Chances are, if you’re a green car blogs reader, you’ve heard of the Automotive X-Prize. I know I’ve been hearing about it for what seems like forever, as teams entered or dropped out of this contest to achieve a feasible 100 mpg car. The ultimate prize? $5 million. That is a lot of scratch. The field of contestants has been whittle down over the years, from over 100 entries down to just two left in the mainstream class.
Both entries are from the Edison2 team, differing versions of their Very Light Car. They have survived slaloms, high speed tests, and a slew of other obstacles to get this far. They still have a long way to go to get 100 mpg as the final slew of tests for the Automotive X-Prize kick into gear this week.
The Very Light Cars, as the name aptly describes, are lightweight cars reduced down to their very basics. There are no convenience features, just motorized propulsion from one point to another. It is powered by a one-cylinder, .25 liter Honda engine that runs on E85. In testing, one of the cars got as high as 101 mpg-equivalent (it takes more E85 to go the same distance as gasoline can take you), but was penalized for work being done on the car during the test and for not going fast enough. In other tests, the VLC has scored as high as 80 mpg-equivalent.
The last stage will test, among other things, 60-0 mph braking, acceleration, efficiency, emissions, and safety maneuvers among other challenges. This is the last team left, so it is up to them to win that $5 million prize. And if not, will there be an Automotive X-Prize 2.0? If they win, can we expect to see street-going versions of the VLC? Time will tell, and we’ll look for the results next weekend.
Chris DeMorro is a car enthusiast, blogger, and all-around crazy man who is as passionate about hybrids as he is about Hemis. You can follow his constant misadventures at Three Months In A Mustang.