Sunday, April 22, 2007

Earth Day

A $10 million dollar prize might spur some innovation.

Editorial: The prize in an Earth Day call for innovators
Published 12:00 am PDT Sunday, April 22, 2007

The race is on this month, and it's a perfect competition for Americans who love reality shows. Except this is not a show. It's a race to your garage.

Can someone anywhere in the world design a car that can go 100 miles on a gallon of gasoline, or the equivalent, no matter the energy source? The car can't be a fancy fantasy model or worthy of a science fair. It must be commercially viable. The inventor's team has to have a business plan for building at least 10,000 cars at a cost that's not out of line with the marketplace today. And don't forget pollution.

The car needs to meet tough emissions requirements.

Rev those energy-efficient engines if you want a $10 million prize for your 100 mpg car, courtesy of the X Prize Foundation in Santa Monica. (In 2004, this organization gave $10 million to the inventors of a private spacecraft that soared above Earth.)

"The industry is stuck, and we think a prize is perfect to disrupt that dynamic," Mark Goodstein, executive director of the Automotive X Prize, told the New York Times earlier this month.

Inducement prizes may be just the ticket for our times. Earlier this year, Virgin Group chief Sir Richard Branson and Al Gore announced a $25 million prize for an innovator who figures out how to remove greenhouse gases from the atmosphere.