The Progressive Insurance Automotive X-Prize is a huge undertaking involving Establishing a venue, staffing, training, developing tests, setting up Consumers Reports Certifications, and taking over the Michigan International Speedway in the outback, near a small town named Brooklyn in our fair State of Michigan.

The Progressive Insurance Automotive X-Prize - Competiton Overview and Results

Bill Dickens

Filed Under - Alternative Transportation - Vehicles


Update - Sept 8/10
Progressive Insurance, the country's fourth largest auto insurance group, and The X PRIZE Foundation, an educational nonprofit prize organization, will announce the winners of the Progressive Insurance Automotive X PRIZE at a special awards ceremony in Washington, DC on September 16. Up to $10 million will be awarded to as many as three teams that proved their entry vehicle could meet the competition's strict requirements, including the ability to achieve 100 miles per gallon or the energy equivalent (MPGe) and to survive grueling real-world safety, efficiency, emissions, durability and range tests.
 
The ceremony, which is open to the public, will be hosted by Arianna Huffington, Co-Founder and Editor-in-Chief of The Huffington Post; Jim Gianopulos, Chairman and CEO of Fox Filmed Entertainment; Glenn Renwick, President and CEO of Progressive Insurance and Dr. Peter H. Diamandis, Chairman and CEO of the X PRIZE Foundation. Attendees will have an opportunity to meet the winning and finalist teams and get an up close look at the vehicles and technologies that will shape the future of the automotive industry. 
 
WHEN/WHERE: 
Thursday, September 16 at 10:30am EDT (media registration begins at 10:00am)
Historical Society of Washington, DC 801 K Street, NW, Washington, DC 20001




The Progressive Insurance Automotive X-
Prize is a huge undertaking involving Establishing a venue, staffing, training,  developing tests, setting up Consumers Reports Certifications, and taking over the Michigan International Speedway  in the outback, in a small town named Brooklyn in our fair State of Michigan.

The goal of the Progressive Insurance Automotive X PRIZE, is to inspire a new generation of viable, safe, and super fuel-efficient vehicles capable of achieving 100 MPGe.

The X PRIZE Foundation established the competition and appointed a young Engineer, Eric Cahill, as the senior Director for the competition.  The set up the staff, tests, procedures, and stages for winnowing out the winners for divvying up the $10,000,000 X-Prize was excellently run.

The Teams were housed in the Paddock area which had four metal buildings with a number of bays for race cars so it was a near perfect situation for the effort.  Because of a relatively new building placed between the garages and the Pit Road, there was a magnificent view of the track and all the amenities that any media and test related person could want.  MIS is the most steeply banked track in America and some 20 years ago the Human Powered Vehicles held their time trials there as well.

There were three on-track competition stages throughout the summer – Shakedown Stage, Knockout Qualifying Stage and the Finals Stage. Competition events began in April and ended in late July and were followed by dynamometer testing during the Validation Stage held at Argonne National Labs near Chicago, IL.

Included as sidebar information to this article is a PDF article by the Progressive Automotive Competition which provides background information of each team and a photo of the team and the vehicle or vehicles entered.

A number of events were held in pulling off this competition:

Shakedown Stage: May7.

There were 33 vehicles representing 24 teams.
These were gasoline, Steam, Electric, biodiesel and Hybrid powered.
Twenty-two teams passed Shakedown and advanced to the Knockout Stage.

The Knockout Qualifying Stage: June 20-30.

Fifteen vehicles from 12 teams survived Knockout and advanced to the Finals.
This was the toughest phase which eliminated the greatest number of vehicles,13 and 8 teams.

THE FINAL STAGE in July:

This was the third and final on-track competition stage. During this stage, teams will competed in emissions, efficiency, and range events conducted by the competition organizers. In addition, teams had to successfully complete various dynamic safety events, including  0-60 mph acceleration test, 60-0 mph braking, and a double lane change avoidance maneuver, conducted and evaluated by automotive engineers from Consumer Reports. Nine vehicles representing seven teams passed the Finals Stage and advanced to the Validation Stage. Nine vehicles representing seven teams passed the Finals Stage and advanced to the Validation Stage.

The VALIDATION STAGE was held at Argonne National Labs in Chicago, IL., the week following the FINAL Stage.


The AWARDS CEREMONY will be held in Washington DC in September.

Nine vehicles representing 7 teams are finalists.

Team standings are available at http://www.progressiveautoxprize.org/team-central.  The following is a complete list of remaining teams, along with the class in which they compete and their fuel type:

I have included the number of wheels of each vehicle…

Mainstream Class (Two vehicles, one team)                                                                                      

  • Edison2, Very Light Car #97 (Charlottesville, VA), Internal Combustion Engine ---  4 wheels
  • Edison2, Very Light Car #98 (Charlottesville, VA), Internal Combustion Engine ---  4 wheels

Alternative Class – Tandem (Two vehicles, one team)                                                                   

  • X-Tracer, E-Tracer #72 (Switzerland), Battery Electric ---  2 wheels
  • X-Tracer, E-Tracer #79 (Switzerland), Battery Electric ---  2 wheels

Alternative Class – Side-by-Side (Five vehicles, five teams)

  • Aptera, Aptera 2e (San Diego, CA), Battery Electric ---  3 wheels
  • Li-ion Motors, Wave II (North Carolina), Battery Electric  ---  4 wheels
  • RaceAbout Association, RaceAbout (Finland), Battery Electric ---  4 wheels
  • TW4XP, (Germany), Battery Electric  ---  3 wheels
  • ZAP, Alias (Santa Rosa, CA), Battery Electric ---  3 wheels
So there you have the finalists from each class. The winners will be announced in Washington.
 
 
The classes are defined as follows: Mainstream class vehicles must carry four or more passengers, have four or more wheels, and offer a 200‐mile range. Alternative class vehicles must carry two or more passengers and allow for a 100 mile range. The alternative class has two divisions – one for side by side seating and one for tandem seating (front and back).
 
 
The X-Tracer renamed for the event is a Swiss, enclosed motorcycle and having been produced for a number of years and having recently been redesigned by the designer of the Audi R8 it is stunningly perfected and the most refined of all of the submissions.
 
At this time the final results have not been revealed but it is rumored to travel at close to 180MPGe and some 160 or more MPH. These are astonishing numbers. There is a BMW powered engine version that is said to get close to 60 MPG and travel close to 180MPH.
 
Having ridden in the gasoline powered version, I must say that it is stunningly pleasant. The rear seat is very much like a Saarinen womb chair and exceedingly comfortable. It is beautifully appointed, won my heart from the very beginning and will be sold in the US and Canada shortly. The price tag is said to be hefty, close to $100,000 for the battery powered one which recharges in 2 hrs. and around $60,000 for the BMW motorcycle engine powered version. Both have air conditioning and need tinting in the windows with some vent wings for fresh air.
 
This is simply Tron or Bladerunner revisited and are fun, inspiring and excellent from every aspect.
 
The Edison2 Very Light Cars from Charlottesville sound like lawnmowers and are extremely objectionable to hear. Four arrived and two were eliminated. They appear to be aircraft inspired and perform well but also appear to not be very crashworthy at all. They appear to be crudely made with aluminum foil placed over the body shell. Perhaps with some venture capital they can be improved. I don’t think that Thomas Jefferson would approve of them as they stand.
 
Now the Alternative Class had the greatest number of vehicles and they ranged greatly in design.
 
If there was an extremely dramatic moment in the competition it was in this last phase where the cars were receiving their last double lane change avoidance test. There was a beautiful entry from Western Washington University. Apparently they have an engineering program where they build cars and this is their 45th vehicle and I had a chance to meet the Retired Professor who built the program and he was very proud of the student’s work and the vehicle looked refined and beautifully designed. Unfortunately the student driver tried seven times through the test and failed them all. The professor was heartbroken and mentioned that the student was driving a BMW an that the road dynamics of this vehicle was quite different. And so was the crowd gathered to witness the tests. They cheered each time it was passed and the speed was held up. This time there was nothing but silence and sadness. Obviously some camaraderie had built up amongst the contestants.
 
While I did not witness the reason why the Students from West Philly did not pass in the prior phase, I’m sure that the feelings were similar.
 
The RaceAbout was the conventional sports car looking vehicle from the Engineering School in Helsinki.
It was most conventional in appearance and quite nicely done as can be seen in the final tour around the track. The Engineering school in Helsinki must be a very good one because a graduate named Nils Joel Skrubb came to Detroit to work for Packard in before WWII and he spent 6 months examining the drawings of the Rolls Royce Merlin when he made notes for updates and complying to American Standard machine prescriptions. He then set about to design the famed Packard Merlin, credited as being the finest engine and a very key ingredient in defeating the Luftwaffe and winning the Air War.  It was a pleasure to see entries from other countries and this one was professional and exceptionally nice.
 
The Li-ion Motors, Wave II was a conventional 4 wheeled vehicle and had a decidedly blunt and broad front end with the belly pan rising up smoothly away from the front with 2 fared wheels hanging down in the rear. Clearly this was out of concern for stability in suspension dynamics. It was not clearly visible how these wheels were suspended. It was most unusual looking but did have side by side front seating.
There were three, 3 wheeled vehicles in the winner’s circle for the Alternative Class.
 
I was a friend of Bill Allison who was a suspension designer for Hudson, Packard, and Ford. He was well known in Detroit and held over 70 patents on suspension designs. He invented and developed the Packard Torsion Ride suspension that Jay Leno extolled and examined in detail on his Caribbean. I once mentioned to him that I really liked the Morgan “Mog” 3 wheeled vehicle and he quickly told me that 3 wheeled suspensions are inherently dangerous and their suspension dynamics were completely unacceptable in the professional automotive world. He insisted that they are motorcycles. Indeed I did see the Aptera do a 180 degree spin on the breaking test. Now that’s scary.
 
Bill also was interested in wind power and developed a wind engine that hit the theoretical maximum efficiency of 59% in his retirement. You can read about that in a past issue of this magazine. And I asked why there were a number of 3 wheeled vehicles and the answer came back, lower rolling resistance. By building beautiful models Bill and letting them run off of inclined planes, Bill actually proved that 8 wheeled vehicles have the lowest rolling resistance and are extremely safe and stable. Freight trains pull bogied 8 wheel cars for over a century now. Lowest rolling resistance is the reason.
 
So it is with concern that I mention the last 3 vehicles.

Now the German entry, the TW4XP, delayed by the volcanic eruption in Iceland, was a lot like an aerodynamic golf cart, or a classic Dodgem because it is so low, is 3 wheeled with the single wheel up front and it did have a welded aluminum large square tubed frame and was steered by two levers on either side of the legs of the driver. It was very low and the long side windows were necessary in order to kick your legs over the side and climb up out of the vehicle. Watching it go up on 2 wheels to pass that slalom test alarmed me. I wonder how many inexperienced drivers could pull that off.
 

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