X Prize winner splits purse with competitors

An electric-car maker that edged out its competitors in a five-way tiebreaker to win the coveted Progressive Insurance Automotive X Prize last month is sharing its $2.5 million award with its runners-up.

The margin of victory for Li-Ion Motors Corp. was less than two-tenths of a second in a 100-mile energy and performance run on a Michigan track in July. That was the tiebreaker used after all five entries achieved an average of at least 100 mpg or the equivalent (all were battery-electric vehicles).

But on the day of the tiebreaker, the leaders of four of the teams signed an agreement that whoever won would share the prize money.

"They all helped each other out," Automotive X Prize spokeswoman Carrie Fox said. "They all realized in helping each other out that it made sense to split the purse. It really speaks to the camaraderie of the competition."

Fox referred further questions to Li-Ion Motors leader Ron Cerven. Attempts to reach Cerven today were unsuccessful.


The prize for the "alternative side-by-side" class was $2.5 million. Leaders of the five teams hand-drafted an agreement on the page of a spiral-bound notebook stating that whoever won would keep $1.7 million but share the rest according to an agreed-to formula.

"If my team wins the competition, I agree to share the prize in the following fashion," states the simple contract.

The next team would get $400,000. The team after that would get $200,000.

One of the finalists, RaceAbout Association of Finland, did not sign the agreement. RaceAbout came in second in the competition, but is not sharing in the prize money.

So the German team TW4XP will get $400,000. ZAP of Santa Rosa, Calif., and Aptera of San Diego tied and will each get $200,000.

The goal of the Automotive X Prize is to spark the development of super-efficient cars that can be manufactured in large volume.

The $10 million that Progressive Insurance put up for the X Prize was divided into three categories. The winner of the "mainstream" four-seater category got $5 million. There was another $2.5 million category for "alternative tandem," for a motorcycle-style configuration.

Li-Ion won "alternative side-by-side" for its two-seat car, the Wave II. It won the trial by 0.179 seconds to claim first in its category.

The Wave II used one small electric motor and a proprietary battery management system to balance the voltage going into the lithium-ion cells. The chassis was made of steel tubing, and the body was fiberglass.

The $2.5 million has not yet been dispersed.

The competition was established to advance the technology for more fuel-efficient vehicles. The competition began in 2007 with 136 vehicles from 111 teams, requiring that the vehicles achieve 100 mpg or the energy-equivalent.

The Automotive X Prize was the latest effort of the X Prize Foundation of Playa Vista, Calif., which had sponsored the Ansari Space X Prize won in 2004 by Scaled Composites LLC, creator of SpaceShipOne. Other foundation competitions have included the Google Lunar X Prize, the Archon X Prize for Genomics and the Wendy Schmidt Oil Cleanup X Challenge.

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