Prize money failed to lure more than one high-volume automaker to a multimillion dollar competition for super fuel-efficient vehicles, but a newly created category might just be the right bait.
The Progressive Insurance Automotive X Prize Competition Division will award money to teams demonstrating a viable, clean production vehicle that can exceed a 100-mpg energy equivalent. More than 100 teams have signed letters of intent to compete for a share of a $10 million purse. Tata Motors is the lone high-volume vehicle maker entered in the Competition Division.
"We'd agree that prize money is not what motivates large-scale automakers," said John Shore, Senior Director of the Progressive Automotive X Prize. But the Demonstration Division—announced in January—is intended "to meet the needs of large-scale automakers and that division has no purse," Shore noted.
Even amid the seemingly endless industry buzz about eco-vehicles, X Prize organizers believe the new Demonstration Division can provide a reward to those companies opting to sign on in the coming weeks. According to Shore, the value "is the amount of good publicity that can come out of their involvement. Vehicles entered in the Demonstration Division will show their advantages to potential customers in an independent, technically rigorous format."
The Demonstration Division is aimed at auto manufacturers that have been selling at least 10,000 vehicles a year in the U.S. or the European Union and doing so since 2005. Automakers can enter high fuel-efficient vehicles in the Demonstration Division that are either in production or committed to be in production and on sale in the U.S. or European Union by the end of 2012.
Vehicles entered in the Demonstration Division will undergo vehicle efficiency, performance, and durability tests in real-world conditions. According to X Prize officials, the Demonstration Division was created to address the fact that high-volume production vehicles have substantial engineering challenges and trade-offs versus production-capable development vehicles.
X Prize competition begins in late 2009 with the wrap-up expected in 2010. "The third party publicity will be more valuable than advertising. This (Demonstration Division) is an opportunity for large-scale automakers to show the entire country that they are making progress on a serious commitment to energy-efficient vehicles," noted Shore.
No automakers were registered for the Demonstration Division at press time. The Competition Division's entry list includes Tata Motors (India's largest automobile company), Red Light Racing (team members are graduates of the Naval Test Pilot School and are active members of either the U.S. Navy or U.S. Marines), Western Washington University's Vehicle Research Institute (more than 40 vehicles built for private and public organizations since the 1970s), and ZAP (a California company with electric vehicle dealers in the U.S., South America, and the Middle East).