The X-Prize, in general, was created to promote and reward radical technological breakthroughs that benefit humanity. In 2004, Burt Rutan and Microsoft Co-founder Paul Allen won the $10 million Anasari X-Prize when they built and launched the , the first private spacecraft to fly into space.
Now, the Automotive X-Prize has been launched to encourage and reward radical breakthroughs in automotive technology that will help break this nation’s addiction to oil. Besides tackling oil consumption and reducing emissions, the main goal of the Automotive X-Prize is to “Result in a new generation of super-efficient and desirable mainstream vehicles that people want to buy.”
So, the whole goal of the Automotive X-Prize is not to develop more prototype and concept vehicles that will never see the marketplace, but rather, to develop a highly marketable automobile with greatly reduced environmental impact. A poll conducted on the X-Prize website says that the one major criteria for winning the Automotive X-Prize will be to develop a consumer, production vehicle that achieves over 100 mpg.
While it’s not likely that a hydrogen auto will win this prize in the near-term, in the longer term it is likely that a hydrogen auto will win. Right now hydrogen autos meet the “radical breakthrough” criteria, but don’t yet meet the “highly marketable” criteria. Someday, in the not too distant future, this second criteria will fall like the first domino, ushering in a new age of radical automotive technology.
On a side note, Google’s co-founder Larry Page recently hosted a fundraiser for the X-Prize Foundation at the Googleplex in Mountain View, California. The fundraiser welcomed such notables as Tipper Gore, Sir Richard Branson and even comedian Robin Williams and generated a cool $2.5 million for the foundation.