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USA: Top 10 X-Prize Contenders Show Off Their MPG Tech

The Progressive Automotive X-Prize, closing in on its May 2010 competition start date, held a technical summit of the participating 43 teams at the 2009 SEMA show in Las Vegas. Twelve of those teams brought along vehicles to display at the show, each one in varying degrees of completeness. This technical summit comes on the eve of the announcement that it will receive up to $5.5 million in funding from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, on behalf of the U.S. Department of Energy. The award outlines specific tasks for the Auto X Prize to follow including vehicle telemetry integration, technical assistance to qualifying teams and the addition of technical staffing. The locations for the acceleration, hill climbing, slalom and fuel economy competitions haven’t been announced yet, but we’ve heard that Indianapolis and Washington, D.C., will be two of them. We also hear Auto X Prize fans will be able to watch real-time videos of the $10-million prize competition online and even see instantaneous fuel economy and performance of the entries.

1) Future Vehicle Technologies (FTV) eVaro

The eVaro was the hot rod of the X-Prize group at SEMA. The sleek, two-seat-tandem three-wheeled vehicle is said to top 130 mph, have an electric range of 125 miles and charge up in around 3 hours. The twin are powered by lithium-ion batteries and are said to launch the car to 60 mph in 5 seconds. Unlike some, FTV has brought all of its componentry development as well as the construction completely in-house. Impressive.

2) Aptera 2e

We’re no strangers to Aptera. The Vista, Calif., startup automaker won a 2008 Popular Mechanics Breakthrough Award. The all-electric, two-passenger Aptera 2e has a projected range of over 100 miles on a single charge. The slippery drag coefficient of 0.15 will no doubt become an advantage as the Aptera team tries to achieve solid 300 mpg-equivalent . The 2e on display had a seemingly full and functional interior—a feature that the Type 1e we drove way back in 2007 lacked.

3) EV1 Wave 2

The EV1 team, which hails from Mooresville, N.C., brought its Wave 2 completion vehicle for the alternative class. We saw this vehicle last at the 2009 New York Auto Show and since then, it seems to have come further along in its development. The gas–electric powertrain will provide the motivation for the Wave and the company says that current testing indicates the car will have a drag coefficient on par with a motorcycle. Look out, Aptera.

4) Amp’d Sky

Many of the teams will be using completely fresh, ground-up designs in the competition. But Amp wants to prove that one could retrofit a highly efficient powertrain to a conventional passenger car. The Sky roadster Amp has built uses a fully electric drivetrain powered by a gang of lead-acid batteries. The team projects the car will return 125 mpg-equivalent mileage, reach 60 mph in 7 seconds and near a top speed of 90 mph.

5) Zap Alias

Of the cars on display, the Zap Alias received most of the attention. Zap is said to begin building the Alias soon, and they even came prepared with handout questionnaires on the show floor asking consumers if they would prefer to own a $46,000 Alias that hits 80 mph and has a range of 100 miles or if they would be more likely to buy a $36,000 Alias with the same range and a top speed of 70 mph. Either way, the three-wheeler is said to hit 60 mph in 7.8 seconds. The car on display looked well-finished with a complete interior.

6) Global E- G1

If the G1 looks vaguely familiar, one look at the interior will give away this car’s roots. Underneath the flared bodywork is a Toyota Solara. The G1 will compete in the Mainstream Class and will use a gas–electric hybrid powertrain backed up by ultra capacitors to provide additional short-term off-the-line punch. The system uses regenerative brakes to recapture lost energy. The company says it will return 118-mpg-equivalent and provide a cruising range of 800 miles.

7) OptaMotive Surge

The Optamotive Surge is another entry borrowing a chassis from an established manufacturer. The company partnered with Campagna Motors to use its T-Rex three-wheeled sports machine as a basis for the Surge. But in place of the T-Rex’s 1400cc Kawasaki motorcycle powerplant, the Surge has drive with lithium-ion batteries. The company says that this car is the second prototype and that their target is 0 to 60 mph in less than 10 seconds, with 150-mpg-equivalent mileage.

8) Saba Motors Carbon Zero Roadster

Of the cars on display, the Saba Roadster looked like the type of car we’d most want in our own garage. There are precious few specs on this Silocon Valley–developed plug-in electric . But it will compete in the Alternative Class and judging by the company’s website, the performance appears to mirror Tesla on many levels. Reports have the lithium-ion-packed roadster hitting 60 mph in the 4-second range.

9) Edison 2 Very Light Car

Whatever this company may lack in imaginative nomenclature, the car itself sounds very impressive. The team brought an aerodynamic shell of the car to SEMA but prototypes are currently undergoing testing. The Very Light Car, as the name suggests, borrows from the time-honored principals of low weight race car. The car will be powered by a single-cylinder , so that, the theory is, this low-horsepower engine will only need extremely lightweight drivetrain, body and suspension components to do the job. The chassis will be made from steel and aluminum while the body will be completely aluminum. The idea behind this car is smart; the low power, conventional drivetrain will not only save weight but expense too.

10) Smart EVX

The ForTwo is already an efficient ride. But add electric drive, as Dallas-based EVX has, and the car gains in both efficiency and acceleration. This Alternative Class entry promises a range of 150 miles and a rather stunning 0-to-60-mph run in 5 seconds. Daimler has its own electric Smart in the works and has taken a stake in Tesla to aid battery development. Could EVX scoop the big boys? It will be fun to find out.



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