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$10M prize fuels drive to produce gas miser

In 1986, a lightweight twin-engine aircraft called Voyager flew around the world non-stop for nine days, without refuelling. Around the world, on the fuel it carried on-board when it took off.

In 1986, a lightweight twin-engine aircraft called Voyager flew around the world non-stop for nine days, without refuelling. Around the world, on the fuel it carried on-board when it took off.

So how come we can barely drive our cars to the nearest city without filling up?

That’s the sort of questioning that is, you should pardon the expression, fuelling the Progressive Insurance Automotive X-Prize competition.

The goal of this $10 million contest is to develop a car that gets more than 100 miles per U.S. gallon (less than 2.5 L/100 km), yet is fully functional, meets all safety standards and is capable of being produced at a reasonable price.

“We are at a pivotal moment in time when promising new technologies, growing consumer demand, and global politics make it ripe for a radical breakthrough in the cars we drive,” says Dr. Peter H. Diamandis of the X-Prize Foundation, which previously ran the Ansari X-Prize contest to develop a reusable sub-orbital rocket ship.

Coincidentally, that $10 million prize was won in 2004 by Burt Rutan – the same guy who designed Voyager.

At least five Canadian teams are among the 90-plus that have entered the Auto X-Prize competition to date.

The only local team is EnerMotion, based in Caledon. It consists of a group of engineers, scientists, technicians, academics, business professionals and media.

Jack MacDonnell, a multi-time Targa Newfoundland competitor and former producer/host of the Tuner Transformation TV show on Speed Channel, is president of EnerMotion.

“Our engineering plan is to optimize some existing technology to ensure robustness, while integrating a number of innovations to achieve the desired effect,” says MacDonnell, not wanting to give details of the team’s strategy.

A qualifying race will be run in the spring of 2010. Entries will have to surpass 75 m.p.g. (about 3.0 L/100 km), as well as meet various acceleration, distance and top-speed criteria to make it to the final round, scheduled for later in 2010.

For more info: www.progressiveautoxprize.org, www.enermotion.ca

Jim Kenzie

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