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Lightweight Edison2 E85 Car Wins Mainstream Class X-Prize; Two Battery Electric Vehicles Take Alternative Class Prizes

The Edison2 Very Light Car on the track. Credit: Edison2. Click to enlarge.

The X PRIZE Foundation awarded $10 million to three teams who successfully completed the rigorous Progressive Insurance Automotive X PRIZE. The winning teams—Edison2 of Lynchburg, Virginia; X-Tracer of Winterthur, Switzerland; and Li-ion Motors Corp. of Mooresville, North Carolina—emerged from an original field of 111 competing teams, representing 136 vehicle entries from around the world.

The $5 Million Mainstream Class Winner was the Edison2 Very Light Car, running on an E85 blend, and achieving 102.5 MPGe. Featuring the lowest drag coefficient (0.16) of any car with four wheels tested in the GM wind tunnel and at the Chrysler Proving Grounds, this vehicle demonstrated more than 100 MPGe on the test track, and verified in the lab, under stringent testing conditions using a highly innovative small displacement engine. Its low weight of 830 pounds (376 kg) resulted from its use of light weight materials, reduced engine displacement and a host of other weight-saving innovations.

The engine is a 250cc, 1 cylinder turbocharged DOHC unit that delivers max power of 40 hp (30 kW) and max torque of 29 lb-ft (39 N·m). The rear-wheel drive car uses a six-speed manual transmission.

Edison2 said that it entered the X Prize expecting to build an electric or hybrid vehicle. Its early analysis of efficiency, however, pointed to the unequivocal virtues of light weight and low aerodynamic drag. X Prize competition requirements made an internal combustion engine, running on E85, its preferred choice for the competition. However, Edison2 notes, in the real world an electric drive could prove best. Edison2 is fuel source agnostic.

Li-ion Motors’ “Wave II” won the $2.5 Million Alternative Side-by-Side Class. This side-by-side two-seat battery electric car was built on a lightweight aluminum chassis and weighs in at 2,176 pounds (987 kg). The Wave II demonstrated outstanding low mechanical and aerodynamic drag that resulted in 187 MPGe in combined on-track and laboratory efficiency testing, a 14.7s zero-to-60 mph acceleration time, and more than 100 miles range over a real-world driving cycle.


The X-Tracer Team Switzerland’s “E-Tracer #79” won the $2.5 Million Alternative Tandem Class. This tandem two-seat vehicle has two extra outrigger wheels that deploy at low speed to stabilize the vehicle. At 1,436 pounds (651 kg), the E-Tracer is able to deliver more than 100 miles in range, led the competition with 205.3 MPGe in combined on-track and laboratory fuel efficiency and achieved a zero-to-60 mph acceleration time of 6.6 seconds.

The E-Tracer, is powered by AC Propulsion’s electric drive system.

The Progressive Insurance Automotive X PRIZE was launched in 2008 to inspire a new generation of viable, safe and super fuel-efficient vehicles capable of achieving 100 miles per gallon or the energy equivalent (MPGe).


Roger Pham

The Edison 2 is a well-deserved winner, having a 4-seat cab with enough internal space. the 1-cylinder turbocharged engine is low-cost and due to the very high fuel efficiency, can meet emission regulation with just simple EGR, thus help reducing cost further. Crash testing performance remains to be seen, but, with the high-strength steel tube construction (like NASCAR) having high strenght-to-weight ratio, with a fully caged body and lift-up canopy for entry like in an aircraft, frontal and side collision protection is likely to be good. Cross country driving under high wind may pose some problem, so the vehicle is best for urban use.

Robert Moffitt

The fact that this team beat a number of gasoline-powered vehicles is significant, as E85 produces fewer tailpipe emissions than gasoline and is largely renawable. They earned the $5 million!


Kudos! The Edison2 team had 4 entries, because they were so determined to win it. Both of the final finalists in the Mainstream Class were from Edison2. They were astute in their design.

I think they went with E85 because its octane got them more horse power out of a tiny, lightweight engine.

They used a lot of carbon fiber, and I wonder how cost-effectively this car could be mass produced?

I also wonder how well it goes uphill with 4 occupants. With big enough gears, I guess anything is possible.


If you only get just so many BTUs, I would want high octane and boost a small engine as far as I could. Good thinking.


The popular mechanics interview they did indicated that they went with E85 simply because it gave the best chance of winning. They put winning as the top priority and something about the rules gave E85 a clear advantage in the way MPGe was calculated.


No one addressing the practicality of E85 on a large scale?


No, because we do not have cellulose yet.


This contest makes the 50 mpg Prius and 70 mpg Euro Diesels at 2000 - 3000 lbs very impressive.

Would it add 400 lb to stretch and sheet some of these ?


could be something to do with the energy type content IE Petrol C8 H16 - to 18
Alcohol C2 H5 OH
For the same 'weight' the lower energy of Alc is offset by higher units of H as well as the useful Oxygen.
As well as the possibility of using higher compression ratios to extract more of the available energy.

Compared to the heavier vehicles, small engines generally are at a disadvantage especially below ~ 500cc's per cylinder. Although there may be advantages from a little as 250cc,that would be the low end of efficient cylinder designs.

Henry Gibson

Too bad ARTEMIS was not involved with their hydraulic hybrid technology. A one piston car. The Volt should have such an engine. Ethanol can be made from coal. Equivalents to gallons of gasoline are mostly fakery. My first encyclopaedia showed a one piston car. A Constantinesco transmission would have been real good and the car could have climbed a rope or a wall. ..HG..


Will this competition spur the Auto Industry into producing more energy efficient cars? I doubt it. I don't think there is going to be a market for cars that look like soap box derby racers. The message from this competition might be 'see what you have to give up in order to get 100 mpge'.
I could see the X-Tracer as a commuter car except for the high price.


A 500 cc, two cyclinder, opposed, air cooled, turbocharged diesel directly connected to a generator, feeding power through an electronic control to four wheel, external rotor motors is all you need.


You can see the curve, an HEV can get 50 mpg and these get 100 mpg. You can seat four in the HEV, go down the freeway and do what other cars do. Here you make compromises. Most consumers would like better mileage, but to not want to give up anything.


@Henry Gibson,
Lightning Hybrids entered a hydraulic hybrid in the mainstream category that looked very saleable, but it was washed out in the early rounds.

You need a way to buffer the electricity. The engine has a sweet spot you want it operating at. If you put in supercapacitors that can store 30-90 seconds worth of full acceleration energy, you can run the two-cylinder engine in a saw tooth, on-off cycle, where about 2/3rds of the time it is off. This gives you the maximum thermal efficiency of the diesel, and all the stop-start, regenerative braking benefits of an HEV. There could be polution issues with the frequent engine starts, but it may be very economical to build. I think the supercaps could add $1,000 to $2,000 to the price depending on vehicle weight, Cd and frontal cross section.

The question is, if I (we)are so smart, how come the winner didn't use our approach?


Hey, would the Xtracer get to use the car pool lane like a motorcycle (and have the attendant waivers from crash worthiness standards), or would those two little outrigger training wheels cause it to need 5mph bumpers and reinforced sidebars and such?


Aptera had several problems, one major one and the race officials did all they could to keep them in the contest. It was not favoritism, they did all they could to keep them all in the race.


I sure wish my 10 yr old van could hold on for another 2 yrs, but I'll be happy if it makes it another 6 mos. It has gotten to the stage where we are taking on a policy of DNR - do not resuscitate. It has 190,000 miles on it. I sure wish there were a hybrid to replace it with. An electric van is probably further off than a reasonably priced electric car.

Oh well, maybe I'll buy a used one that can last for 5yrs, and hopefully electric/hybrid will be ready by then.


TM's post illustrates my problem also.

They are not making what I'm willing to buy, so I'm sticking with my 2006 Hybrid.

I'd love to be able to buy the Hybrid Van that Toyoya made seven years ago and sold only in Japan.


Car maker marketing departments have to show that they can sell 100,000 hybrid minivans per year, or they will not even consider it. You two get 99,998 others to go along and they just might make them.

Will S

Good to see this get so much publicity - a form of 'Yes we can' make changes to our over-consumptive lifestyle.

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