One reason I like the Progressive Automotive X Prize, aside from the cool name, is that it's reality-based. Vehicles have to be "production capable" - able to meet safety standards as well as being affordable. And get 100 mpg.
It's a refreshing change from the competitions that prove that, yes, if you build an ultralightweight car that is shaped like a pencil and would disintegrate in a typical fender-bender, you can get awesome mileage.
The 28 team competing for the X prize just completed "shakedown stage" testing. Next month comes the "knockout stage," then final competition in September.
The champ will get a cool $5 million...and a lot of attention from automakers' engineering departments.
WATERLOO - If a group of Cornell University students do well in an upcoming international competition, they can give some of the credit to a Waterloo auto dealer.
Select Eurocars of Waterloo- Geneva Road, run by Joel Osserman, helped assemble and tune a special engine the students used in a project to see if a vehicle can attain 100 miles per gallon of gas or equivalent. Osserman's dealership specializes in Volkswagen cars.
He said the students obtained a three-cylinder, 1.4 liter Volkswagen-made diesel Polo engine that is used in European vehicles. It is not put in cars imported to the United States. The Cornell students are building an electric car for the competition, but wanted the VW engine to power a generator that would charge the car's battery system. "The engine could not be made to run. It came in a very basic condition and didn't have the right parts to make it run," Osserman said. The students appealed to Osserman and his crew for help.
Led by technician Peter DeRycke of Lyons, the wiring harness was hooked up, fuel pump was dialed in and the emission system connected and operating. The engine has to meet emission standards for the competition. The Cornell students came to Waterloo Saturday morning to pick up the engine to take back to Ithaca.
"The engine came from the United Kingdom. I had to figure out the wiring harness, the vacuum lines, the fuel pump and the emission system that were missing and get it running and tuned," said DeRycke, who has worked on cars for 18 years, the last five at Osserman's shop. "The engine didn't come with a manual or other information. I had to go to Web sites and do other research to help me figure out things. It wasn't easy, but we got it done," DeRycke said. "We searched for local VW dealerships and service centers in the area and after hearing a positive review about Select Eurocars, decided to give them a call,'' said Cornell student Fred Lenihan.
Lenihan said they seemed very interested and wanting to help, despite the fact that this was an engine they were not used to servicing. "From the start, they have been extremely helpful. Not only do we have the engine running, but we worked with them to help trim down unnecessary components and optimize performance for our needs,'' Lenihan said. "Their expertise and advice has been an enormous help to us and we have enjoyed working with them,'' he said.
The race is the Progressive Insurance Automotive X-Prize competition, which starts in May and runs through the summer. It consists of several races in several cities, including New York and Detroit.
X-Prize contest pushes gas limits to 100 mpg
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