Well, it’s hard to believe the day is finally here, but the Finals stage of the Automotive X PRIZE is finally wrapping up. Of 136 vehicles representing 111 teams that originally entered the competition, just 9 vehicles representing 7 teams remain. All that the cars need to do now is pass the Validation stage, with the winners then to be announced in September. Here’s a quick look at what happened over the past few days, at the Michigan International Speedway.

Last Wednesday and Thursday, July 21st and 22nd, the (then) 15 vehicles competed in the 136-mile Efficiency event. This two-day challenge simulated urban, city and highway driving, and required vehicles to achieve at least 90 miles per gallon gasoline equivalent (MPGe) – when combined with the Validation stage results, the cars must average 100 MPGe. On Friday, the cars had to complete the Range event, in which the Alternative and Mainstream classes had to drive continuously for 100 and 200 miles, respectively. Both the Efficiency and Range tests were elimination events.

Just to keep things interesting, temperatures in southern Michigan were hovering around 86F (30C) throughout the end of last week, keeping both the interiors and motors of the cars toasty warm. Although no one was called off the track due to overheating in the cockpit (which is a possibility, due to temperature gauges within the cars), the Edison2 team had to repeatedly pull one of their Very Light Cars into the pit, so they could cool its motor by dousing it with water.

Ultimately there were four eliminations.

The Amp team’s electric amp’d Sky exceeded the emissions-equivalency limit of 200grams/mile of CO2 in Efficiency, and could also not complete the required distance in Range. The same things applied to Commuter Cars’ electric Tango, plus it was unable to meet the minimum fuel economy for Efficiency – Spira’s combustion Spira4u also couldn’t meet the required fuel economy, while Tata was unable to present their electric Indica Vista EV X for the Range event.

The remaining 11 cars took part in the Dynamic Safety event this Monday, which tested the vehicles’ 0-60 mph acceleration, braking, and accident avoidance capabilities. Western Washington University’s gas/electric Viking 45 couldn’t pass the accident avoidance test within the six-attempt limit, while Edison2’s combustion Very Light Car #95 couldn’t complete the day’s event due to mechanical problems.

On Tuesday, in the non-elimination Combined Efficiency and Performance test, cars simply had to try for the fastest time around the two-mile oval, while maintaining 100 MPGe. Even though they had already been eliminated, the Indica Vista EV X, amp’d Sky, Spira4u, Tango and Viking 45 also took part in this event, for demonstration purposes.

Over the next three days, the finalists will take part in a non-elimination Coastdown test. Then next month, in the Validation stage, the vehicles will undergo dynamometer testing under controlled laboratory conditions at Argonne National Lab facilities. The car in each class that exceeds 100 MPGe and meets emissions and performance requirements will win, and be presented with their share of the $US10 million purse on September 16th. In the case of a tie, the winner will be decided by the results of yesterday’s Combined Efficiency and Performance event.

The competitors left in the Automotive X PRIZE are:

Mainstream Class (Two vehicles, one team)

  • Edison2, Very Light Car #97 (Charlottesville, VA), Internal Combustion Engine
  • Edison2, Very Light Car #98 (Charlottesville, VA), Internal Combustion Engine
  • Alternative Class - Tandem (Two vehicles, one team)

    • X-Tracer, E-Tracer #72 (Switzerland), Battery Electric
  • X-Tracer, E-Tracer #79 (Switzerland), Battery Electric
  • Alternative Class - Side-by-Side (Five vehicles, five teams)

    • Aptera, Aptera 2e (San Diego, CA), Battery Electric
  • Li-ion Motors, Wave II (North Carolina), Battery Electric

  • RaceAbout Association, RaceAbout (Finland), Battery Electric
  • TW4XP, TW4XP (Germany), Battery Electric
  • ZAP, Alias (Santa Rosa, CA), Battery Electric
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