WWU's Viking 45 advances to second stage of the $10M Progressive Automotive X-Prize competition

John Thompson
University Communications

Viking 45, the entry of Western Washington University’s Vehicle Research Institute, has made it into the next stage of the Progressive Automotive X-Prize Competition at Michigan International Speedway outside Detroit.

The Progressive Automotive X-Prize is a global competition to produce a 100-mpg production automobile, and WWU is one of only two universities in the nation entered ­– the other is Cornell. The goal of the X-Prize competition is to inspire a new generation of viable, super-efficient automobiles that help break the world’s addiction to oil and stem the effects of climate change. To that effect, 22 teams now remain, from India’s giant Tata Motors – an $8.8-billion-per-year behemoth – down to teams with far fewer resources like the VRI.

The first performance stage of the competition, the Shakedown Stage, ran from April 26-May 7. The field of entries has been winnowed down from more than 110 teams a year ago through a series of benchmarking and production stages as well as the just-completed Shakedown Stage, which claimed four more teams.

The next stage of the competition, the Knockout Qualifying Stage, starts June 15. Viking 45 is technically on “probation” and has to show that a number of small issues identified by the judges in the last stage have been fixed before it can begin, but VRI Director Eric Leonhardt said these issues – such as leaving out some interior paneling, a question about the type of fasteners used, and the implementation of a backup potentiometer for the accelerator – have all been remedied and the car shouldn’t have any problems with the pre-stage inspection.

“We’ve addressed the items they asked us to address, and we feel good about the tech inspection,” said Leonhardt. “And the stage itself will be very competitive, but we’re excited about it.”

The Knockout Qualifying Stage will pit the vehicles in each class in series of performance tests, such as zero-to-60 acceleration speed, 60-to-zero braking length, lane change, an emissions test, a durability test, and the all-important miles-per-gallon test. In this stage, any vehicle that can’t meet the minimum specification of 67 miles per gallon is automatically disqualified. That number rises with each successive stage, reaching 100 miles per gallon in the finals.

Only 10-20 teams will advance to the Finals Stage in July, and about 8-15 teams will likely go on to the final Validation Stage in August. In September, three of the remaining teams will be chosen as the contest’s winners, splitting $10 million in prize money between them.

For more information about Viking 45 or the WWU X-Prize team, contact Eric Leonhardt at (360) 650-7266 or eric.leonhardt@wwu.edu. For more on the X-Prize competition, go to http://www.progressiveautoxprize.org/.

Friday, May 14, 2010 - 4:37pm