Automotive X PRIZE – Revolution Through Competition

The Automotive X PRIZE is the most recent endeavor of the X PRIZE Foundation, a non-profit philanthropic organization founded by some of the brightest minds and forward thinkers. The prize of ten million dollars will go to the team that can build the most innovative, viable, and super-efficient vehicles. Today the doors opened to the press at the North American International Auto Show (NAIAS) and the top X PRIZE teams efforts will be on display.

Automotive X PRIZE teams must build and bring to market cars with 100 MPG equivalent fuel economy, consumer desirability, are reasonably prices, meet driver requirements for size, capability, safety and performance. To meet these requirements and goals X PRIZE teams were forced to truly think outside the box.

To date 50 teams have applied and there is still an opportunity to join the competition. The competition officially launches in early 2008 and those that qualify will embark on a rigorous cross country race that will challenge the competitors in speed, distance, urban driving, and overall performance in 2009-2010. To win the fastest team to exceed 100 MPG and strict emissions goals, will win the X PRIZE of $10,000,000.

aptera-typ-1-plug-in-hynrid.jpgOur personal favorite is the Aptera. Designed and built like a cross between an airplane and a Formula 1 car this space age Plug-In Hybrid vehicle completely redefines personal transportation. It is also expected to get approximately 300 MPG and cost about $30,000. The only disadvantage we see for the Aptera winning the X PRIZE is it’s radical design. It is probably the mist innovate car but will that outweigh it’s true marketability. We’d buy one… so only time will tell.

fisker-automotive-plugin-hybrid-four-door-sports-sedan-thumb.jpgOur luxury car favorite is the Fisker Plug-In Hybrid Sedan. Designed by the man responsible for the design of the BMW Z8 and Aston Martin DB9 and V8 Vantage, this $80,000 luxury sedan will certainly steal the show in terms of contemporary design and luxury. Initial reports also put this car in the lead in terms of meeting the competitoon requirements. The only draw back will be price. Can a small independent company really sell 15,000 $80,000 cars a year? We hope so.

bricklin-evxls1.jpgOur favorite under dog is Malcolm Bricklin and Visionary Vehicles. Bricklin’s deal with Chinese auto maker Chery fell through but that didn’t stop this long time auto industry entrepreneur. Back in the 70’s he brought a car to market under his own name and the Bricklin SV-1 was almost a success story. Malcolm is back with a $35,000, 100 MPG Plug-In Hybrid and X PRIZE competitor.

It is worth pointing out that many of the top contendors are developing Plug-In Hybrids. The are several different approaches to this technology solution being taken but in a nutshell a gasoline engine helps generate electricity that is stored in a relatively small array of on-board batteries and the wheels are turned by an electric motor. The result is excellent fuel economy and reasonable performance.

tesla_roadster.jpgThere are a few all electric cars in the competition like the Tesla Roadster, but we expect them to yield the prize to the Plug-In Hybrids for the same reason the auto industry keeps shying away from all electric vehicles. The battery technology is just not available yet that makes it possible to build a light weight quickly recharged real world car. In the future we expect all cars to be zero emissions all electric or hydrogen fuel cell driven but in the next 5 to 15 years Plug-In Hybrids are the best transition solution simply because we have the technology to build them today.