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Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Automotive X-Prize set for April in Michigan

The Automotive X-Prize, a competition to develop the most fuel-efficient, safety and durable vehicles with three winners splitting $10 million in prize money will be hosted from April through August at Michigan International Speedway.

Sponsored by Progressive Insurance and subsidized by a $3.5 million Department of Energy grant, the prize has attracted 41 teams that have developed 51 vehicles.

"As the birthplace of the American automotive industry, Michigan has the knowledge, base, talent and facilities to support the innovation central the future of the industry," said Peter Diamandis, chairman and CEO of the X Prize Foundation. The foundation is an educational nonprofit institute established to create technical and humanitarian breakthroughs.

The competition will begin April 26 with what organizers call the Shakedown Stage. Over two weeks, judges will evaluate the driving dynamics, safety, braking, acceleration and refueling or recharging time.

The best from that stage move on to the Knockout Stage, beginning June 20. To pass this stage, a vehicle must achieve 67 m.p.g. while also meeting judges’ expectations for range, emissions and performance.

Those who pass move on to the Finals Stage, conducted between July 19 and 30 at MIS. This will include on-track performance and other tests to determine which are the most aerodynamic. Speed also will be a key factor.

The competition culminates in the Validation Stage when "mainstream" and "alternative" vehicles will undergo dynamometer testing under laboratory conditions. Mainstream vehicles have specifications similar to a small, five-passenger car. Alternative vehicles can attempt more innovative design and performance features.

The mainstream winner will receive $5 million, while the alternative class will award $2.5 million to each of two winners, one for a vehicle with side-by-side seating and one for the best vehicle with a tandem seating configuration.

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