100 Miles Per Gallon?

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With the Detroit auto show suffering from a drought of groundbreaking model launches by the city's present carmakers, the focus has shifted towards an alternative motoring future built on innovation and inventions. This year, Michigan State will host a series of competitions that offer a $10m (£6m) prize to the inventors of the world's most fuel-efficient autos.

From high-schoolers modifying a Ford Focus hybrid to run on biofuel to would-be manufacturers of three-wheeled electric vehicles, the X PRIZE's seven automotive professional judges have winnowed a field of 135 vehicles down to 53, driven by six different fuel sources and coming from 18 states and 10 countries.
The Automotive X Prize competition has dragged on for some years This year the competition started with 28 teams with 36 vehicles. Of those, 24 participated in the shakedown. While that's not a lot of elimination it is an remarkable and important begining.
The contest, sponsored by Progressive Insurance, offers $10 million in prizes to automakers who can design cars that attain at least 100 miles a gallon.
The competition consisted of technical inspections and on-track safety tests, including zero-to-60 mile per hour acceleration and braking tests, an emergency double lane change avoidance maneuver, and durability requirements.
"These shakedown tests rightly set a very high standard of safety and performance," said Eric Cahill, senior director of the contest. "This was not meant to be simple. If it were, it would have previously been accomplished. We expect to see more eliminations through the knockout stage."
The Automotive X Prize is a three-phase contest to construct vehicles that get 100 MPGe or more. The cars have to be capable seeing real manufacture and sold in quantities of 10,000 a year by 2014. They also have to be able to pass all government collision and emissions tests and meet minimum performance standards as determined by Consumer Reports. They also have to pass a 40-mile durability test drive.
Some teams have fielded multiple cars, spanning both the competition's main categories: Mainstream-class cars have to seat at least four people, have four wheels, and at not less than a 200-mile range; and Alternative-class cars have at least two seats, two wheels, and a 100-mile range. (Alternative-class contestants would likely be considered sports cars or motorbikes in production.) In several cases, teams with multiple entries only saw one of their vehicles pass inspection, and the teams will continue with a single model in the competition.
It's like the future has finally gotten here," said Gary Starr, founder of the California-based electric carmaker ZAP, whose three-passenger, three-wheeled car is a finalist. "The X Prize validates these vehicles and supplies an means for small companies like mine to prepare these vehicles for production."
The rigorous testing begins with thorough inspections and computer modeling to ensure the vehicles can pass tough U.S. crash requirements. Ultimately, the testing will shift to the track where the vehicles will have to demonstrate themselves on the street.
Connie Bezanson, of the U.S. Department of Energy's Office of Vehicle Technologies, said the need for more efficient cars is paramount.
"About 65 percent of daily U.S. oil use comes from autos and 45 percent of the worldwide CO2 production comes from vehicles," she said.
Energy Secretary Steven Chu says the money will provide the Automotive X Prize, a $10 million contest to develop cars able of 100 mpg or the equivalent, with technical assistance and help expand national education and outreach efforts. The funds comes out of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, also known as the stimulus package.
"Our unpolluted energy future is dependent on our capability to design and commercialize new highly efficient vehicles that are cost-effective for customers and use appreciably less energy," the secretary said. "This funding will support cutting-edge, American innovation that can assist us fundamentally transform private transportation and address the global climate crisis."
$10 million in awards will be awarded in September 2010 to the groups that prevail a rigorous phase competition for clean, production-capable vehicles that exceed 100 MPG energy equivalent (MPGe). The on-track Competition Phase will be hosted at Michigan International Speedway.
Just 15 cars from 12 teams passed these tests, with most in the so-called "alternative class": two-seat cars with a 100-mile (160-kilometre) range that can accelerate from 0 to 60 miles per hour (about 100 kilometres per hour) in under 18 seconds. The "mainstream" class, for four-seat cars that have cargo space, a sub-15-second 0-to-60 time and a 200-mile range, proved more difficult . Only one of the nine groups survived the knockout requirements to continue on to the finals.
Tough targets
"We thought there might be a few more contenders than there are at this stage," says Brad Jaeger, director of research and development and driver for the Virginia-based Edison2 team, the solitary surviving mainstream class competitor.
Julie Zona, director of team relations for the Automotive X Prize, says that the level of difficulty in the mainstream group is intended to replicate the normal needs of the market. "We realise that that set of standards is extremely demanding, so for anyone to hit them is an achievement," says Zona.
The finals, which begin in mid-July, will see teams attempt to meet the full requirements while competing in time trials. The winners of each class will receive a $5 million prize.
Tesla, Nissan, and GM's mass-market offerings may yet prove to be successes, but the X Prize indicates that delivering performance to meet drivers' expectations may mean going back to the drawing board when it comes to a auto design. Sustainable motoring, while possible, may appear and feel vastly dissimilar from what today's drivers are used to.

Not The Times is a free on line publication that collects and republishes important news and information on a variety of topics, from over 200 reliable sources. Delivering important but not hysterical real news that does or could have a major impact on your life. Visit Not The Times. Pete Orthmann, Editor

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