Automotive X Prize

Following on the heels of the $10 million Ansari X Prize, which had the following requirements:

The Ansari X Prize is a $10 million purse for the first privately built vehicle that could safely haul a pilot and the equivalent weight of two passengers to the edge of space — then repeat the feat within two weeks.

– and was won by SpaceShipOne, the X Prize Foundation is sponsoring a contest for efficient cars:

The requirements are still in draft form. A 60-day comment window extends until May 31st. Here are some excerpts from the draft guidelines:

The goal of the Automotive X PRIZE (AXP) is to inspire a new generation of super-efficient vehicles that help break our addiction to oil and stem the effects of climate change.

A multi-million dollar cash purse will be awarded to the teams that win a long-distance stage race for clean, production-capable vehicles that exceed 100 MPG equivalent (MPGe).

The AXP will encourage production-capable vehicles and products (not concept cars) through tough entrance requirements, judging criteria, and race courses that test and reward manufacturability, marketability, safety, durability and performance.
The AXP will devote considerable traditional and online media resources to public outreach, education, and involvement.


AXP winners must achieve the following energy and emissions requirements:
Fuel economy (energy efficiency): at least 100 MPGe

Total (wells-to-wheels3) Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions expressed as equivalent grams of CO2 per mile: no more than 200 g/mi

Criteria emissions: no worse than US EPA Tier II, bin 5 standards
GHG emissions from vehicle production no worse than typical vehicles in production today

MSNBC did a recent story on the contest, mentioning some of the contenders:

$10 million bounty for super-efficient cars

Among the teams intending to compete are Tesla Motors, which has already started production of a $98,000, two-seat, electric-powered sports car; ZAP Motors, which has been producing electric vehicles for years; and Aptera, which is on the verge of marketing a futuristic-looking, three-wheeled electric vehicle.

However, the major automakers are conspicuous by their absence from the list. That’s because the final contest rules have not yet been published, Diamandis said. “The major auto manufacturers won’t consider joining the competition until the rules are finalized,” he said.

“We are still hopeful that the major manufacturers will compete, but as with the Ansari X Prize [for private spaceflight], it’s OK if they don’t,” Diamandis said.

9 thoughts on “Automotive X Prize”

  1. At a recent show on television, they actually compared a more fuel efficient car with a normal car. The more fuel efficient car was the Lexus and it was compared to a Volvo. It was found that the fuel efficient car didn’t necessarily use less fuel. In fact, some of the time, it actually used more fuel then the Volvo.

    When looking at fuel efficiency, we also need to look at the terrain and the traveling distance that the car was designed for.

    However, all in all, I hope they will start designing more fuel efficient cars. For one, it will save a lot of money due to a worldwide increase in oil prices.

  2. I love the idea of “X” prizes, and have advicated huge X prizes in editorials etc. Why noit a $10 billion X prize for the first domestically manufactured vehicle that gets 55 mpg, in made in commercial quantities (50,000 units)and stays in production more than 2 years? Or a $10 billion X prize for whoever can commercially grow algee-to-oil.
    Every month in Iraq costs $10 billion, probably a lot more than that.
    How about $10 billion to first firm to extract shale oil for less than $30 a barrel in large, replicable amounts.
    With X prizes, taxpayers fund nothing except a successful result. No DOE programs that run on for years w/o result.
    Even at $10 billion, such X prizes amount to chump change.

  3. It wouldn’t even be a competition if a major automaker entered, unless several of them did. The Big 2.5 each made 75-80 mpg diesel hybrid sedans in the mid 90’s for the Partnership for a New Generation of Vehicles. With the advances in diesel and battery tech and resources at their disposal they could eat up any of their competitors in this. This competition seems more about spurring the big guys to move forward, as Tesla did with GM.

  4. The first draft of the rules massively favor EV/PHEV. They calculate MPGe based on tank (or battery) energy, not primary energy. Since electricity has already crossed the thermal boundary, it has a 3:1 advantage.

    I strongly favor PHEVs, but if you’re going to have a contest you should try to create a level playing field. They will calculate GHGs on a well-to-wheel basis, at least.

  5. It’s coming back to me now. The rules weren’t just written so an EV would win. They were written so a SPECIFIC EV, from Tesla motorcars, would win. Tesla had several people on the various committees putting it all together. The rules basically guarantee the winner will be an EV with 200 mile range. And gee, guess who makes the only such vehicle?

    Of course in the real world people sometimes drive 500 miles in a day. PHEVs can do that, but the Tesla can’t so it’s not a requirement. Why not enter a PHEV anyway? Because 160 miles of the 200 mile trip will be gasoline-fueled and thus fail the 100 MPGe requirement. Of course in the real world 200 mile days are rare, so it doesn’t matter what you burn after the first 40. But the Tesla X Prize isn’t about the real world, it’s about Tesla snagging $10m of donor cash plus a lot of free publicity.

  6. Hmmm. With respect to Tesla, I think they’re proposing two categories for the prize. One category requires a four-seater vehicle, which rules out the current Tesla coupe.

    They are, however, planning a four-seater sedan which would be eligible if they get it finished.

    I would have thought that if they get it finished in time, the Chevy Volt would be a strong contender.

    In any case, without labouring the obvious the financial aspects of the prize are completely irrelevant to any of the auto majors, not a big deal to Tesla, and won’t even make that big a difference to any of the startups who are serious about producing their cars in quantity. Gearing up to produce tens of thousands of automobiles costs hundreds of millions of dollars of capital.

    Unless they’re proposing to outsource production entirely to a contract manfuacturer in China. Now, there’s an interesting business plan for an automaker…

  7. I suppose I don’t feel too bad about weighing in on this one…as I have sent in a LOI(letter of intent) for the X prize. One that I have since retracted. I have been working on an alternative class entry for about 5 months now. FYI, the alternative X prize class in is for a two passenger vehicle with no set number of wheels. Mine is a tadpole trike, two in front, one in back, using a VW TDI drivetrain with energy recapture in the first iteration. I started this, after giving careful thought to what would cover 90% of my own transportation needs. When the auto X prize really got rolling, I was more than happy to send in a LOI, and reconfigure my car slightly so it would fit the alternative class profile.

    I have since had an epiphany, albeit, one that has not made me any friends: it is my personal belief that the X prize is focusing attention in the wrong area. IMHO, incentive to build yet more personal transportation, is probably not in our own best national interest. I contend that a better use of national attention and funding would be public transportation. You know, that thing that even Hungary outdoes us on… Of course, this was only my own thinking, in my own head. So I sat down with 60 people over the last month, and asked them how having a 100mpg car would change their drving habits. EVERY SINGLE PERSON confessed that they would adopt habits that would have them driving more. In other words, the Jevons paradox in action. Please try to keep in mind that I really don’t have an agenda here. I would not really be much happier if I did have $10,000,000, nor do I hope that our industrial society goes backwards. That may happen regardless. I am not a doomer.
    The way I see it, its not just about the cars, but the enormous infrastructure that personal transportation needs to function. Will we have the resources to keep all this going? I have my doubts.
    Might we be better off revamping our railroads? I used to run a small railroad, and the efficiency and utility of them is hard to beat…
    As I get older, I find that I don’t really want to work on a car as much as I used to. I am sick of going to an auto parts store, sick of rising insurance, registration fees, etc.. There are things I would rather spend the time I have doing, than working on, or for, my personal transportation. I live in california, a wealthy state. However, we are broke. Broke enough that we may have a $20 billion dollar budget shortfall. Do I think that the roads here, which already need work , will get better, now that we have no money, and the thing they are made of is getting more expensive by the day?
    Probably we will float a bond issue, and fund them with money that will be paid off by someone’s children, or more probably, grandchildren…
    And we will need these smooth, well maintained roads for the cars that the X prize is promoting. High mpg and narrow, high-pressure tires go hand in hand, believe me. Time will tell. One things for sure, throwing out an idea like this generated a LOT of flames on the X prize forum. I get it: don’t screw with anyone’s car!

  8. They are, however, planning a four-seater sedan which would be eligible if they get it finished.

    Tesla wants to win both prizes, but their focus is on the 4-seater. The two-seat alternative class allows tandem trikes and such which might beat them, but the 4-seat category is all theirs.

    I would have thought that if they get it finished in time, the Chevy Volt would be a strong contender.

    The rules intentionally disqualify the Volt. On a 200 mile trip the Volt will do 40 miles in EV mode at 150 MPGe and 160 miles in gasoline mode at 50 MPGe. That’s only 58 MPGe over the full course, far below the requirement.

    Of course in real world operation the Volt will clear 100 MPGe and unlike the Tesla can also do long trips. The Volt also costs less. More capability for less money sounds like a winner, right? Not in X-Prize’s fantasy world.

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