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Auto X Prize cuts green-car contest pool in half

NEW YORK (AP) -- The organizer of a $10 million contest to develop next-generation green vehicles said Monday it narrowed down its list of competitors by half, with qualifying teams ranging from Indian car giant Tata Motors to a team of Cornell University engineering students.

The Progressive Insurance Automotive X Prize said it has trimmed its pool of contestants to 43 teams from 10 countries who passed a vehicle design phase. The teams submitted a total of 53 vehicles. They now move to a performance and safety testing phase, with the winner to be announced next September.

The Automotive X Prize will award $10 million to teams that develop viable, production-capable vehicles that exceed 100 miles per gallon or the equivalent efficiency. Its organizer, the X Prize Foundation, is best known for the Ansari X Prize, which led to the first manned private spaceflight in 2004 and is also sponsoring contests in genomics, health care and a moon landing.

The remaining teams in the Automotive X Prize, several of which gathered at the Classic Car Club in downtown Manhattan Monday, are submitting a range of vehicles powered by different fuel types. Tata's entry is a battery-powered electric vehicle. The team of Cornell students entered a hybrid diesel-electric race car, while other teams submitted vehicles powered by biofuels, gasoline and other fuels.

"The teams and vehicles represented in this group are the most viable in our competition and we believe that together they are positioned to make a huge impact on the automotive marketplace," said Peter Diamandis, X Prize CEO and Chairman, in a statement.

The prize purse is split into two categories: mainstream and alternative cars. Mainstream cars must carry four or more passengers, have four wheels and come with creature comforts like climate control and audio systems. Alternative vehicles have less stringent requirements.

Of the vehicles moving to the next phase, 28 are in the mainstream class and 25 in the alternative class.

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