Intelligent Energy

$1 billion prize for 100-mpg gasoline car

$1 billion prize for 100-mpg gasoline car

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Republicans unhappy with incentives for hybrid and all-electric cars have proffered their own fossil fuel-inspired plan to spur innovation among automakers.

Republicans unhappy with incentives for hybrid and all-electric cars have proffered their own fossil fuel-inspired plan to spur innovation among automakers. Rep. Dan Lungren (R-Calif.) introduced this week legislation that would offer a $1 billion prize to the first U.S.-incorporated auto company that can sell 60,000 gasoline-powered cars that get 100 miles per gallonThe Hill reported.

The proposed bill, known as The Excellence in Energy Efficiency Act, H.R. 3872, follows other government shoot-for-the-moon type prizes. This one stands out because it focuses on gasoline and not next generation clean energy innovations. However, it's not entirely unique. The X Prize Foundation launched in 2007 a contest to help bring 100-mpg cars to market. Winners of the Automotive X prize receive a mutli-million-dollar cash prize. And while the annual contest has produced some interesting cars, none have become mainstream.

And there have been other government-backed prizes aimed at encouraging innovation and tech breakthroughs. None of them come close to the $1 billion mark. In 2010, the Department of Commerce offered up to $1 million in prize money to entrepreneurs who came up with innovative ways to commercialize new technology. NASA also has a history of offering cash prizes for innovation.

To be clear, this is not a challenge aimed at backyard inventors. The $1 billion would only be issued after the automaker sold 60,000 100-mpg vehicles. In other words, this contest is directed at the big three: Chrysler, Ford and General Motors.

Photo: Flickr user Images_of_money, CC 2.0

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Kirsten Korosec

Contributing Editor

Kirsten Korosec has written for Technology Review, Marketing News, The Hill, BNET and Bloomberg News. She holds a degree from Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism. She is based in Tucson, Arizona. Follow her on Twitter. Disclosure