Revolution Through Competition: the Automotive X PRIZEThe race is on to claim the $10 million Automotive X PRIZE. For all you non-Geeks out there who don’t follow such things, an X PRIZE is a multi-million dollar award given to the first team to achieve a specific goal (set by the X PRIZE Foundation) which has the potential to benefit humanity. Rather than awarding money to honour past achievements or directly funding research, an X PRIZE fosters radical innovation and technological breakthroughs by tapping into the competitive and entrepreneurial spirits.
The X PRIZE Foundation set the Automotive X PRIZE in order to accelerate the pace of change and stimulate the kind of breakthroughs in automotive technology that are needed to bring about a new generation of super-efficient, super-clean and commercially viable mainstream vehicles. The Automotive X PRIZE will be awarded to the first team to build a production-capable vehicle that exceeds 100 MPG fuel efficiency, produces less that 200 grams of greenhouse gases per mile, and then wins a long-distance race against other clean, production-capable vehicles that exceed 100 MPG.
The X PRIZE Foundation’s method of accelerating innovation through competition was inspired by the $25,000 Orteig Prize, offered in 1919 by wealthy hotelier Raymond Orteig, to the first pilot who could fly non-stop between New York and Paris. The prize was finally won in 1927 by an unknown airmail pilot named Charles Lindbergh. Lindbergh’s world-changing achievement spawned a $300 billion aviation industry.
For the naysayers out there who say it can’t happen, take note of the fact that the $10 million Ansari X PRIZE, which sought to bring about a radical breakthrough in the advancement of human spaceflight, has already been won by SpaceShipOne on October 4, 2004. A private team led by famed aerospace designer Burt Rutan and financier Paul Allen of Microsoft were the first to build and launch a spacecraft capable of carrying three people to 100 kilometers above the earth's surface, twice within two weeks. Space travel will never be looked at the same way again.
For anyone interested in knowing more about the Automotive X PRIZE there is a great article in the January issue of Wired Magazine entitled “1 Gallon of Gas, 100 Miles — $10 Million: The Race to Build the Supergreen Car.”