100 mpg automotive X PRIZE contest underway, 136 vehicles, $10M

Chicago (IL) – Progressive Insurance is hosting the Automobile X-Prize, which has now announced the full list of registered teams who have been accepted into the competition. The 111 separate teams include 136 vehicles, 14 different fuel sources, with 25 states in the U.S. represented, and 11 countries in all. The $10 million prize will be given to the team that not only makes it beyond 100 mpg in a four-passenger car, but also does it the fastest.

The race is just that: a race. It’s not enough that the entrants meet or surpass the requirement of 100 miles per gallon in fuel economy while driving over real-world terrain — according to the X-Prize website, any skilled engineer can do that. They must also live up to existing four-passenger automobile safety laws as defined in the United States, making sure that the 100 mpg vehicle propels four adults with safety beyond 100 mpg in normal driving conditions. But in addition to that, they must also be the fastest team to do it.

Note: For entrants that do not use gasoline as fuel, the MPGe (equivalent) levels of fuel economy must be achieved in their native fuel form, meaning a diesel-entry would have to get at least 113 miles per gallon due to its higher energy per unit volume.

The mainstream class has 80 entries, and must carry four adults, 10 cubic feet of cargo space, an acceleration of at least 0 to 60 in 12 seconds, air conditioning, a stereo, and the vehicle cannot exceed 100 miles per hour, though it must have a minimum cruising range of 200 miles.

An alternative class has 56 entries, and must carry two passengers (two seater), have a top speed of 80 mph and a minimum cruising range of 100 miles. In the past, it was debated whether or not occupants must ride side-by-side, rather than in tandem, to exhibit more natural car-like qualities, however at this point the race allows any form of vehicle, provided it can carry two occupants.

All classes must be manufactured of products sufficient enough to allow for a production run of at least 10,000 units, meaning no extremely exotic one-shot materials. The vehicles must be practical to manufacture in this way. Vehicles will go through a series of competitive levels, with the actual final race taking place in May, 2010.

The breakdown of entrants fall into the following fuel categories:

32 – Fuel electric / battery
36 – Hybrid (gas or diesel) / electric
23 – Gasoline
13 – Diesel
11 – Hybrid multi-fuel / electric
5 – Water, Vegetable oil, or to-be-determined
4 – Hybrid compressed air / electric / gas
3 – Hybrid hydrogen / electric
3 – Hybrid solar / electric
2 – Urea
2 – CNG

According to Chris Theodore, Vice Chairman of an advisor company to the X-Prize committee, “Achieving 100 mpg? Any bright engineer can go do that. But with the rules of cost and safety and desirability and functionality, it becomes much more challenging. I’m not sure the public appreciates how difficult it is. It is hard to imagine an entry being done for less than a million dollars, and the sky is the limit for how much it would cost to win the thing. It could be $100 million.”

Registration for the $10 million Automotive X-Prize closed on February 28, 2009, and now there are 136 separate vehicles poised to cash in on $10 million. The countries included are Australia, Brazil, Canada, Finland, ermany, Italy, Netherlands, Switzerland, Thailand, UK and USA.

A fuel economy of 100 miles per gallon means the vehicle will drive 528,000 feet. For every 3.9 miles traveled, it would consume as much gasoline as is in a 5 oz. energy drink. To consume as much fuel as is in a 20 oz. bottle of soda, it would exceed 15.6 miles, which is only slightly below what most four-passenger and larger vehicles get in the U.S. today on a gallon of fuel while driving in the city. To get to the 2 liter of soda level of fuel consumption, it would travel 52.8 miles. And to the full gallon level, at least 100 miles.

In such a vehicle, a trip from New York to Las Vegas 25.4 gallons of fuel, or roughly $61 at $2.39 per gallon. An annual fuel expense for a vehicle driven 10,000 miles per year would be $239, or $19.92 per month, $4.60 per week on 193 miles of driving.

See the complete list of entrants (PDF). Note: Six of the 111 teams that have entered have requested their names be kept confidential.

See the official “B-Roll” release film from the X PRIZE contest:
(Can’t see the video? Try YouTube.)