Inventor's competition behind automotive series

The X Prize Foundation — which hands out big cash prizes to inventors who succeed in making various breakthroughs — is turning to reality TV for its next competition.

Juma Entertainment (“The Superstars,” “The Singing Bee”) has signed on to produce a series that follows the race to win the Automotive X Prize.

Sponsored by Progressive Insurance, the Automotive X Prize will award $10 million to whoever is the first to create vehicles that reach the energy equivalent of 100 miles per gallon of gas.

The contest was announced in March 2008 — and since then has registered 100 teams, including Tata Motors, India’s largest auto company; California-based Aptera Motors, which is entering a three-wheeled electric vehicle; and West Philly Hybrid X Team, which consists of inner-city high school students.

X Prize Foundation president/vice chairman Bob Weiss called the competition “ripe for TV,” while Juma’s Bob Horowitz said he thought the faceoff was “overflowing with television potential.”

“This is true reality TV, complete with colorful characters, ingenious technological triumphs and unanticipated setbacks,” he said.

Juma will next shop the program to networks.

Competition begins in mid-2010; teams will compete in design, development and on-road testing divisions. Teams that finish the on-road testing events the fastest, while also maintaining that 100 mpg level, win. Award ceremony will take place next September.

The X Prize launched in 2004 with a $10 million prize for suborbital spaceflight, which was won by Burt Rutan and Mojave Aerospace Ventures. Other contests currently active include a $30 million Lunar X Prize, sponsored by Google, and a Genomics X Prize, sponsored by Archon.

The non-profit X Prize Foundation’s mission is “to create radical breakthroughs for the benefit of humanity.”

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