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X Prize contenders take part in on-track testing at Michigan International Speedway | Courtesy of Progressive Automotive X Prize
With hybrids becoming more commonplace in auto showrooms and electric cars beginning to break into the mainstream market, on streets across the country you can see that the automotive industry is moving toward energy efficiency. However, while the increased availability and rising popularity of these vehicles represent important strides for the industry, there are still important measures that can be made to increase fuel efficiency, or the Miles per Gallon Energy Equivalent (MPGe).
Essentially, MPGe measures the total amount of energy that is used while operating the vehicle, as opposed to only accounting for gasoline consumption as Miles per Gallon traditionally does. This offers consumers the ability to make an apples-to-apples comparison of next generation vehicles that will use a variety of energy sources and fuels with the conventional cars that most people drive today.
The Department of Energy believes that breaking the 100 MPGe barrier is not some lofty objective, but something we have the ability to achieve right now. That’s why we partnered with the X PRIZE Foundation to help establish an education program and to provide technical assistance to the Progressive Automotive X PRIZE. The X PRIZE offers $10 million provided by Progressive Insurance for the best 100 MPGe production-capable cars -- vehicles that can handle all the rigors of real world use we’ve come to expect while achieving ultra low-emissions and a minimum of 100 MPGe.
The competition recently completed the finals stage, which determined the vehicles that will go on to the last step, the validation phase. During the finals, 15 vehicles underwent a series of on-track challenges designed to test efficiency, range, durability, handling, acceleration, braking and of course, emissions in a real world environment. This intense set of trials ultimately ended the hopes of 6 vehicles, thinning the field to 9 contenders.
Throughout the competition, DOE experts have been providing technical expertise to ensure that each of the designs is reviewed correctly and consistently. The Department has also established an education program that includes an online knowledge center called fuelourfuturenow.org, which offers interactive resources and teaching tools that use the competition to promote exploration of science, technology, reengineering and math. Additionally, the Department also sponsored the recently concluded Dash+ competition, which challenged high school students to design the dashboard of the future incorporating cues to help drivers maximize fuel efficiency and reduce environmental impact.
So where do you fit into all of this? While you can’t actually go down to your local car lot and drive one of these vehicles home just yet, you can still contribute to the competition and make your voice heard. If you head to the Progressive Automotive X Prize website, you can view information on all the cars – including the ones that didn’t quite make it to the validation stage – and cast a vote through August 16th for the car you think is most practical. You can also share your thoughts and questions on this competition via e-mail, Facebook and Twitter.