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Peter Diamandis

Peter Diamandis

Posted: April 10, 2009 09:11 PM

The idea behind the Progressive Automotive X PRIZE is to help bring a new generation of super-efficient vehicles to market and change the public paradigm about the cars we can and should drive in the future. The paradigm change we're looking to make happen is that you don't have to compromise in buying your car. You can have a car that is beautiful, manufacturable, safe, affordable, fast and, oh-by-the-way, gets over 100 miles-per-gallon or its energy equivalent. Why wouldn't you want a car that does all that? When our competition hits the road next year, you'll see what is possible.

This week at the New York Auto Show, one year after announcing the competition at this same venue, we are announcing that 111 teams from 11 nations have registered to compete. Here's some of the interesting facts about these teams and their vehicles:

• 80% of the teams are from the United States. The entrepreneurial spirit that gave birth to the US auto industry 100 years ago is still alive and well, and we hope, will give birth again to exciting options. As Senator Bingaman said yesterday in an X PRIZE Foundation release, "The level of American innovation and entrepreneurship we're seeing in the Automotive X PRIZE is encouraging. It's also a positive response to many of the challenges confronting the U.S. auto industry. I applaud these teams for the important work they're doing for our nation's energy future."

• These teams are entering 136 different vehicles in two different classes of the competition. There are 80 vehicles in the Mainstream Class (your classic 4-seat, 4-wheel sedan or small SUV) and 56 vehicles in the Alternative Class (these vehicles push the definition of "what a car is" forward, with fewer design restrictions and mostly commuter-focused vehicles).

• The 88 domestic teams come from 25 different U.S. States. AZ, CA, CO, CT, FL, GA, IA, IL, IN, LA, MA, MD, ME, MI, NM, NY, NV, OH, OR, PA, TN, TX, VA, WA and WV are represented, and the remaining vehicles come from 10 nations including Australia, Brazil, Canada, Finland, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Switzerland, Thailand and the United Kingdom.

• More than 90 Registered Teams will use pure electric or electric hybrid drivetrains. All teams are responding to the call from the public for cars that are green. As former Vice President Al Gore recently said in a letter to the Foundation, "The Progressive Automotive X PRIZE is just the kind of public-private partnership needed to inspire a new generation of entrepreneurs to help solve the climate crisis."

Most of the entrants are entrepreneurial startup car makers. You may have heard of some of the entries. A Wall Street Journal article earlier this week called out four from the entry list: Aptera Motors, Tesla Motors, Tata Motors and Neil Young's LINCVOLT. Many of the other 107 teams are not yet household names... But then again, Charles Lindbergh was an unknown contender for the Orteig Prize when he made his famous 1927 winning flight from New York to Paris.

Building a new car company with the manufacturing capability and maintenance infrastructure for robust and sustained operations is not easy. Many of these teams will need help and will ultimately form partnerships or licensing deals with legacy players. This is the ultimate win-win for Detroit since this competition will essentially show the world a wide range of new designs, and provide actual physical demonstration of what works, and what the public desires. If history repeats itself, and we hope it does, ultimately there will be deals struck between these entrepreneurs and the incumbent car companies in much the same fashion that we saw with our first X PRIZE competition, the $10 million Ansari X PRIZE for Spaceflight. In 2004 airline owner Richard Branson came in on the heels of the winning flight and licensed the rights to SpaceShipOne (the winning vehicle) to manufacture SpaceShipTwo and offer commercial flights through its company Virgin Galactic.

It is finally worth noting that we must educate the next generation of consumers, our students, about the breakthroughs needed to ignite our green economy. To that end, I'm thankful for the Department of Energy grant we received to develop an educational website called www.fuelourfuturenow.com, as well as an upcoming National Student Contest and other educational events. Of course, our hero is Progressive Insurance for their vision and for stepping up to be our Title Sponsor, and, none of this would matter without the 111 teams who have jumped into this competition with a can-do spirit needed to drive a new generation of automotive options for the world.

Stay tuned for an incredible competition which will take place next year during the summer of 2010, with announcements about our teams' progress throughout this year. For more information, the detailed rules and a list of all the competing teams, please visit our website at www.progressiveautoxprize.org.

 
 
 

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