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  • Progressive Insurance Automotive X Prize - Diesel X Prize

Progressive Insurance Automotive X Prize - Diesel X Prize

The Quest For 100-MPG Automobiles

Jason Thompson
Jan 1, 2010
Photographers: X Prize Teams
The official goal of the Progressive Insurance Automotive X Prize (PIAXP) is "to inspire a new generation of super-efficient vehicles that help break our addiction to oil and stem the effects of climate change." To accomplish this, the organizers have set up a prize of $10 million to be split between three vehicle categories, including mainstream ($5 million), alternative class side-by-side seating ($2.5 million), and alternative class with tandem seating ($2.5 million). According to the PIAXP's 65-page rule book, the contest is supposed to be simple to understand, technology-neutral, and most importantly, able to get the masses excited about super-efficient vehicles. The contest balances many competing interests and is intended to bring newcomers into the automotive field, while at the same time requiring competitors to have a business plan to manufacture, sell, and service at least 10,000 vehicles per year.
Photo 2/10   |   progressive Insurance Automotive X Prize PIAXP Logo
To find out how you can get involved...
Visit: www.progressiveautoxprize.org
Email: progressiveautoxprize@xprize.org
Call: (626) 407-2720
Also make sure to check www.dieselpowermag.com for up-to-the-minute blogs, since we are in direct contact with many of the teams and are making plans to show you some interesting diesel technology in the near future.
Is Diesel at a Disadvantage?
Quantifying each competitor's energy consumption accurately may prove difficult, because the two main energy sources the teams are consuming—electricity and heat (including ethanol, gasoline, CNG, biodiesel, diesel, and others)—are measured in different ways. An even more daunting and politically charged task is the way PIAXP has assigned a blanket emissions profile to all electric cars, while the fuel-burning vehicles (including diesels) will be individually tested for emissions. These two rules have made many potential competitors feel at a disadvantage to their electric-powered competition. For example, of the original 117 official contenders, 29 used diesel engines—yet as we went to press, so many diesel-powered competitors felt forced to drop out that it was up in the air whether or not a diesel vehicle would even compete.
Can Diesel Win?
We hope so, because we believe there is a need for an automotive competition that considers the clean and renewable fuels available today—not a competition based on controversial future projections of electricity and batteries. There are two educated guesses the PIAXP built its contest around that seem to favor electric vehicles more than diesel-powered entries. These two assumptions include: 1. Battery technology will experience a quantum leap in energy density and they'll be cheap, easy to make, and recyclable. 2. By 2014, the whole world's electrical supply will be clean, safe, centralized, and plentiful. While those two scenarios would be wonderful for our planet, we think the X Prize should encourage technology that we can benefit from right now, and not be based on hopeful dreams of the future.
The X Prize At A Glance
When: Spring and Summer of 2010
Emissions Testing
The vehicles' total greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions can be no more than 200 grams of carbon dioxide per mile, or its equivalent (CO2e). If the vehicle makes other emissions besides CO2, they will be converted to CO2 through a specific formula. Vehicles will not be rewarded for making less than the capped emissions standard.
Vehicles with a fuel converter (engine) must demonstrate EPA-standard Tier II, Bin 10 during road testing, Tier II, Bin 8 in dyno testing, and have the ability to meet Tier II, Bin 5 in the production model. The lower the Bin, the more stringent the standard. For example, the Bin 5 limit for nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions is 0.07 grams per mile and particulate matter (PM) limits are set at 0.01 grams per mile. Drivers are not allowed to shut their engine off during the competition, thus eliminating cutting-edge start-and-stop technologies that benefit diesels and diesel hybrids.
Emissions tests will be conducted after the vehicle has warmed up. A portable emissions device from Semtech will measure the exhaust while the vehicle is driving down the road. If the vehicle doesn't have room for the sniffer, it's towed with a trailer.
For electric vehicles, the greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions are based on the projected 2014 electrical grid rather than the current, coal-driven model. The organizers say the electricity from the future will be more efficient and plentiful thanks to future renewable technologies.
There's no mention of acceptable electromagnetic frequency (EMF) levels for electric vehicles.
There's no mention of GHG emissions from the mining of materials essential for batteries.
The benefits from renewable sources of energy such as wind, solar, and biofuels are not weighed in, due to perceived complexities. Although, the PIAXP allows for the use of solar panels and does not include the electricity they generate into the GHG emissions because solar energy is CO2 neutral (just like second-generation biofuels).
Measuring Fuel Economy
A/C electricity will be converted to British Thermal Units (BTU) at a rate of 3,412 BTU/kWh. The total number of BTU will be divided by the energy content in one gallon of gasoline (approximately 112,000 BTU per gallon) to get the gallon gasoline equivalent (GGE). Vehicles must get 100 MPGe in order to finish the race and will not be rewarded for getting more than the capped efficiency.
The vehicles only need a 200-mile range in order to get into the competition, although a non-scoring drive-till-you-drop event is scheduled. This event is also capped at 400 miles. Having a tiny range definitely favors battery technology.
Selecting a Winner
Whoever makes it through all the inspections and paperwork will get to compete in the final race. Since MPGe, CO2e, and distance traveled are all capped, the determining factor is speed. Speed is also capped by local speed limits, so the determining factor is actually a convoluted bracket race, which we don’t have the space to describe.
When Craig Henderson first learned of the X Prize he was ready to step up and collect his check because he already built a car that got 100 mpg—back in 1986. The airplane-inspired, 1,500-pound Avion is now powered by a Mercedes 0.8L three-cylinder, direct-injected, turbodiesel engine.
Photo 3/10   |   progressive Insurance Automotive X Prize avion
Avion Car Company
Now you've seen it all, a Saturn in the pages of Diesel Power—but let us explain. Two engineers, Douglas Hungerford and Robert McNeill, created the team called BDCOTSRUS, which is using a small-displacement direct-injection diesel engine to generate power for its car called the BD1. Instead of reinventing the wheel, they decided to use an existing car and re-power it. Their drive system is modeled after the diesel electrics used in heavy equipment, ships, and locomotives. The diesel hybrid has a bank of batteries to allow for all electric operation and to handle the large temporary loads associated with accelerating in stop-and-go traffic. The BD1 can be charged from the electrical grid and also has the ability to charge itself with onboard electric power generation. The BD1 will use B20 as its fuel of choice.
Photo 4/10   |   progressive Insurance Automotive X Prize BD1
Vincitore' 1000
Team leader George Voll stands in front of BITW Technologies' diesel-powered entry for the X Prize. This photo was taken outside of the team's garage in Bradford, Indiana. Their entry is powered by a Kubota diesel engine. "For BITW Technologies, the time could not be better to push the conversion to diesel power. Not only for high efficiency, but for sustainability and reduced GHG emissions, biodiesel only makes sense," said Dan Boyd, assistant team leader for BITW Technologies. "Biodiesel is the way forward and we will lead. The Progressive Insurance Automotive X Prize is the perfect venue to prove this technology and its application. We at BITW Technologies are ready for that challenge and the opportunity to improve our part of the world," continued Boyd.
Photo 5/10   |   progressive Insurance Automotive X Prize vincitore 1000
BITW Technologies
Jetta Bora
Team leader Bill Todorof created brilliant EV’s entry called the Jetta Bora. They are using the Volkswagen Jetta’s 1.4L TDI diesel engine to drive a 37.5kW three-element generator. Additional power comes from four liquid-cooled in-wheel 12.5kW electric motors. Since this vehicle uses energy-dense diesel fuel, it is able to save weight by not having to rely solely on heavy batteries. The Jetta Bora’s target weight is 2,400 pounds and batteries make up 300 of those pounds. The photovoltaic (PV) panels covering the roof add a peak charge of 800 watts.
Photo 6/10   |   progressive Insurance Automotive X Prize jetta Bora
Brilliant EV
Composed of 60 Cornell students and 3 faculty members, the Cornell 100+ MPG Team is one of the 3 university teams among the 111 official start-ups and established companies competing in the PIAXP. Their vehicle, named Redshift, is a series plug-in diesel hybrid that will yield a range of more than 200 miles. Built from a modified Subaru Sambar chassis and part of a Honda Civic body, the Redshift sports a diesel 1.4L Volkswagen TDI engine as well as a 125kW UQM Power Phase motor. The Redshift will run on B20 or standard diesel fuel in addition to the energy stored in its 15.5-kWh lithium-iron (LiFe) batteries provided by Changs Ascending Co.
Photo 7/10   |   progressive Insurance Automotive X Prize redshift
Cornell 100+ MPG Team
Lightning Hybrids' LH4 is a diesel hydraulic hybrid that has an 85hp front-mounted Volkswagen 1.4L TDI engine that's connected to a 105hp rear-mounted hydraulic pump motor via a carbon fiber torque tube. A CVT transmission is connected to the hydraulic motor and it powers the rear wheels. The 7-gallon, 5,000-psi carbon fiber accumulator supports two 0 to 60 acceleration runs or 7 miles of driving at 40 mph. The LH4 is able to recharge the tank with regenerative braking (70 percent efficient) or with the diesel engine (1 minute at idle). The curb weight is 1,800 pounds and its 0 to 60 time is 5.9 seconds. Its diesel engine also helps in the aerodynamic department, since a diesel runs cooler, allowing for a rear-mounted radiator and no front grille. Production of the LH3 (a three-wheel version) is marked for 2011 with the LH4 following in 2012. Prices start at $39,000 to 59,000.
Photo 8/10   |   progressive Insurance Automotive X Prize LH4
Lightning Hybrids
The Loremo LS was made in Germany and is powered by a 20hp two-cylinder turbodiesel. This supercar only weighs 1,200 pounds, accelerates from 0 to 60 mph in less than 20 seconds, and is expected to get better fuel economy than its conservative listing of greater than 120 mpg. Loremo means low resistance mobile, and its history dates back to 1993. One misconception the designers of this car try to debunk is that a light vehicle is inherently unsafe. As they point out on their website, Formula 1 provides examples of the opposite, since their vehicles weigh only 1,000 pounds, but the drivers can withstand impacts at speeds exceeding 150 mph. Another point they hope to drive home with their rolling philosophy is that environmental protection is often an expensive proposition, but diesel is an alternative available today. Loremo's website says that even though the technology is expensive, not acting to improve the earth will be even more costly.
Photo 9/10   |   progressive Insurance Automotive X Prize loremo
Insight 1G
Red Light Racing's team leader is Jake "Rusty" Staub, who graduated with distinction from the U.S. Naval Academy. With his team (also with military experience), he put a Volkswagen 1.2L TDI engine in a Honda Insight. The result was 80 mpg on just the motor alone. Most of the wrenching was done at a recreational garage found at the naval base. Here is a statement that captures the team's main goal: "We've got a bold vision for what being green can mean, and we emphasize mean!"
Photo 10/10   |   progressive Insurance Automotive X Prize insight 1G
Red Light Racing