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Transportation Science

New X-Prize for Fuel Efficient Cars Announced 371

miowpurr writes "A new X-Prize for ultra fuel efficient cars has been announced. The winning car must 'carry four or more passengers and have climate control, an audio system and 10 cubic feet of cargo space. They also must have four or more wheels, hit 60 miles per hour in less than 12 seconds and have a minimum top speed of 100 miles per hour and a range of 200 miles. Those that qualify will race their vehicles in cross-country races in 2009 and 2010 that will combine speed, distance, urban driving and overall performance.'"
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New X-Prize for Fuel Efficient Cars Announced

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  • Less exciting (Score:2, Interesting)

    by philspear ( 1142299 )
    This is just not as exciting as the other X-prizes. Maybe more valuable, but still. Just saying.
    • by Colonel Korn ( 1258968 ) on Thursday March 20, 2008 @10:50AM (#22806384)
      Sure, it's less exciting on a sci-fi-this-is-awesome level, but it seems to me like the most practical of the X prizes. This is the first that could very conceivably have a massive effect on worldwide transportation and even politics and the global economy in the next decade. What other x prize is tied so closely to the major environmental concerns of the day?

      Maybe fewer people will follow the prize closely, but I suspect that more will follow its aftermath.
      • I guess that would depend on what you consider a major environmental concern. Getting as many people off my planet is the top of my list. ;)
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        I don't think there is much likelihood that this prize will have any major impact on an environmental level. Addressing fuel economy globally is not at all about creating the most efficient technology. It will be about creating the most mass producible solution. The best solution will be the one that relies on the most abundant resources.

        We see contention now in the number of hybrid electric vehicles that can be produced, because they all depend on a limited supply of some common parts. The more Prius vehi

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          Doesn't the Tesla run on something like 100 laptop batteries. That means that for each one, 100 fewer laptops can be produced.

          It's impossible to manufacture more batteries?

          One factory produces seemless containment units for nuclear reactors. They produce 8 a year. That means that only 8 reactors based on that technology can be opened each year.

          Yes but if we also build two seamless containment unit factories per year, we can build 24 reactors the next year, 40 reactors the year after that, and 56 reactors the year after that. Sorry, this is one game of Starcraft that you're gonna lose playing that way.

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by Russ Nelson ( 33911 )
          Wow. You know absolutely NOTHING about economics, do you? In centrally-controlled societies like the socialists used to ask for (until they found out they don't work) the planners would simply ask for more seamless containment units to be built. In free market societies, factories which produce seamless containment units which are suddenly in much greater demand get to charge a much higher price. This is acceptable because the people who built such factories as exist planned well, and deserve their prof
    • Re:Less exciting (Score:5, Interesting)

      by gfxguy ( 98788 ) on Thursday March 20, 2008 @11:08AM (#22806618)
      Maybe I'm just old, but having a competition for something that's actually practical and could somehow find it's way into the consumer market is a lot more exciting to me after all these contests that really don't benefit "real" people.
    • by Bombula ( 670389 )
      One reason why it's not exciting is that a number of outfits already have qualifying vehicles. That makes this more of an announcement of a Green Car Race two years in advance than throwing down the technology gauntlet and challenging teams to come up with something genuinely ground-breaking. Just as one example, Tesla Motors (www.teslamotors.com) plans to have a car substantially superior to the specs mentioned in this X-Prize in production by 2010: the WhiteStar.
      • Re:Less exciting (Score:5, Interesting)

        by jandrese ( 485 ) <kensama@vt.edu> on Thursday March 20, 2008 @11:19AM (#22806772) Homepage Journal
        I thought the Tesla Motors cars were all electric? How do you intend to go cross country with an all electric car? I don't think the rules will allow for you to chase it with a big generator truck to recharge the car every 200 miles. The way the rules are written, it sounds to me like your car is pretty much going to have to be gasoline or diesel powered because that's the only way you're going to be able to refuel it when you're 1000 miles from home. Sneaking in behind shopping malls or something every 200 miles and plugging it into an outside wall outlet is probably not going to work.
        • by Bombula ( 670389 )
          I don't think the rules will allow for you to chase it with a big generator truck to recharge the car every 200 miles ... Sneaking in behind shopping malls or something every 200 miles and plugging it into an outside wall outlet is probably not going to work.

          So the other teams have big tanker trucks chasing their cars? Oh, that's right, there's a gasoline infrastructure in the United States so they'll be able to refuel. Well as it happens, there's an electrical infrastructure too, and vehicles like the

          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            by OnlineAlias ( 828288 )

            The Tesla doesn't have 4 seats or the cargo capacity, so it is out from the start.
          • Tesla Roadster carry a portable charger to enable plugging into to any ordinary power socket.
            An infrastructure and charger in place to give the tesla 600-8000 mile range (What I get out of my TDI) in 10 minutes (5 if I use the larger Semi nozzles).

            It should be run like 'cannon ball run'. You drive non stop first team wins. I bet the winners will be in CA before Tesla is done with their second charge.
            • Re:Less exciting (Score:4, Insightful)

              by Bombula ( 670389 ) on Thursday March 20, 2008 @11:37AM (#22807028)
              It should be run like 'cannon ball run'. You drive non stop first team wins.

              I'm not sure what point a nonstop race proves. How often do people drive 3000 miles without stopping any longer than to refuel? Maybe truck drivers, but the race's vehicle specs didn't sound much like a semi's to me. Plus, I didn't see anything in the specs about the car requiring its own toilet facilities. Or maybe it'll just be astronauts in diapers driving?

          • by jandrese ( 485 )
            Read the rest of my post. While there is an electrical infrastructure in the US, there's not (yet) a system of stations where you can pay to recharge an electrical car. You will forever be driving into a store or something and asking the shopkeeper if you can plug into an outlet. It's just not very practical.
        • Re:Less exciting (Score:5, Interesting)

          by tlhIngan ( 30335 ) <{slashdot} {at} {worf.net}> on Thursday March 20, 2008 @11:40AM (#22807062)

          I thought the Tesla Motors cars were all electric? How do you intend to go cross country with an all electric car? I don't think the rules will allow for you to chase it with a big generator truck to recharge the car every 200 miles. The way the rules are written, it sounds to me like your car is pretty much going to have to be gasoline or diesel powered because that's the only way you're going to be able to refuel it when you're 1000 miles from home. Sneaking in behind shopping malls or something every 200 miles and plugging it into an outside wall outlet is probably not going to work.

          You could make the engine part a trailer [dansdata.com]. When you're doing your inter-city commutes, you'd just plug it in at work, plut it in at home, and go about your merry little business as a fully electric car.

          When you want to go cross-country, you'd hook up the trailer to the car, and as necessary, it starts up, generates power for the battery, and shuts down, like hybrid cars. Except unlike hybrids, you're not carrying the whole engine and supporting systems (gas, cooling, exhaust, etc) with you everywhere you go. And like hybrids, it can work the engine where its most efficient. (The ICE is so inefficient, that it's way more efficient to use its mechanical power to generate electricity, and then use the electricity to move a vehicle - see the popular diesel-electic train).

          Heck, if there's a standard for wiring up these trailers and cars together, a whole new industry is born - car companies can produce an all electric car and their standard trailer, and third parties can make their own trailers. Or rent a trailer if they don't go on long trips frequently enough to justify owning one (aren't most cars just used for the daily commute? In which case the plug in at office/home would work just fine).
      • I would think the Aptera Hybrid [aptera.com] is much further along than Tesla's offerings, it already gets 330MPG but it's only a 2 seater, and a 3 wheeler... They could probably made a less efficient 4 seat/4 wheel model and call it a day.

        The thing I like about it the most is that rather than trying to shoehorn good aero design onto something that looks like a typical car and ending up with something very ugly, they just embraced good aero design and made something that looks nothing like a modern car and is very se
    • by LWATCDR ( 28044 )
      Not really.
      They seemed to have left out a lot of practical requirements.
      Emissions and safety are the two big ones I see. All those requirements add a good bit of weight and influence the milage you can get from a motor. You also need to think about durability.
      To get super high millage you could make a super light turbo diesel with no emissions but it wouldn't last more than say 40,000 miles and would never pass emissions. The build a super light frame that would not hold up all that well in a crash and you
  • Car Must Be 100 MPG+ (Score:5, Informative)

    by Zabu ( 589690 ) on Thursday March 20, 2008 @10:46AM (#22806330)
    Not mentioned in the summary.
    • by Tyndmyr ( 811713 ) * on Thursday March 20, 2008 @11:08AM (#22806616)
      Also not mentioned...10Mil prize. Not bad at all, though I suspect that if a car that efficient could be designed for that price, it probably already would exist. Also, the prize is split between "mainstream" and "alternative" cars. The above restriction was for the mainstream category, which I imagine will be acheived later.
      • To put the prize money in perspective, automakers typically spend hundreds of millions developing a new car, and probably expect to gain more than 10 million in profits.

        That said, the X-Prize doesn't demand cool styling, bumper-to-bumper warranty, or a nice paint job, so the entrants could cut several corners in the design.
  • The requirements are reasonably realistic as far as the car specs go. Sounds like an ordinary mid-sized sedan to me. Let's hope we get some good entrants!
  • Fuel Restrictions? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by ryanguill ( 988659 ) on Thursday March 20, 2008 @10:47AM (#22806340) Journal
    I think this is great and is going to have a lot more impact on our daily lives than the space prize. It does seem like quite a challenge though. Are there any restrictions on the type of fuel though? Does it have to use regular gas? Can it use anything that can be measured in gallons?
  • MPG? (Score:5, Informative)

    by truthsearch ( 249536 ) on Thursday March 20, 2008 @10:47AM (#22806350) Homepage Journal
    carry four or more passengers and have climate control, an audio system and 10 cubic feet of cargo space. They also must have four or more wheels, hit 60 miles per hour in less than 12 seconds and have a minimum top speed of 100 miles per hour and a range of 200 miles.

    My car does that now. The summary left out the most important piece of information: the car must get 100 MPG or more.
  • 100-mpg vehicle ! (Score:2, Informative)

    by Eric Pierce ( 636318 )
    The summary fails to mention that the goal is a 100-mpg vehicle! Kind of need that in the summary or the TITLE.

  • I think battery technology is advancing fast enough to make the listed criteria too easily attainable by 2010 or 2011. Why not make the requirements difficult so as to promote some really groundbreaking new technology. The criteria as set is essentially the same as needed for a comercially viable pure electric (assuming the price is competitive too....) I think that an "X" prize should be at the very limits of technology, this one is more of a "P" prize.
    • I had the same reaction when I read the summary, but on reading the article it sounds like the car is required to use gasoline. If not, how would they convert their 100 mpg requirement into electric-car terms? I can imagine several possibilities, but none seem really neutral.

      It's not really fair (or in the spirit of the competition) to disallow electric cars, but it's not fair to say they get infinite mpg, either. Do we measure their cost in electricity, or in fossil fuel burning to generate that power?
  • by Anonymous Coward
    So you test cars designed for an urban environment by sending them into a cross country race ? and people wonder why American auto makers have lost their way, perhaps they could test the space shuttle by seeing how well it performs as a boat
  • This guy [motherjones.com] got 180 mpg out of a Honda Insight on a 20-mile urban course in the rain, using energy-conserving driving techniques.

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by jandrese ( 485 )
      He also has to drive like a total asshole to do it. I appreciate his dedication to gaming the MPG counter on his car, but he's going to kill someone eventually, and if I was in his neighborhood I'm sure he'd drive me crazy when I end up behind him while he's creeping home at 15mph.
  • "The environmentally friendly technologies created as a result of this competition will affect everyone who drives in ways we can't even imagine today," X Prize Chairman and Chief Executive Dr. Peter Diamandis said in a statement.

    There's nothing environmentally friendly about the production and use of ANY vehicle. I think "environmentally less-destructive" may be more appropriate way to phrase this.

    • But the truth never sells! (unless it's REALLY bad and about someone we like to make fun of like George W. or CmdrTaco).
    • by Belial6 ( 794905 )
      Sure you could make an environmentally friendly car. It could just have a slow release poison, so that after about a year of driving, the owner will die of a "mysterious" illness. This would make it so that most drivers environmental footprint would be less than if he never bought the car in the first place. What isn't environmentally friendly about that? After all, the only way to make it so that humans don't have an impact on the environment is to not have humans.
    • by gnick ( 1211984 ) on Thursday March 20, 2008 @12:06PM (#22807374) Homepage

      There's nothing environmentally friendly about the production and use of ANY vehicle.
      I drive my hybrid Vespa 30 miles a day on 1/4 gallon of biofuel that I generate myself from food leavings that I collect from the local landfill. When I get to my destination, I work 14-hour shifts rescuing endangered squirrels, planting trees, sucking huge amounts of ozone into my mighty lungs so that I can re-process it into pine-scented 02, and encouraging others to become more environmentally aware. If I couldn't drive, I be stuck within walking distance of my apartment all day just picking up litter =( .

      I defy you to explain why my vehicle is doing net harm to the environment.
  • Recently, I have examined an implementation of something that seems very simple and very effective. It reads to me as "too good to be true" and yet I can't presently see what's wrong with it.

    The technology is essentially "use electrolysis to split hydrogen and oxygen from water and feed that into your fuel system as a supplement." The vehicle I saw this on had been running it for about 6 to 8 weeks. It consisted of a couple of mason jars, some simple hardware and hoses tapping into the existing fuel syst
    • by bihoy ( 100694 )
      Is Water4gas a scam or does it increase your mpg using cutting edge techniques?
      A Certified Master Mechanics review of the water4gas system.

      http://www.auto-facts.org/water4gas-scam.html [auto-facts.org]

    • You're putting in fuel at two different places. How hard is this to see?
    • In this house, we obey the laws of thermodynamics!
  • hit 60 miles per hour in less than 12 seconds

    My 1981 Rabbit Diesel literally took 45 seconds to go 0 to 60, and couldn't go over 75 mph without a hill or tailwind -- so I'm guessing it's not going to win this. On the other hand, it did get 52 mph if you drove it right -- not ultra-efficient, but not bad at all for a real world car, especially considering that it was made 27 years ago.

    I hated that car at the time (gas was cheap, and I was a teenager), but I think I'd feel differently about it now if I c

  • realistic specs?? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by egburr ( 141740 )
    I would love to get 100 MPG, but why do they require acceleration to 60 in 12 seconds? 15-20 seconds would be just fine. And more importantly, why do they require a minimum top speed of 100 MPH? 80 MPH would be more than sufficient for 99.99% of roads worldwide. I'd be happy with 100 MPG even if I could never get it over 75 MPH. Of course I'd be happy if most of the cars on the highway would drive the same speed, instead of having some people driving slow in the fast lanes and other people constantly swerv
    • by Zelos ( 1050172 )
      I was thinking the same thing, I drive a fairly fuel-efficient car (~50mpg US) which does 0-60 in 14s, it's perfectly fine for city and motorway.

      How often do drivers actually use the full acceleration of the car, anyway?
      • by gknoy ( 899301 )
        California, at least, has a law that requires you to merge with freeway traffic at something similar to freeway speeds. In the space of a freeway on-ramp, you should be able to accelerate to ~60 mph. Otherwise, you cause traffic and safety issues for other drivers.
      • by Enleth ( 947766 )
        Rarely, but when you need it - well, you really NEED it. Sometimes the only way to escape a high-speed collision or a very bad skid is to accelerate, not to brake, and you certainly wouldn't want yor car to be at its maximum power already.
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by EvanED ( 569694 )
      And more importantly, why do they require a minimum top speed of 100 MPH? 80 MPH would be more than sufficient for 99.99% of roads worldwide. I'd be happy with 100 MPG even if I could never get it over 75 MPH.

      As others have said, you want to be able to go 70 when going uphill too. One of my friends had an old junker when we were undergrads that could easily maintain highway speeds on flat roads (we were definitely in the 70s at times) but whenever she would come back to school, approaching the town you have
    • by dmatos ( 232892 ) on Thursday March 20, 2008 @11:40AM (#22807066)
      Acceleration like that is required for safe merging onto a highway that's traveling at 60MPH. Assuming linear acceleration from zero to sixty (which is probably an optimistic assumption), say you get on the highway on-ramp at 30, and have to accelerate up to 60 to merge. You'd need 6 seconds to do that. How far would you travel in those 6 seconds?

      0.2 miles

      And if you used 10 seconds to do that (0-60 in 20 seconds)?

      0.5 miles

      How long are the on-ramps where you live?

      As for the top speed, that's what you'd get to after holding down the accelerator on a flat, straight stretch of the road for 2-3 minutes. Reasonable traveling speed for a vehicle is always some amount below the maximum speed of that vehicle.
    • Because a car for the mainstream must be able to use freeways. 15-20 seconds is TOO SLOW and risk accidents as you try to merge. I have no love for idiots who do 30 on the on-ramp when traffic is moving at 70+.

      I live in Dallas. The speed-limit of 60 on the freeways is meaningless. Unless there is a traffic jam people are going 70+ in the slow lane. Most large cities are the same way.

      Also if your car can't go 100. How's it going to have the power to stay with traffic on a hill.

      Speed doesn't hurt you. Its stu
  • I could do that... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Thelasko ( 1196535 ) on Thursday March 20, 2008 @11:05AM (#22806576) Journal
    Just modify an old Volkswagen TDI. The problem is making a 100MPG car that meets the USA safety and emissions standards. The car that results from this challenge won't be practical for those two simple reasons.
    • of the damn contest, the car has to be practical, has to be able to be manufactured on a large scale.

      Apparently quite a few companies think they can meet that objective.
    • Emissions aren't necessarily a problem. The more efficient an engine is, the cleaner the exhaust.

      Safety, on the other hand... well, it's probably a safe prediction to say that, to help achieve the 100MPG requirement, many designers will take structural inspiration from modern aluminum beer can technology.

  • Draft Guidelines (Score:3, Informative)

    by ryanguill ( 988659 ) on Thursday March 20, 2008 @11:06AM (#22806588) Journal
    Draft Guidelines can be found here: http://www.progressiveautoxprize.org/auto/prize-details/draft-guidelines [progressiv...xprize.org] [PDF Warning]
    • Mod up please so others may read the rules! Note: This is referring to a draft of the rules not drafting other cars (like in NASCAR).
  • for a commercially viable car (which I assume they are going for), shouldn't the range be more like 300 miles? 200 seems a little low for some reason and the lowest range I got on any number of gasoline cars was maybe 260-280....
  • by OglinTatas ( 710589 ) on Thursday March 20, 2008 @11:09AM (#22806644)
    "...and have a minimum top speed of 100 miles per hour..."

    Do they say how high the cliff is allowed to be?
  • X Prize Cars (Score:2, Informative)

    by EricBoyd ( 532608 )
    I've been chronicling the Automotive X Prize for months over at X Prize Cars [xprizecars.com]. At X Prize Cars you can read about the various teams, Compare many of them side-by-side [xprizecars.com], and follow the news. The most impressive are of course the Tesla [xprizecars.com], Aptera [xprizecars.com], and the FuelVapor Technologies [xprizecars.com], which is actually on exhibit here at the New York Auto Show. But many other teams have cool cars as well - and it's still early, the official entry process is due to be announced today! Also, if you're curious about the rules, I have a
    • by Alioth ( 221270 )
      How can the Aptera even qualify? It doesn't have enough wheels (it needs 4 or more, I count only three).
  • Has anyone better in physics than me already calculated what is the maximum theoretically achievable efficiency?
    Would be interesting to see how close we already are.
  • Rule summary (Score:4, Informative)

    by Thelasko ( 1196535 ) on Thursday March 20, 2008 @11:30AM (#22806910) Journal
    Here is a brief summary of the rules as taken from the draft on X-Prise website. [xprize.org]
    Fuel economy >100MPGe
    4+ passengers
    Must meet US EPA Tier II bin 5
    Must meet US safety regulations
    Must have features considered standard in today's automobiles at a cost that is not prohibitively expensive, and must provide a business case proving so.
  • water 4 gas (Score:4, Informative)

    by xj ( 958167 ) on Thursday March 20, 2008 @11:32AM (#22806948)
    Well conservation of energy for one. The energy required to split water in to hydrogen and oxygen is greater than the energy you get from burning it otherwise we'd all have perpetual motion machines running in our back yard.

    Flow rate.
    Say an engine has a displacement of 3 liters and is operating at 2000 rpm.
    3 liters * 2000 rpm /2 (as this is a 4 stroke engine) * .85 (assume this is not turbo charged so the cylinder is never completely full) = 2550 liters of air per min.

    the electric power required to electrolyze the hydrogen equivalent to 1 gallon of gasoline is equal to (500 moles) x (0.06587 kWh/mole) = 32.935 kWh, and the approximate cost of that power = (32.935 kWh)
    credit to this site http://www.stardrivedevice.com/electrolysis.html [stardrivedevice.com]

    How much current can you alternator put out? Maybe 100 amps. How much hydrogen could your car generate per min? How much power can your alternator produce 100A *13.7V 1.37 KW

    How much hydrogen could your car produce per min?
    1.37 * (.06587 kWh/mole) / 60min/hr * 22.4 liters/mol = 0.033 liters of hydrogen per min
    Compare this to the number above for the volume of air entering the engine.

    How much hydrogen would one need to run a vehicle?

    If 500 mol of hydrogen = 1 gallon of gasoline
    If the vehicle gets 30 mpg at 60 mph = 2 gallons of gasoline per hr or 1000 mol of hydrogen per hr * 22.4 liters / mol / 60 min / hr = 373 lites per min of hydrogen

    Compare this to the number above.
    If anything all those hydrogen generator scams are going to do is create a vacuum leak that will turn on your check engine light.
  • I wonder, must the winner meet recognized safety standards to win the prize? It's considerably easier to design a vehicle that won't ever come close to government crash standards and thus couldn't possibly be licensed as a car... If the winner builds a glorified ultralight autorickshaw that would probably kill all occupants in case of a low-speed collision with a Pinto, some kind of 3-wheel motorcycle with a full fairing or some other contraption that is "unsafe at any speed", then I see little point to thi
  • by edmicman ( 830206 ) on Thursday March 20, 2008 @12:05PM (#22807354) Homepage Journal
    I don't get it....wouldn't the market dictate progress for massive fuel efficiency gains? Do you think if people were honest-to-goodness clamoring for 200mpg alternative vehicles, the companies would already be doing it? I would think there's a much greater reward than $10M that the market would provide. You don't think that if GM or Ford or Honda or Toyota or Joe Garage inventor could come up with a *normal* vehicle that fit cars, trucks, and SUVs, and make it get 100+ mpg, all for a competitive cost (ie, same as or less than our cars are now) that they wouldn't?

    The truth is, as much as the idealists would like to think otherwise, price and value are running the show. Fuel efficiency is an added bonus, and as gas gets more expensive this will only increase. Although, I honestly don't see it REALLY making a difference until gas gets $20+/gallon, maybe more. Think about it - it sucks paying $3 a gallon, but we do it because we have to. If it jumped to $5, it would suck even more, but we'd still pay it because hey, most people gotta get to work somehow and that's the only option. Rising gas prices crimp our lifestyles that we've chosen, but at what actual price point does the price of gas and the cost of driving actually truly outweigh the need for your chosen employment? For the majority of people? The automakers, all of them, are only giving the people what they want.

    Back on topic, I don't really see this as anything more than a novelty, and a stupid one at that. How much would GM make if tomorrow they released say an Impala priced at the same it is today, but with 200mpg, and where you don't have to change your driving habits or make any radical fueling style changes. You can "fill" it up the same places you can now; i.e., it's not more work for you the consumer. Wouldn't that be worth a heck of a lot more than $10M? You don't think they're already thinking about this?

    The point is people want fuel economy and savings, but they don't want to drastically change their lifestyles, rightfully so. I want the insanely high Miles Per Fillup. But I want to pay a comparable price to what today's average "normal" car sells for...a $5-10k premium is too much. I want the ease of being able to refuel it anywhere - I don't want to have to come back to my home base, or only be able to go to certain filling stations. And I want this in any vehicle I choose - be it car, truck, van, SUV, motorcycle, etc. Why does fuel efficiency have to equal econobox? Why can't I have a 200mpg Hummer? This isn't rocket science, and this "prize" isn't going to push the revolution any faster.

Talent does what it can. Genius does what it must. You do what you get paid to do.