Automotive X Prize: "Revolution Through Competition"

Goal of the Automotive X Prize: To inspire a new generation of viable, super-efficient vehicles that help break our addiction to oil and stem the effects of climate change.



Thirty-one teams have signed a letter of intent for the Automotive X Prize (AXP) competition:

• Aptera Motors – California, USA

• Commuter Cars Corp. – Washington, USA

• Cornell University – New York, USA

• DEHyds – Washington, USA

• Delta Motorsport – Northants, UK

• Desert Fuel – Arizona, USA

• Disruptech – California, USA

• Dragonfly Technology LTD – Northhampton, UK

• Fuel Vapor Technologies – British Columbia, Canada

• GreenIt! – Oregon, USA

• Herf Duo – Berlin, Germany

• HyKinesys – California, USA

• Kinetic Vehicles – Oregon, USA

• Kuttner Doran Inventions – Virginia, USA

• Loremo AG – Munich, Germany

• Maine Automotive X – Maine, USA

• MDI, Inc. & Zero Pollution Motors LLC – New York, USA

• Michigan Vision – Michigan, USA

• MotoTron Corporation – Wisconsin, USA

• Phoenix Motorcars – California, USA

• Prometheus Systems, LLC – Arizona, USA

• Porteon Electric Vehicles, Inc. – Oregon, USA

• Psycho-Active – Georgia, USA

• Roane Inventions – Texas, USA

• Society for Sustainable Mobility – California, USA

• Spirit One – Alberta, Canada

• Tesla Motors – California, USA

• Valentin Technologies – Wisconsin, USA

• Velozzi – California, USA

• X Tracer – Winterthur, Switzerland

• ZAP Motors – California, USA

I have high hopes that the prize process will produce both innovation and viable commercial ventures. The AXP should be thought of as a process, not just the first event in 2010. A central requirement of the competition is that each entry must be ready for production levels of at least 10,000 vehicles per year. No doubt all of the entrants are looking for a win to bolster financing for production.

Note the absence of “the usual suspects” in the first 31 entries. Like Tesla Motors, Loremo AG seems to have a war chest — perhaps big enough to take them through to production. Tesla claims “135 mpg equivalent”, while Loremo’s computer simulations indicate over 150mpg. We are supposed to see whether the first working prototype of the Loremo can achieve the simulations.

The Loremo design concept is quite interesting. And AutoBlogGreen has two galleries of pics.

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The Lunar Lander Challenge

Revolution through competition! — X Prize Foundation

Regular readers know we are proponents of science prizes as highly efficient stimulators of R&D [vs. government trying to "pick winners" -- an approach with a horrible track record]. Readers will probably recall the Ansari X Prize, a US$10,000,000 prize for the first non-government organization to launch a reusable manned spacecraft into space twice within two weeks.

The Lunar Lander Challenge is another of the X Prize efforts.

The Competition is divided into two levels. Level 1 requires a rocket to take off from a designated launch area, rocket up to 150 feet (50 meters) altitude, then hover for 90 seconds while landing precisely on a landing pad 100 meters away. The flight must then be repeated in reverse—and both flights, along with all of the necessary preparation for each, must take place within a two and a half hour period.

The more difficult course, Level 2, requires the rocket to hover for twice as long before landing precisely on a simulated lunar surface, packed with craters and boulders to mimic actual lunar terrain. The hover times are calculated so that the Level 2 mission closely simulates the power needed to perform the real lunar mission.

One of the competitors is Armadillo Aerospace. Have some fun with their recent rocket testing video [62MB]. The Wright brothers would feel at home in the Armadillo workshops…

More on the 2006 prize attempt — which didn’t quite work.

Automotive X Prize competition defined

Hopefully the Automotive X Prize will produce dramatic results similar to the first Ansari X Prize. Here’s a summary

Automotive X Prize members and world-class advisors came together to create the competition, and, after thousands of hours, they finally agreed upon specific details of what the competing teams must achieve when building their viable, fuel-efficient vehicles.

The competition requires significant energy and emissions goals (most importantly, fuel economy) with at least 100 mpg or its equivalent. The guidelines are replacing the outdated MPG with this new standard, MPGe, which takes into account energy equivalents, no matter what the energy source.

Production capability is another important requirement: Vehicles will be judged on specific market production criteria detailed in key areas such as safety, cost, features and business plan. So this X Prize will only open to practicable cars capable of reaching the marketplace—no concept cars or science projects.

Vehicles that meet the strict requirements will compete in two different categories: mainstream and alternative. The four-wheeled ”mainstream” cars must carry four passengers; the ”alternative” vehicles must carry two or more passengers with no minimum wheel requirements. While both categories will feature the same requirements for fuel economy and emissions, the vehicles will have different design constraints.

The Auto X Prize site has the details.

UPDATE: Glenn Reynolds links to a New York Times article: Seeking a Car That Gets 100 Miles a Gallon:

Even before it began publicizing a draft of the rules for the competition, the foundation had fielded inquiries from more than 1,000 potential contestants and institutions willing to participate. Many major automakers have also expressed interest in monitoring the contest, including some that are considering competing themselves.

Ideally, Mr. Goodstein said, some of the top teams would see their designs purchased and used in some form by automakers.

…Indeed, the organizers want to ensure that vehicles entered in the contest, which will compete in races in 2009 to determine the winner, are commercially viable. Entries must be production-ready, unlike many of the fantastical concept cars that are presented at auto shows. Each team must prepare a business plan for building at least 10,000 of the vehicles at a cost comparable to that of cars available now.

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The $1 Million Netflix Challenge

First the X Prize, and now the Netflix prize!

Netflix’ star rating system helps determine personalized movie recommendations. Now the company is looking to outside developers to improve those recommendations.

Earlier this week, Netflix, the online movie rental service, announced it will award $1 million to anyone who can come up with an algorithm that improves the accuracy of its movie recommendation service.

In doing so, the company is putting out a call to researchers who specialize in machine learning–the type of artificial intelligence used to build systems that recommend music, books, and movies. The entrant who can increase the accuracy of the Netflix recommendation system, which is called Cinematch, by 10 percent by 2011 will win the prize.

Recommendation systems such as those used by Netflix, Amazon, and other Web retailers are based on the principle that if two people enjoy the same product, they’re likely to have other favorites in common too.

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Space Elevator: 2006 X-Prize competition is Oct 20-21

XprizeI remain optimistic that innovation will find a solution to all the elevator challenges, not just the tether. It is now just 13 days until the 2006 X-Prize competition, which includes $200,000 prizes each for climber design and tether design. I speculate that the tiered prize structure will prove very efficient at fostering innovation from the private sector. Last week the Spaceward Foundation announced that the package of prizes has been increased to $4,000,000 over five years.

…NASA’s Centennial Challenges program has increased its commitment to our project, and we now have a total of $4,000,000 in prize purse to disburse over the next 5 years. Yes, that’s right – 10 times the purse we’ve had so far, and a solid commitment through 2010 – two things which will enable us to take our program to the next level.To make the most efficient and prudent use of these funds, we will follow an escalating prize purse strategy – this year’s prize purse will remain $200,000 per each of our two competitions, increasing to $300,000 in 2007, and so on, until we reach $600,000 in 2010. Any unwon prizes (and we do not intend to have a winner every year – that will mean we have made it too easy!) will automatically roll over to the following year.Still, the same catch that applied last year will continue to apply in the years to come – NASA provides us with the prize money, but not with operating funds. In order to bring our operations to a level that matches the prize purse, we need to get commercial sponsorship.

Incidentally, to frame the difficulty of the tether solution [the biggest challenge], recent calculations by Nicola Pugno of the Polytechnic of Turin, Italy, suggest that carbon nanotube cables will not work.

…In something of a “downer” for space elevator fans, Pugno has calculated that inevitable defects will greatly reduce the strength of any manufactured nanotubes. Laboratory tests have demonstrated that flawless individual nanotubes can withstand about 100 gigapascals of tension; however, if a nanotube is missing just one carbon atom, it can reduce its strength by as much as thirty percent. Bulk materials made of many connected nanotubes are even weaker, averaging less than 1 gigapascal in strength.

In order to function, a space elevator ribbon would need to withstand at least 62 gigapascals of tension. It therefore appears that the defects described above would eliminate carbon nanotubes as a usable material for a space elevator cable. Pugno will publish his paper in the July edition of Journal of Physics: Condensed Matter. Nanotube enthusiasts counter that ribbons made of close-packed long nanotubes would demonstrate cooperative friction forces that could make up for weaknesses in individual nanotubes.

There will be a live webcast from Las Cruces, NM of the Xprize competition.

Don’t forget: the Automotive X Prize should be formally announced soon. The blog is a good way to stay informed on progress.

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