Modeled after DARPA’s own version of the X-Prize, called the “Grand Challenge,” which challenges teams to develop an autonomous vehicle, Lungren’s prize would challenge automakers to build a 100 MPG mid-size sedan…and then sell 60,000 of them.
There are a couple of caveats though; the car must run on gasoline. No hybrids or electric vehicles allowed. Furthermore, the companies must be Incorporated in the United States. I’m not sure, but that may disqualify a number of Japanese and European automakers.
Another problem with this prize is that while a $1 billion is a lot of money to you or me, that is about what it costs for an automaker to develop a new car anyways. And unless such a vehicle is a runaway hit, it could take several years to sell 60,000 100 mpg cars, depending on the cost (and I doubt it would be cheap.)
Lungren’s bill has little hope of getting through our divided Congress at a time when the economy and budget deficit are front page news. But an affordable, mass-produced 100 mpg car could stretch out out limited oil supplies for a long, long time. Getting there without hybrid or electric vehicle technology might ultimately prove impossible though, even if this bill ever got passed (which it won’t.)