September 16, 2010

Progressive Insurance Hands Out $10 Million To Efficient Cars

Three winners have been announced in Progressive Insurance's $10 million Automotive X Prize, which is a contest that encourages the development of highly efficient, production-ready vehicles.

Edison2's "Very Light Car No. 98" won for its innovative use of lightweight materials, its superior aerodynamics and its very low production cost.  Oliver Kuttner, the founder of Edison2, said his target price tag for the vehicle, which gets 102 miles per gallon, is at $20,000.

The "Very Light Car No. 98" seats four and is built on a steel frame of aluminum parts.  It weighs in at 830 pounds, which is about a quarter of the weight of an average car. 

Kuttner said a team of about 100 people developed the car, including many racing veterans.  The team opted for a one-cylinder, ethanol-capable engine instead of an electric car because batteries weigh more and gas is readily available.  However, the team said its innovations in aerodynamics and the use of lightweight materials could apply to any kind of vehicle.

"We've been working on these types of solutions, really, all our lives," Kuttner told The Associated Press (AP). "In racing, fuel is a precious resource. One less pit stop is the difference between winning and losing."

Edison2 took the bulk of the prize money home totaling $5 million.  Kuttner said Edison2 spent more than that to develop the vehicle.

He said some of the prize money will go into development of the next generation light car.  Kuttner said the team is now focusing on making the car more consumer friendly and "easier on the eyes" but without adding weight or messing with its fuel economy.

Kuttner said he eventually will make plans to find partners to manufacture and distribute the vehicle.

Mooresville, N.C.-based Li-Ion Motors Corp. took $2.5 million of the prize money with the Wave2.  This vehicle is a two-seater electric car that gets 187 miles on a single charge. 

The E-Tracer 7009 took another $2.5 million of the money and X-Trace Team of Winterthur, Switzerland developed it.  This vehicle travels 205 miles on a single charge and looks like a motorcycle-like electric mini-car.  The team says the E-Tracer will be available to U.S. consumers next year.

The X Prize gave 111 teams 30 months to develop their vehicles and then put them through driving, safety and efficiency tests.

All of the winners are now eligible for a U.S. Department of Energy program that will help the vehicles be introduced into the U.S. market.


On the Net: