Monday, December 8, 2008

Transpo future gets a new face; X Prize could define it

What's the future of the passenger car?

That's an open question, and it's getting opener.

(Image: A green compressed air car, competing for the Progressive Automotive X Prize. Credit: the X Prize folks.)

Perhaps an electric vehicle with entirely new charging and management scheme, like the one proposed by Better Place, with a private company managing the battery packs while you own the car.

Maybe an electric or hybrid vehicle on the internal combustion model—you own the car, drive to a fill-up station, but simply plug in rather than pumping gas.

But both of those can use cars on the existing vehicular platform. You can't tell them from gas and diesel cars.

Sure, maybe the future looks just like the past.

But then there's the X Prize. The Progressive Automotive X Prize is offering a $10 million prize for the best car capable of going 100 miles on a single gallon of gas or the equivalent (like the amount of electricity equivalent to a gallon of gas—or diesel, or something else), while still being able to carry four individuals and being a vehicle folks would actually use.

We've been covering the X Prize in this website (check out our last post on the topic at

Recently, when we asked for an update, the organization's Carrie Fox wrote: “We’ve recently opened the Registration Period, and now have 22 Registered Contenders, out of the 120+ that signed Letters of Intent to compete. Registration remains open until February 2009 and we expect that many more teams will join this first 22 in the Registered Contender status.”

There's a fair chance that this competition will show us a new face of electric vehicles.

The spider-looking Aptera producer ( is among the initial contenders. So is Zap (, which makes all sorts of electric vehicles, including scooters and bikes, and has a sexy-looking three-wheeler in mind, with the single wheel in back. TTW Italia ( has a futuristic three-wheeler with the single wheel in front.

Avion ( is entering a pure diesel that it figures can beat 100 miles to the gallon. The Physics Lab of Lake Havasu ( is entering its Green Giant, an electric drive train in a full size SUV “exploiting hydraulics, PV, heat-steam, diesel/natural gas, and hydrogen.”

MDI/SPM from France ( is entering with its compressed air car.

And there are plenty of other innovative ideas.

To look at some of them, check out the X Prize site,

Many of them are traditional-looking sedans in which dreamers and engineers are sticking really hot technology, but some are, well, pretty different looking.

And maybe that's the future.

© 2008 Jan W. TenBruggencate

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