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Our Take on Progressive Auto X Prize as Winners Are Announced

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  • Felix Kramer
    Back in 2004, in the tradition of the Orteig Prize won by Charles Lindbergh, the X Prize Foundation created the Ansari X Prize for Space Flight. It moved on to
    Message 1 of 1 , Sep 15, 2010
      Back in 2004, in the tradition of the Orteig Prize won by Charles
      Lindbergh, the X Prize Foundation created the Ansari X Prize for
      Space Flight. It moved on to the contest that became known as the $10
      Million Progressive Insurance Automotive X Prize. We and many others
      were involved early on, and have watched since. Tomorrow the winners
      will be announced in Washington DC, culminating a 15-month
      competition that started with 111 teams and is now down to 7. See the
      details below. We were invited to write on the Auto Prize website
      about the significance of the prize. You can read that first below.
      And tomorrow or soon thereafter, you can go to
      http://autoblog.xprize.org/ where you'll be able to comment on our
      perspective and those of others invited to post.

      (Shortly after it goes out on email, this posting will also be
      viewable at http://www.calcars.org/news-archive.html -- there you can
      add CalCars-News to your RSS feed.)

      WATCH THE ANNOUNCEMENT CEREMONY streamed live, at 10:30AM EST/7:30AM
      PST, and get information about the event at
      http://www.progressiveautoxprize.org/live . And watch a one-hour
      special, "X PRIZE Cars: Accelerating the Future", on the National
      Geographic Channel on Thursday, September 16 at 9:00 PM ET/PT.

      THE ORIGINS OF THE PROGRESSIVE AUTO X PRIZE -- AND ITS IMPACT

      This is a guest posting by Felix Kramer, Founder of the California
      Cars Initiative (CalCars.org)

      Five years ago, when the Automotive X Prize was just an idea, gas
      prices were seesawing, and people were fed up with paying a billion
      dollars a day for foreign oil. We're still addicted to oil -- but
      thanks in large part to the X Prize, we can see a way out.

      Back then, the famed Hypercar spinoff from Rocky Mountain Institute
      had previewed a future of lightweight, aerodynamic, safe autos. And
      everyone who'd looked at ways to reduce greenhouse gases knew the
      answer had to include getting our vehicles off fossil fuels. It was
      time for cars to take a quantum leap.

      Meanwhile, promising cars like the GM EV1 and Toyota RAV4 EV were
      history. But the death of the electric car turned out to be just the
      end of one chapter. In 2004, CalCars.org showed how to convert
      hybrids to plug in, plastering five-foot wide signs proclaiming
      "100+MPG" on the sides of our Prius retrofits. And Tesla raised money
      to build a sexy sportscar that would beat almost anything on the
      road. We could see a future of optimized vehicles running on cleaner,
      cheaper, domestic electricity.

      The Automotive X Prize launched in 2006-07 with ambitions to inspire
      the public and spark innovation to change the auto industry. Getting
      the competition right wasn't easy for its dedicated, creative staff:

      * When "100 MPG" came up against vehicles powered by different fuels,
      experts developed "MPGe" for apples-to-apples comparisons of
      electricity with petroleum and renewable biofuels.
      * Faced with public expectations for glitzy track races, planners who
      knew drivers most need a fuel-miser for 25-mile-a-day commutes worked
      out new tests. They enlisted the U.S. Department of Energy's National
      Labs to validate the performance of innovative solutions.
      * With hopes that some great idea would emerge from a quirky corner,
      they split the Prize into mainstream and alternative paths.
      * Recognizing that improving the efficiency of millions of cars
      already on the road could make a huge impact, they opened the
      competition up to retrofits and conversions.
      * And, knowing that imaginative, unique solutions also had to find
      their ways to millions of drivers, they made competitors show their
      designs could be safe, affordably mass-produced, and sold for a profit.

      As we reach the end of this historic competition, we all wonder who
      will win. But it's never been more true that "the journey is the
      reward." Competitors that didn't make it all the way have gained
      significant visibility, investments, and partnerships. Some may
      become successful manufacturers. Others will see their teams,
      intellectual property, and visions acquired by larger companies. Many
      will celebrate their victories.

      Of course, the Prize's impact extends far beyond the competition. X
      Prize raising the MPG bar certainly encouraged Congress to increase
      fuel efficiency standards. As we debate what new car stickers should
      say about efficiency and emissions, a new coalition is urging a goal
      of 60 MPG by 2025. The DOE has funded development of an advanced U.S.
      battery industry and lent carmakers billions to retool for green
      automotive jobs. States and companies have added their incentive
      programs to the federal $7,500 tax credits for new plug-in cars.
      Engineering students have been inspired to find jobs in a reviving
      auto industry. High schoolers have seen how cars can be cool and clean.

      And automakers? They've been watching closely and making
      industry-changing decisions. In 2006, I became the world's first
      consumer-owner of a plug-in hybrid. Now, before the end of this X
      Prize year, my family hopes to replace that PHEV conversion with a
      Chevy Volt that we can drive everywhere. And we'll trade our reliable
      Toyota Camry Hybrid for a Nissan LEAF's daily drives with no
      gasoline. The cars are coming: the U.S. is on track for a million
      mass-produced plug-in cars by 2015!

      What's next? How about a follow-on prize? As the high-MPG cars
      arrive, it's clear it will take decades before they'll make up a
      large enough fraction of our country's 250 million vehicles to have
      much impact on fossil fuel use. Visionaries like Andy Grove are
      urging us to retrofit tens of millions of pickup trucks, SUVs, vans,
      and buses. Like the Home Star building retrofits we're now
      accelerating, national gas- guzzler conversions could create green
      jobs in communities everywhere. So CalCars hopes for a Drive Star
      competition -- from X Prize, DOE, or another sponsor -- to spark "The
      Big Fix," creating a global industry to upgrade many of the world's
      900 million vehicles.

      X Prize began with the Ansari X Prize for space flight. As the X
      Prize Foundation broadens, with prizes in genomics, lunar
      exploration, and ocean oil cleanup, it's never been clearer that
      humanity and our planet face immense challenges. We used to say "the
      sky's the limit." Now that we recognize we need to save that one sky
      ASAP, we look to future competitions for inspiration, ideas, and a
      global rescue.

      -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- --
      Felix Kramer fkramer@...
      Founder California Cars Initiative
      http://www.calcars.org
      http://www.calcars.org/news-archive.html
      -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- --
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