and "production-capable" as meaning "real cars that people want to buy... not concept cars or million dollar science projects.
"Teams will have to provide convincing and credible evidence to industry experts that their vehicles can be made affordably and in quantity; that their vehicles are safe and are backed by a viable business plan."
Because the competition is "technology neutral" teams are encouraged to use any type of propulsion system they wish and it can be powered by any type of fuel, hence the X Prize's use of the term "miles per gallon equivalent' or mpge. The caveat is that teams must demonstrated that the vehicle and its fuel can be supported by the current energy infrastructure.
To learn more about how the X Prize Foundation plans to evaluate the vehicles, you will want to listen to Ms. Lindsay's 20-minute presentation, which is available in entirety using the MP3 players above or by downloading the audio file to your computer hard drive for transfer to your favorite MP3 player.
Wrapping up her talk, Lindsay stresses that the competition rules -- and funding -- continue to evolve and the Foundation continues to look for input from industry experts and others who will also help evaluate the merit of each vehicle.
She sees the X Prize shining a bright light on the issues facing the auto industry, as well as energy issue and the need for public education about driving habits.
"The Automotive X Prize will usher in a new generation of super-efficient cars; 100 mpge vehicles that are real cars that people will want to buy," she concludes.