Summary:

Out of 12 teams remaining in the Automotive X Prize competition, only one team in the “mainstream” category has survived to the finals: a company called Edison2, with its internal combustion engine Very Light Car.

Only a dozen teams remain in the running for $10 million in winnings from the Progressive Automotive X Prize, a competition to produce the best 100 MPG car that entered the finals stage today. And out of the dozen, only one team in the “mainstream” category — a company called Edison2, with its internal combustion engine Very Light Car models — has survived to this round.

Today a pair of Edison2 Very Light Cars, along with remaining alternative class entries (like the super-narrow Tango T600 and the E-Tracer electric “cabin cycle” from Peraves), are being pushed to their limits on range (you can watch the live video stream here), having made it through the final highway efficiency test on Thursday.

Competing in the mainstream class, which originally had more than 80 of the total 136 entries in this year’s competition, requires a vehicle to have four seats. In a series of tests and trials on a speedway in Michigan, cars competing in this class have to prove that they can travel 200 miles or more (100 laps around the track) without refueling or recharging, compared to just 100 miles for the “alternative” class.

In order to win, a mainstream entry like Edison2′s Very Light Car also has to show it can do 0-60 in 15 seconds, and of course meet the contest’s ultimate target of 100 MPGe (miles per gallon equivalent). The company says it has built a car that can meet those requirements by using components that are as much as 90 percent lighter than conventional counterparts. Edison2 has also sought to keep a simple design by avoiding what it calls, “feature creep — the evolution of items such as power seats or door locks from luxury options to standard features” that end up adding weight and demanding more energy for propulsion.

Today, as blogger Eric Lane reports from the speedway (h/t Autoblog Green), Edison2 and other teams have been “scrambling” to meet a new limit on cabin temperatures, when previous rules said no air conditioning was required. (Edison2′s solution? Improvise an A/C system with ice, a styrofoam cooler, a fan and a few other components.)

Edison2 founder and CEO Oliver Kuttner explains in this video interview with the X Prize organization that the company started with a Yamaha engine and completely reconfigured it “down to every internal moving part.” The car is light and sturdy enough, he said, that it could be “manufactured and sold to the public, meeting all the laws, at 1,000 pounds.”

Interestingly, the Edison2 team originally expected to power the Very Light Car with either electric or hybrid drive. But they ended up opting for an internal combustion engine after studying efficiency and finding “that the benefits of regenerating energy in a low-mass vehicle were not worth the cost of added battery and component weight needed for an EV or hybrid.” The company (which hopes to eventually be a provider of vehicle platform technology), emphasizes that this is specifically for the demands of the race track, where the drive cycle would leave little energy for a regenerative braking system to capture.

At stake for Edison2 in these next few days is a $5 million prize (vehicles in the alternative class are competing for two $2.5 million prizes) if it can jump through all the hoops of the X Prize, which scored some funding of its own in November: an up to $5.5 million stimulus award from the Department of Energy.

Next week, the vehicles that succeed in today’s finals will move on to dynamic safety testing on Monday, and a combined and performance and efficiency trial — a flat out race — the following day.

Image courtesy of Edison2

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