Automotive X-Prize: Lessons Learned

The Automotive X-Prize competition whittled down a field of thirty-odd (some quite odd) vehicles to just three winners. While propulsion systems and seating plans differ, there are three clear lessons learned. The car of the future will be very light, it will be shaped like a fish, and the body will not be made of steel.

Never mind all the hoopla over electric vehicles. The biggest winner in the Automotive X-Prize was Very Light Car’s mainstream four-seater, with a tiny ethanol-powered 250CC motorcycle engine propelling the Edison2 to a $5 million dollar bounty. Our first encounter with the Edison2 was in the SEMA 2009 Making Green Cool Zone. At that time, Very Light Car showed just a full-size resin mockup that resembled little more than an over-sized unpainted slot car body … if there was a longshot horse in the early Vegas odds, it had to be the Edison2.

While the battery-powered E-Tracer won the alternative two-passenger tandem class, one has to wonder how an enclosed motorcycle with a price tag reported to be in the $100,000 range could possibly make a dent in this country’s dependence on foreign oil.

The well-funded Aptera 2e was an early favorite in the “alternative side-by-side” vehicle category, which was ultimately won by the Li-ion Motors Wave II. While the 2e is best known for its extremely aerodynamic three-wheeled design, it’s what’s beneath the vehicle’s skin that is perhaps most important. The 2e is built with an innovative composite body structure that puts to question the entire manner in which cars have been constructed, to this day. After spending a few hours with the Aptera crew earlier this week, it’s evident that their construction technology is their most important asset. The bees know best.

The true power of the competition is yet to come, as competitors become collaborators, down the road …

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