June 30, 2010 in Business

Tango advances to finals of X Prize competition

Spokane electric car maker could win $2.5 million payout
By The Spokesman-Review
File photo

The Tango, a two-seat electric car currently entered in a competition for efficient vehicles, drew plenty of attention in Olympia in this 2003 photo. For updates on the Tango in the Progressive Insurance Automotive X Prize, go to www.progressiveautoxprize.org.
(Full-size photo)

Spokane electric car maker Rick Woodbury on Tuesday completed his second round of competition in the international Progressive Insurance Automotive X Prize. That leaves him one step closer to a possible $2.5 million payout for producing one of the world’s most efficient vehicles.

Woodbury’s battery-powered Tango just qualified in the X Prize knockout round, the second phase in a contest that started with more than 50 vehicles submitted by 41 teams from around the world.

This latest round required the Tango to travel several miles on a Michigan race track at the equivalent of at least 67 miles per gallon. Finalists eventually need to show their vehicle is capable of steady performance at 100 mpg equivalency.

“We were measured at 86.8 mpg fuel equivalency,” said Woodbury. He said he’s confident he will tweak the battery placement on the Tango and drive the course a “little smarter” when the finals occur.

The finals run from July 17-30 at the same track outside of Ann Arbor.

Progressive Insurance, through the X Prize Foundation, is offering $10 million in prizes for three categories – mainstream vehicles; alternative side-by-side; and alternative tandem. The Tango is in the last group with a $2.5 million prize.

Finalists must also have a 100-mile range and be production-ready models. The rules allow for non-electric competitors but because of judges’ criteria, the winners likely will generally rely on electric power, Woodbury said. The alternative vehicles must carry two or more passengers.

Five of the six vehicles in the tandem group are qualified for the finals, said Woodbury.

Woodbury’s Spokane company, Commuter Cars, has sold about a dozen of the vehicles, which cost more than $100,000. The car he’s driving in the competition has been purchased by Google co-founder Sergey Brin.

If Woodbury wins, he has said he’ll use it to develop new versions of the Tango.

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