Auto Manifesto

January 13, 2008

The Automotive X Prize, Part 1

This competition has been getting a lot of publicity recently, and that will increase as the 2009 Grand Prize Final approaches. I just reviewed the draft rules and it seems to be on heck of a challenge – I’m eager to see what vehicles the competitors will come up with.
By the way, the first X Prize ended up awarding a $10 million prize to the winning suborbital spaceflight team headed by Burt Rutan in 2004.

The premise of the AXP is to “inspire a new generation of super-efficient vehicles that help break our addiction to oil and stem the effects of climate change.” The competition will be a road race with varied drive cycles, terrain and driving conditions.

There are two classes of vehicles. One is mainstream with four wheels and seating for four or more, and used for conventional purposes (how many times can I say 4 in a sentence). The other is alternative which requires a minimum accommodation of 2 passengers (side-by-side, which precludes motorcycles).

Minimum performance for mainstream designs is 0-60 mph in less than 12 seconds, top speed of 100 mph, range of more than 200 miles, 60-0 MPH braking less than 170 feet, 0.70 g on a 300 ft diameter skidpad, a 600 ft slalom speed of 55 MPH, drive-by noise of less than 74 db, and at least 55 MPH on a 7.5% grade.

The requirements are similar for Alternative class designs, the differences being a minimum top speed of 80 MPH, range of 100 miles, and 45 MPH on a 7.5% grade.

All vehicles are required to have minimum safety features such as windshields, wipers, mirrors, lighting, horn, indicators, and brake lights.

Vehicles are to be intended for a 10,000 unit/year production level, competitors will have to produce detailed specifications and a business case.

The Qualifying event will require a minimum of 75 MPGe, and the Grand Prize Final will require competitors to average a minimum of 100 MPGe over the entire event. MPGe stands for Miles Per Gallon of Gasoline Energy Equivalent, “a measure that expresses fuel economy in terms of the energy content of a gallon of petroleum-based gasoline.”

Beyond that vehicles will have to meet a total CO2 emissions requirement of 200 g/mi, and meet US EPA Tier II, bin 5 emissions standards which entails 120,000 mile compliance. Why they are mixing metric and standard units like the EPA I’ll never know, but I digress.

Anyway, 200 g/mi works out to 125 g/km which is close to the 120 g/km figure proposed by for Europe for 2012. But the key difference is that the 125 g/km would include all upstream emissions used to generate the fuel (electricity, gasoline, etc).

Finally, AXP will supply all the fuel during tests and races to help ensure parity. They intend at this time to supply gasoline, diesel, electricity, natural gas (presumably liquid form), biodiesel, and E85. More to follow soon (click here for AXP site).

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