A new challenge with a 10 million U.S. dollar award as the carrot at the end of the stick was announced Thursday by the X Prize Foundation at the New York Auto Show.
The foundation's latest challenge is to design and build a "viable, clean and super-efficient" car that people actually want to buy and that will "help break our addiction to oil and stem the effects of climate change."
To date, 64 international teams have accepted the challenge, which is sponsored by Progressive Casualty Insurance Co. Their innovative vehicles will compete for multi-million dollar prize in the culmination of the challenge: two long-distance stage races that reflect real driving conditions, to be held in 2009 -- the Qualifying Race and the Grand Prize Final.
"This is a race for the future; it is a race we must win," said Peter Diamandis, X Prize Foundation chief executive officer and chairman.
In the races, the cars will have to hit a minimum speed and achieve a fuel efficiency of at least 100 miles per gallon of gasoline energy equivalent. They must also be ready for production on the market. In other words, no concept cars.
"We're talking about real cars that can be brought to market in the real-term that people will want to buy," Diamandis said.
The mileage requirement would limit the amount of greenhouse gases emitted by the cars to under 200 grams per mile. Currently, cars account for nearly one-fifth of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions. And American cars and light trucks are responsible for 45 percent of the carbon dioxide emitted by automobiles globally, the Foundation notes.
The competition will allow for two classes of green cars: a mainstream class (your traditional, four or more passenger, four-wheel deal) and an alternative class for more unusual designs (they must still seat at least two passengers, but can have any number of wheels).
Mainstream cars must also have climate controls, an audio system and at least 10 feet of cargo space. They must be able to go from zero to 60 in 12 seconds and hit a minimum top speed of 100 mph. Alternative vehicles must hit at least 80 mph.
Previous competitions run by the Santa Monica, California-based nonprofit X Prize Foundation have included the 10 million dollar Ansari X Prize to create the world's first private vehicle to space, the 10 million dollar Archon X Prize for rapid human genome sequencing and the 30 million dollar Google Lunar X Prize for sending a robot to the moon.