The Automotive X Prize Hits the Road

What will the car of the future be like? We might catch a glimpse this week. Thirty-six ridiculously efficient (and, in many cases, ridiculous-looking) cars are arriving at the Michigan International Speedway today for the first on-track tests in the Automotive X Prize. The challenge: Design, build, and race a 100-mpg vehicle that could reach a mass market. The prize is a $10 million purse, split between three winning teams.

The contenders come from all over the world. There's a team from Aptera and one from Tata Motors, there are a handful of university teams, and there are a few wacky upstarts (see photo). Their inventions run on everything from hydrogen to electricity to plain old gasoline. There are a few pictures on the X Prize Facebook page and more are sure to come.

In the "shakedown" stage that begins today, the cars are going through initial tests for efficiency and safety as well as some on-track challenges. Teams start getting eliminated this summer. By September, three lucky winners will have a few million in cash—and the world might have a new car powered by cold fusion just like in Back to the Future II.