More than two years after challenging engineers to develop a new class of vehicle that could achieve 100 miles per gallon or the energy equivalent(mpge), the X PRIZE Foundation on Thursday crowned three winners in its $10-million Progressive Insurance Automotive X PRIZE competition. Charlottesville, Va.’s Edison2 team took home a $5 million prize for its Very Light Car, a vehicle in the “mainstream” category that runs on an E85 ethanol-powered internal-combustion engine. Switzerland’s Team X-Tracer and Mooresville, N.C.’s Li-ion Motors won $2.5 million each for producing the top “alternative” tandem and side-by-side vehicles, respectively.
Edison2, the only team in the mainstream category to make it to the final round, won with its svelte 376-kilogram Very Light Car, which was rated at 102 mpge, a measure of distance traveled per unit energy consumption. Vehicles in the mainstream category were required to carry at least four people, have four wheels and be able to travel at least 322 kilometers without refueling. During his acceptance speech Thursday, Edison2 founder and CEO Oliver Kuttner pointed to the low weight of his team’s vehicle as a major factor in its success. The Very Light Car features a lightweight suspension system and steel chassis that requires only a 3.5-horsepower engine to reach 81 kilometers per hour, he said. Kuttner also called the vehicle “fuel source agnostic,” adding that it could be designed to run on gasoline or electricity.
Li-ion Motors has been developing the technology in its winning Wave II alternative vehicle over the past seven years. Alternative vehicles in the competition were required to carry at least two people and travel at least 161 kilometers before refueling. The 987-kilogram battery-powered electric Wave II achieved 187 mpge, accelerated from zero to 97 miles per hour in 14.7 seconds and hit a top speed of 121 kilometers per hour. The side-by-side two-seater can fully charge in four hours and uses regenerative energy to assist in braking. Li-ion narrowly beat out Sweden’s RaceAbout Association for first place in its category.
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