Three fuel-efficient cars win Automotive X Prize competition


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Three vehicles, powered mostly by ethanol and electricity, beat out more than 130 other entries in a global contest for fuel-efficient autos.

One, a tandem two-seater that looks like a motorcycle-automobile hybrid, featured a drive train from the same San Dimas company that provided technology for the Tesla Roadster. Another, a four-seater, weighed in at less than 1,000 pounds. The third vehicle was able to accelerate to 60 miles per hour in less than 15 seconds.


After months of rigorous testing, the winners took home $10 million Thursday from the X Prize Foundation, which partnered with Progressive Insurance. The competition was first launched three years ago. Teams developed and tested their vehicles over 30 months.

The Edison2 entry Very Light Car #98 from Virginia won $5 million in the mainstream class, running on E85 ethanol fuel. The aerodynamic 4-wheeled auto demonstrated the equivalent of 102.5 miles per gallon on the test track and in lab tests. The 830-pound car weighs about a third of a standard passenger vehicle.

The battery-powered E-Tracer #79 from the X-Tracer team of Switzerland took in $2.5 million as winner of the alternative tandem class. The vehicle can run up to the equivalent of 205.3 miles per gallon and has two extra stabilizing wheels that emerge at low speeds.

The 1,436-pound E-Tracer can accelerate to 60 miles per hour in less than seven seconds and can drive more than 100 miles on a single charge. AC Propulsion of San Dimas, which is also making U.S. Postal Service trucks electric, provided the drive-train technology.

Li-ion Motors Corp. of North Carolina won $2.5 million in the alternative side-by-side class with its Wave II electric vehicle. Able to achieve the equivalent of 187 miles per gallon, the car features two seats side by side. Even with the heavy lithium ion batteries, the vehicle weighs just less than 2,200 pounds.

X-Tracer and Li-ion are both taking orders for their cars. The three winners now qualify for a Department of Energy program that will help prepare the vehicles for commercialization in the United States.

-- Tiffany Hsu

Photo (top): The X Prize finals at Michigan International Speedway. Credit: Edison2

Photo (middle): The Very Light Car #98. Credit: Edison2

Photo (bottom): The E-Tracer. Credit: Stefano Paris.