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Automotive X Prize — $10 million for 100mpg. Too little, too late?

Following on the tail (actually, under way for a while already) of the Supreme Court ruling on carbon dioxide as a regulatable pollutant, the folks who brought us the X Prize for low-cost space travel now turn their eyes on the automotive stratosphere.

Next X Prize: Build a practical, hyperefficient car

‘Auto X Prize’ has announced a competition to design a 100 m.p.g. car, but some say ‘why stop there?’

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If your dream is to build the world’s greatest car – not just a science project or a concept car, but a real-world, 100-mile-per-gallon vehicle that’s safe, can be mass-produced, and emits almost no pollutants – there’s a big, fat prize waiting for you.

It’s expected to be at least $10 million, maybe much more.

Right off the bat, you might wonder, “is 100mpg really that great of a target?”

Why aim for just 100 miles per gallon or its energy equivalent? What about a vehicle that gets double that? What about a vehicle that burns no carbon-based fuel at all?

Such are the criticisms already being leveled at the Automotive X Prize “draft guidelines,” to be formally unveiled this week at the New York International Auto Show. Most questions are being raised not by skeptics but by the contemporary soul mates of the Wright brothers and Henry Ford, true believers who would love to enter the “great race.”

After all, Tesla Motors claims that its street legal car already gets over 100mpg equivalent. True, it’s not exactly affordable at $92,000 each, but then they’re making them one by one, not on a big assembly line.

Personally, I’d like to see Amory Lovins and the Rocky Mountain Institute hop on this bandwagon. They’ve been talking for years and years about the viability of “hypercars,” and while I don’t doubt them, I’d like to see them actually build one of the suckers at long last. There’s now a 10 million dollar carrot dangling within reach.


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