A draft of the international Automotive X-Prize (AXP) guidelines has been published for public viewing and comment ahead of the New York International Auto Show, which runs from April 6 – 15, 2007. The goal of the Automotive X-Prize is to encourage automakers to build super-efficient mass-production vehicles that exceed 100 miles per gallon or its equivalent.
This “equivalent” part is important for makers of alternative fuel vehicles that run on other gaseous or liquid substances, which are usually measured in miles per liter with different energy densities. As such the Automotive X-Prize Foundation is establishing a new standard called Miles Per Gallon Equivalent (MPGe).
The competition is open to two different kinds of production-ready vehicles called Mainstream and Alternative. The Mainstream vehicles must achieve over 100 MPGe with stringent emissions requirements (CO2 not more than 200 g/mi) and be able to autory 4+ passengers on 4+ wheels.
The Alternative vehicles must achieve the same MPGe and emissions requirements while being able to autory 2+ passengers on any number of wheels. The Alternative class is intended to encourage a wider range of innovative thinking and vehicle design as has fewer restrictions than that of the Mainstream class.
For the group of vehicles that meet all the stringent requirements, there will be a long-distance stage race in 2009 with the winner bringing home a multi-million dollar prize. The courses are to reflect typical consumer driving terrain and weather conditions.
At this time, it looks like hydrogen autos and vehicles will be excluded from this Automotive X-Prize since the goal is to promote vehicles that are market-ready including an infrastructure that is already in place. When the Grand Prize Final race is run in 2009, hydrogen autos and the supporting infrastructure will not yet be ready for prime time.
Some of the technology from this first Automotive X-Prize will most likely make it into the hydrogen autos of the future, though. For instance, flex-fuel technology and plug-in hybrid electric technology will most likely be ported over to hydrogen autos to help solve infrastructure and fuel mileage issues.
It is this indirect connection to hydrogen autos that makes the Automotive X-prize a valuable resource worth keeping an eye on. Who knows, there may even be a direct connection when the sequel to the Automotive X-Prize rolls out a few years later, with hydrogen autos leading the hunt towards that multi-million dollar prize.