100 MPG Competition Sparks Innovation

cutoshowoffi One of the biggest engineering challenges at the moment, specifically located in the automotive industry, is the race to build a car that can travel 100 miles on a gallon of fuel. It might sound like a farfetched goal, but the $10 million Progressive Automobile X Prize (AXP) competition taking place in 2010 is banking on their challenge sparking a mass of innovation.

From this competition may very well come a car that can travel a hundred miles on a gallon of petrol. Or, this competition might spark a new type of electric car, or any number of other designs.

Two universities are vying for the prize, being offered up by the same people who awarded $10 million Ansari X Prize to Mojave Aerospace Ventures in 2004 for the flight of SpaceShipOne. Cornell and Western Washington University are both actively competing in the mainstream auto class, a class that has 61 entries.

“Our goal is to bring awareness of the technology to the public,” said team leader Trey Riddle, a graduate student in Cornell’s Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, who believes that the only challenges in the way of meeting the goal are space to work in, time and money. “With some creativity and innovation, we have the technology now. This isn’t some far-off pie-in-the-sky.”

The Cornell AXP team is made up of more than 70 students from a variety of disciplines, including engineering, ergonomics, and applied economics and management.

And the teams don’t just have to design the car either. On top of meeting engineering requirements like the ability to seat four people, accelerate to 60 mph in 12 seconds and drive at least 200 miles at 100 miles per gallon, contestants must also provide a business plan.

Being mentored by Cornell professors of mechanical engineering Al George and John Callister, the biggest challenges for Cornell’s AXP team is maximizing drive-train efficiency, aerodynamics, and minimizing the cars weight while still adhering to safety standards.

So far the Cornell team’s car will be displayed at the 2008 New York State Fair in Syracuse. Though the cars primary focus at the Fair will be to display new technologies such as battery packs, electrical generators and regenerative breaking schemes, it is a step on the road towards a sleeker final design. Their design will be a commercially viable plug-in hybrid that theoretically will be able to run on electricity for 40 to 50 miles on a full batter charge, a charge that only takes six hours.

Photo Credit Jason Koski/University Photography

Joshua S Hill

I'm a Christian, a nerd, a geek, a liberal left-winger, and believe that we're pretty quickly directing planet-Earth into hell in a handbasket! I work as Associate Editor for the Important Media Network and write for CleanTechnica and Planetsave. I also write for Fantasy Book Review (.co.uk), Amazing Stories, the Stabley Times and Medium.   I love words with a passion, both creating them and reading them.