Matt Roush

The people behind the Progressive Insurance Automotive X Prize announced Tuesday that they're bringing their competition to the state of Michigan this year.

X Prize officials announced at the North American International Auto Show that 51 vehicles would be competing for the $10 million prize for bringing the fastest, most efficient manufacturable car to the planet.

They're in Michigan because of a partnership between the Michigan Economic Development Corp. and Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn.

Dr. Peter Diamandis, the high-tech advocate who founded the X Prize competitions, said the events begin April 26 with the "shakedown stage" at MIS.

The stage, continuing through May 7, will feature safety inspections and on-track testing.

There will also be a formal competition opener event April 29 at the state Capitol.

June 20-28 is a knockout qualifying stage at MIS, with head-to-head competitions for speed and the X Prize's 100 mpg floor.

There will be more testing at MIS July 19-30.

In August, the top teams will head either to the Environmental Protection Agency auto labs in Ann Arbor or to the Argonne National Laboratories near Chicago for dynamometer testing.

The top prizes will be awarded in Washington, D.C. in September.

Diamandis said he isn't worried about being leapfrogged by the traditional auto industry, which is working furiously on hybrid and electric vehicles, some of which top the equivalent of 100 mpg.

"Remember, this is a race, and 100 mpg or equivalent is our floor," Diamandis said. "It's not enough for us to have one or two cars in the marketplace (from traditional automakers). We're looking to bring 51 vehicles from 41 teams around the world competing all tot he marketplace. We're looking to create a new generation of cars, a new paradigm. You don't hve to choose any more between safe, good looking, fast and efficient, you can have it all."

Diamandis has undergraduate and graduate degrees in aerospace engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a medical degree from Harvard. He's a passionate advocate for private spaceflight, having established the original X Prize for the first private reusable suborbital spaceship.


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