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X-PRIZE Foundation Launches Auto X-PRIZE Website and Blog

In support of developing the Automotive X PRIZE, the X PRIZE Foundation has launched an associated website and blog to communicate its “mission, goals, and discoveries”.

Announced earlier in the year, the goal of the Automotive X PRIZE is to stimulate automotive technology, manufacturing and marketing breakthroughs that reduce oil consumption and result in a new generation of super-efficient and desirable mainstream vehicles that people want to buy. The competition guidelines for the Automotive X-PRIZE are still under development, and will be released for public comment when ready.

The X PRIZE Foundation is the creator of the ANSARI X PRIZE—$10 million awarded to the first private team to build and fly a spacecraft capable of carrying three people to 100 km and then repeating the feat within two weeks. Claimed by Mojave Aerospace Ventures for the flight of SpaceShipOne, the ANSARI X PRIZE helped changed the perception of spaceflight.

The Foundation is also developing a $2-million set of awards—the Vertical Lander Challenge (VLC) and Lunar Lander Challenge (LLC)—to accelerate the commercial development of a vehicle capable of ferrying cargo or humans back and forth between surface of the moon and low moon orbit (approximately 50 meters).

Also under consideration is a GENOME X PRIZE to support breakthroughs in high volume and rapid genome sequencing.

Comments

Richard

That's a stupid contest. We know electric cars consume no petrolium/gas. What's the point? We already have the technology, we just need them on the market!

cs1992

Richard, I agree... the technology is there to meet the demands of most consumers. Show me a Corolla sized EV with a range ~100 miles and I will show you one sitting in my driveway.

Hampden Wireless

While this article did not state it, I think the auto xprize is for a company that will SELL THE CAR TO CONSUMERS which is what you both want .

Insight Is Key

You are correct Hampden Wireless. Classic knee jerk reactions from Richard/cs1992 without thought. The key to this contest is actual sales in the market place. You make an EV that goes 2000 miles on a charge and takes 2 weeks to charge and costs $5,000,000...you aren't going to sell many. You make an EV that carries 4-5 passengers, goes 300 miles on a charge, accelerates 0-60 in under 10 seconds, charges in 5 minutes using a standard 110V plug...and they will sell like hot cakes.

Patrick

I applaud those X-prize guys...helping to give a swift kick in the seat of the pants of two areas I wish to see more technological development in: Space vehicles & Automotive efficiency.

Cervus

Richard: Currently there are no EVs that have more than a niche market. The key to this contest is:

a new generation of super-efficient and desirable mainstream vehicles that people want to buy

You make a product and tell the public "you WILL buy this". That's not the way the market works. A company telling their customers what they should buy is a surefire way to go out of business. Because a competitor will pop up and tell something the public wants and get rich.

If you don't believe me, look up New Coke.

John

I read in a Buisnessweek article that some of the priliminary goals were:

1. Sell 1,000 vehicles (first one to this goal)
2. 100 mpg or better
3. Must use a combustible (cannot be straight up AC/DC)

This was preliminary, hats off to these guys for spurring innovation.

I'd like to see this vehicle come of this project:

1. Low coefficient of drag (.25 or better)
2. Low weight (sub 2,800lbs)
3. Low friction turbo diesel (1.0L I-4, VGT)
4. Accessories powered by exhaust heat recovery
5. Brown gas injection (via hydrolisis)
6. 6 or 7 speed manual transmission
7. Low rolling resistance, Carbon Fiber rims, aluminum used for drive shafts and axels.
8. Light hybrid using compressed air for energy storage.

Lou Grinzo

John,

I would prefer to see the X-Prize ignore liquid fuel combustion entirely and focus on mainstreaming EV's. That's where we're headed, why sink time, money and effort into something else?

You can easily build a Civic/Corolla EV that will go 200 miles per charge, but not at a price the typical Civic or Corolla owner could afford. The technology is here, it's just not mature enough to have dropped sufficiently in price to gain mainstream market acceptance when competing with gasoline ICE-powered vehicles. That maturing/price drop is the process we need to accelerate.

Patrick

Lou, you state the EXACT reason why you don't want to do this with an EV. It can be done with a typical civic/corolla and therefore no innovation springs forth...doing it with an ICE will force innovation in reducing parasitic losses in accessories, reducing frictional losses in the driveline, reducing weight, reducing coefficient of drag, etc...AND at the end of the day; guess what? You can now put your EV drivetrain into a much, much, MUCH more efficient platform than you would have had if you stuck with a civic EV conversion.

John- you can buy carbon fiber rims right now for street motorcycles and race cars. I don't personally have the desire for 18+ inch rims or to spend $5000+ on rims though.

Joseph Willemssen

You make a product and tell the public "you WILL buy this". That's not the way the market works. A company telling their customers what they should buy is a surefire way to go out of business. Because a competitor will pop up and tell something the public wants and get rich.

Pure fantasy. So advertising is completely pointless and all supply is purely driven by original consumer demand?

If you don't believe me, look up New Coke.

Try looking up Coke. Was there some worldwide demand for a cola beverage that Coca Cola merely responded to, or did they develop their brand and market the heck out of it?

Joseph Willemssen

And it's ironic that you'd mention New Coke. Some theorize that the whole point of that exercise was to reinforce the traditional brand by making people nostalgic for Original Coke. Seems to have worked, if that were really the intent.

So, it's an example of pumping up demand when the "natural" consumer demand for the product was waning.

George

InsightIsKey wrote: You make an EV that carries 4-5 passengers, goes 300 miles on a charge, accelerates 0-60 in under 10 seconds, charges in 5 minutes using a standard 110V plug...and they will sell like hot cakes.

1: Why the obsession (by lots of people, not just IIK) with 5 minute recharge when you have a car that goes 300 miles on a charge? This is a ridiculous requirement because almost no one needs a car to be in continuous operation. Humans stop driving periodically for such things as sleeping and eating. This provides substantial blocks of time for recharge.

2: We already have technology that more or less meets this requirement. It's called a plug-in hybrid. The 5 minute "recharge" is accomplished by refueling with hydrocarbons.

3: 110 Volts? Do you have any idea of the amperage required to recharge such a vehicle in 5 minutes at 110V? Rapid recharging would have to be done at much higher voltage.

Cervus

And it's ironic that you'd mention New Coke. Some theorize that the whole point of that exercise was to reinforce the traditional brand by making people nostalgic for Original Coke. Seems to have worked, if that were really the intent.

A couple weeks ago on the History Channel was a program called American Eats. This particular show was devoted to soft drinks. One segment was on New Coke. The company developed the new forumla and taste tested it. The new formula won by large margins over the old. So with that market research in hand, the company decided to make the change.

The reaction of the public at large is well known. But the lesson is still that you can't tell your customers what they want. You have to listen to them.

The market can change very fast, as US automakers are learning.

Joseph Willemssen

But the lesson is still that you can't tell your customers what they want. You have to listen to them.

I love how you can be exposed to an idea and completely ignore what the message was. Coke is probably one of the best examples of the success of marketing in shaping demand, not the other way around.

Joseph Willemssen

That said, it doesn't mean that consumer preferences don't matter, but rather that the proposition that "the customer is king" is completely invalidated by the existence of the massive marketing industry. If people simply knew what they wanted it, and communicated it to suppliers, then there'd be no need to convince them of anything, create desires, and so forth.

Just look at something like bottled water - a thousand times more expensive than tap water, and many times no better (or worse) than that same tap water. But marketing is what makes people override reason and then desire such a thing.

The number of such examples are countless.

ziv

Talking about the cost of bottled water, what amazes me is that people pay $1.30 for a pint of water, bottled just a few hundred miles away, and feel good about it. But Exxon buys oil at $70+ a barrel of crude oil, (Exxon buys most of its oil from producers in Canada, Venezuela and other countries because they can't pump enough out of the oilwells they own) which is about $1.70 gallon, refines it, ships it cross country, dispenses it at relatively clean stations that sell just about everything from Fram oil filters to People magazine, charge you 40 cents a pint, and we are outraged.

Roger Pham

Again, I have to agree with Joseph W.. His arguments have been solid time after time. The SUV is another point in which mass marketing and fad and trend that are driving consumers' purchasing decision, and not actual needs. The more fuel-efficient station wagon would serve the needs just fine, but no, everyone must have a gas-guzzling in-your-face styled SUV that's built like a brick and prone to flipping over, a machine that in fact is less safe than the more efficient machines that it replaces, while constitutes a public menace should one got hit sideway by the shoulder-height bumper.

ziv,
One do not drink as much bottled water as much as one consumes gasoline. I am not so stupid as to buy bottled water for $1.30, but, rather, I distill my own water for pennies a gallon using night-time electricity, and reuse the water bottle in order to save the environment from toxic industrial wastes. Reverse-osmosis water purification system is even more energy efficient can be set up at home also, should one needs more potable water. Big Oil's major guilt is in their control of governments world wide in order to squash development of renewable energy and energy efficiency development.

anne

Joseph:

Marketing is much less powerful than you seem to think. Marketing cannot create a demand. It can merely influence consumer preference. The massive amount of money that Coca Cola spends on marketing is not to maintain demand for coke. It is to not loose out to Pepsi.

Take cars for instance. Without the billions spent on marketing, would we stop driving cars? Of course not. The marketing is done to direct consumer preference towards certain brands or higher margin vehicles like SUV's. The SUV appeals to the basic human instinct to be impressive/intimidating. The car makers exploit this emotion in a very cunning way to lure us into buying a more expensive vehicle. The emotion that drives consumers towards SUV's has been in existence for millions of years, it was not created by marketing.

Marketing is not about creating emotions, but about finding emotions and exploiting them.

The huge amount spent on marketing is much more driven by competition than by the fact that demand would collapse without it.

Joseph Willemssen

The huge amount spent on marketing is much more driven by competition than by the fact that demand would collapse without it.

Really? So when you see some little "must have" gadget that gets advertised constantly, then eventually ends up being unused in millions of homes, this is some "natural consumer demand" which drove production of that product?

Your assertions that marketing appeals to emotions has nothing to do with the hypothesis which I am countering. Of course it appeals to emotions. That's pretty much the whole point. The original argument made was that consumers drive production, not the other way around. The fact that marketers exploit human psychology is axiomatic. That's precisely the point.

The huge amount spent on marketing is much more driven by competition than by the fact that demand would collapse without it.

Oh, I think that's a very tenuous proposition. No way to test it, either, is there?

Ziv

Roger, I am not sure that big oil controls the market as much as that they deliver a very compact energy source in a convenient manner at a decent price and that is hard to beat. When batteries can store enough energy to propel a car 150-200 miles, can be nearly fully recharged in 10-20 minutes and has fair acceleration at a price that is within 10-20% of an ice, I don't believe that there is squat that the oil producers will be able to do. The demand for Prius' on the coasts will be nothing compared to the demand for a reasonably priced ev. I don't think that big corporations have our best interests at heart, they have there own bottom line to consider first, but they simply will not be able to counter the demand for a decent product. Remember that most of the oil produced in the world isn't produced by stockholder type corporations, it is produced by Pemex, Saudi Aramco, Petroleas de Venezeula and other government controlled entities. Big oil doesn't control governments, governments control the production of oil.

Joseph Willemssen

Big oil doesn't control governments

It controls the biggest one.

anne

Joseph:

A lot of food we buy ends up unused in the garbage can. That doesn't mean we don't need food.

My hypothesis is the following: marketing can not sell things that people don't want. They can only sell more of something that people do want.

Joseph Willemssen

A lot of food we buy ends up unused in the garbage can. That doesn't mean we don't need food.

Uh... OK. You still aren't addressing the core point that demand doesn't somehow naturally originate from consumers 100% of the time and therefore marketing has no purpose. This is what was originally asserted - the "customer is king" proposition. The fact that people don't eat some of their food also has absolutely nothing to do with the example I raised. In the food case, you're talking about something people need, otherwise they will DIE. Same can't be said about the latest ab cruncher or little chopper/dicer/magic device available for five easy payments of 19.99 plus shipping and handling.

My hypothesis is the following: marketing can not sell things that people don't want.

Well, your hypothesis flies directly in the face of the entire marketing industry and in a way is relying on circular logic. Wants can most certainly be created. Like I said, do you think that Joe Consumer sits around and says to himself, "I very much want this specific iteration of a bizarre ab crunching device". No. Someone creates that device then convinces Joe Consumer that his life will be a miserable failure without said device.

anne

"You still aren't addressing the core point that demand doesn't somehow naturally originate from consumers 100% of the time and therefore marketing has no purpose"

I never wanted to prove anything. I was merely trying to convey my opinion that marketing is not as powerful as you appear to think. And that people buy useless stuff with or without marketing, because in the end everything other than food and shelter is useless. You can of course debate about the level of uselessness of the latest ab cruncher compared to the light bulb, but that will always be a matter of opinion.

Yes, I still do think that marketing can not create a demand, although on the surface it very much looks like it does have the power to do so.

Joseph Willemssen

I was merely trying to convey my opinion that marketing is not as powerful as you appear to think.

Let me make this clear, since it seems to be not getting through.

The proposition first put forward is thus:
"You make a product and tell the public 'you WILL buy this'. That's not the way the market works. A company telling their customers what they should buy is a surefire way to go out of business. Because a competitor will pop up and tell something the public wants and get rich."

So, Cervus was asserting that "the market works" in such a way that marketing has no effect whatsoever, and that successful companies merely respond to what people actually want.

Refuting that extreme and illogical position does not then mean that I believe "marketing is all-powerful". But to deny that marketing creates desires for things that weren't naturally existing flies in the face of all logic and experience, and I've given plenty of examples to support this.

"Yes, I still do think that marketing can not create a demand, although on the surface it very much looks like it does have the power to do so."

Come on. $220 billion spent annually in the US on marketing and you think that all that is simply for... what? A good salesman can sell space heaters in Hell.

Do you have any familiarity with the direct marketing industry? Essentially a piece of direct mail almost always has four components (in the order given):
1) Benefit/message
2) Offer
3) Guarantee/deadline/special bonus
4) Call to action

Essentially the idea is to capture someone's attention with the supposed benefit, putting forth the offer, making it seem like you're getting a "deal", and putting a sense of urgency to it.

Now, if people really wanted that specific thing, why would the marketer try to short-circuit rational consideration and try to compel people to buy right away? Why does a channel like QVC even exist?

Here's some links for you to peruse:
one
two
three

Of course people have wants and needs that are then responded to by "the market" or producers. That's obvious. But to assert that there's all there is to ignore how marketing works and what its intent is.

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