The prize was established three years ago by the X Prize Foundation to create a car that goes at least 100 miles per gallon or energy equivalent. (This is a new standard created by X Prize and Consumer Reports that will let people compare electric and non-electric cars).
The winning cars also need to be able to travel 200 miles on a single tank or charge, be produced commercially and pass a battery of other tests, including speed trials, safety tests and a session in a dynamometer chamber (which measures engine power) at Argonne National Laboratory. The prizes are funded by Progressive Insurance, which will also insure the cars.
A live broadcast of the awards ceremony, which begins at 10:30 A.M. Eastern time in Washington, D.C., is here.
Sitting on a 100-inch wheelbase, the car has a chassis of welded steel tubing and a body that resembles a small helicopter, but the entire vehicle weighs just 830 pounds. A rear-mounted, single-cylinder motorcycle engine burns a blend of 85 percent ethanol and 15 percent gasoline to make about 40 horsepower.
Winners of the two $2.5 million prizes were Wave II, a battery-electric car, and the E-Tracer, a battery-electric motorcycle-like vehicle. All of the teams' entries are here. Although 111 teams entered the contest with 136 vehicles, only seven teams and nine vehicles were left by today.
Tonight at 9 P.M. Eastern time, National Geographic will air a program with highlights of the competition.
Below is an interview with X Prize CEO Peter Diamandis from the Rachel Maddow Show on what the X Prize is trying to accomplish. He points that Henry Ford's original Model T got 25 miles per gallon -- more than the many cars get today -- because it wasn't loaded down with features.