A Lynchburg-based research team, headed by Oliver Kuttner. a real estate developer, entrepreneur and race car driver, has won the Progressive X Car Competition top prize of $5 million for the development of a light-weight automobile capable of getting 100 miles per gallon, with a car prosaically named Very Light Car 98. At a Washington ceremony yesterday, Rep. Tom Perriello (D-5th) joined House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other government officials in congratulating Kuttner’s Edison2 team for their creation of a “mainstream” vehicle that got 102.5 miles per gallon. Two other teams split $5 million for building smaller, more futuristic vehicles.
Pelosi (D-CA) noted that the X Prize taps “into the potential of human ingenuity; creating a better world through competition; promoting innovation, and pursuing the common good.” All of the winners are now eligible for a U.S. Department of Energy funding program to encourage the introduction of high-mileage vehicles into the U.S. market. (Hmmm. Must come from that GOP-hated stimulus money, being used here to promote innovation in a market economy. I guess that is what the GOP objects to…)
Kuttner’s team of engineers plans to buy an empty factory and turn it into an incubator for super-light, efficient vehicle technology. If Kuttner has his way, that facility would be built in Central or Southside Virginia, possibly able to transform the region into a center for future large-scale manufacturing of the new vehicles.
“If we can get the design part right in Virginia, then I can see Virginia becoming the light car capital of maybe the world,” he said.
The Progressive Insurance Automotive X Prize was announced in 2008 to spur the development of a new generation of viable, safe vehicles that could achieve 100 miles per gallon or the equivalent. More than one hundred teams entered the competition.
The Edison2 team took its name and inspiration from the laboratory that Thomas Edison set up in New Jersey. The winning “Mainstream” car runs on a gasoline/ethanol mix, weighs 830 pounds, and had the lowest drag coefficient of any four-wheeled car ever tested in the General Motors wind tunnel and at the Chrysler Proving Grounds. Vehicles in its class were required to have four wheels, seat four people and have a driving range of at least 200 miles.
Kuttner stated that he feels the car could be refined and brought into production, selling at a price of about $20,000.
Also, Kuttner and the team will use the knowledge they refined in the competition to help car manufacturers incorporate light-weight, efficient designs into their production.