Energy & Environment Prize Group

The goal of the Energy & Environment Prize Group is to generate breakthroughs in clean energy, climate change, energy distribution/storage, energy efficiency/use, and water resource management. Advances in these fields will lead to greater sustainability and efficiency, while reducing our dependence on fossil fuels.


Progressive Insurance Automotive XPRIZE

Awarded September 2010

The $10 million Progressive Insurance Automotive XPRIZE was a global competition to inspire a new generation of viable, safe, affordable and super fuel efficient vehicles. The winning teams were the $5 million Mainstream winner, Edison2; $2.5 million Alternative class (tandem seating) winner, X-Tracer; and $2.5 million Alternative class (side-by-side seating) winner, Li-ion Motors. With our partners at Consumer Reports, we advanced the adoption of a new metric, MPGe (Miles per Gallon or gasoline equivalent energy), that offers consumers the ability to make a better comparison of the next generation vehicles using a variety of energy sources and fuels to the conventional cars they drive today. The U.S. Department of Energy was a major supporter of the competition because they believe in incentivizing innovation through competition to reshape the automotive industry. To learn more, click here.

This prize was made possible by a generous grant from Progressive Insurance.

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Wendy Schmidt Oil Cleanup XCHALLENGE

Awarded October 2011

The $1.4 million Wendy Schmidt Oil Cleanup XCHALLENGE was a competition designed to inspire a new generation of innovative solutions to speed the pace of cleaning up seawater surface oil resulting from spillage from ocean platforms, tankers, and other sources. This XCHALLENGE began on August 2010 and culminated in 2011 with head-to-head competitive demonstrations. Team Elastec/American Marine took home the $1 million first place prize, as it tripled the industry’s best rate for recovering oil on the sea surface. To learn more, click here.

This prize was made possible by a generous grant from Wendy Schmidt.

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In Development

Village Utility XPRIZE

Nearly one billion people lack access to safe drinking water and 2.6 billion lack access to basic sanitation. As a result, half of the world’s hospitalizations are due to drinking water contaminated with infectious agents, toxic chemicals, and radiological hazards. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), just one of those infectious agents - the bacteria that causes diarrhea - accounts for 4.1 percent of the global disease burden, killing 1.8 million children a year. There is a radical high tech solution to solve all this. There is more than one mega-joule per day of energy in human feces, which is enough energy to purify drinking water out of urine and organic waste, convert the remaining waste to ash, and even power a few lights and recharge your cell phone. The upside of this “Village Utility” is almost incalculable. For starters, removing human feces from the equation solves an enormous portion of the global disease burden (which also slows population growth). Doing so in a way that is distributed and net-positive for water and power makes this technology radically disruptive.

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Tri-State Carbon XPRIZE

We recycle aluminum, glass, paper, plastic, and yard waste - why not carbon? As of now, no company has successfully commercialized a carbon utilization technology. Current funding has been focused on expensive carbon capture and sequestration, which treats carbon as a liability. A carbon capture and recycling competition challenges teams to create useful and valuable products from the coal plant effluent. The goal is to develop radical new technologies and products that make capturing CO2 from coal plants a profit center, not a liability.

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Concepts Under Consideration

Battery XPRIZE

The best batteries currently offer energy storage densities of 100s of Wh/kg, more than two orders of magnitude below that of liquid fuels. With breakthroughs in higher energy density, lightweight batteries will enable a revolution in electric aircraft, surface vehicles, and robotic applications.

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Energy Scavenging XPRIZE

The Internet has made it possible to network a multitude of devices. However, challenges remain in finding affordable and convenient mechanisms to power small wireless electronic devices/sensors over long periods of time in remote locations (e.g. temperature sensors embedded in the walls of buildings). Fuel storage systems and traditional electrochemical batteries are limited by factors such as fuel supply, battery life, and weight. The ability to leverage small energy fluxes from temperature, pressure, vibration, light, and radio waves in the environment could hold promise for providing mobility, flexibility, and energy efficiency. The purpose of this prize is to bring about a new mechanism for powering countless small, remotely-located sensors over long periods of time from ambient power in the environment.

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Sustainable Apparel XPRIZE

Throughout the lifecycle of an article of apparel, opportunities exist to reduce the human or environmental health impacts of the process. Because the apparel industry is so large and touches every inch of the globe, addressing any of the major sources of negative human or environmental externalities would be a win for human and environmental health. First, most fibers and fabrics used in apparel manufacturing have some associated negative environmental impacts. For example, nylon and polyester are made from petrochemicals and are non-biodegradable. Second, the manufacturing processes - going from fiber to cloth - also has large environmental impacts from a water and energy use and pollution standpoint. Dyeing alone can account for most of the water used in producing a garment with unfixed dye then often washing out of garments and, if untreated, polluting rivers and streams. Third, the environmental impacts do not stop at the manufacturing plant. Packaging and transportation have negative environmental impacts, as does the long term care of products, and the disposal of used apparel. A study conducted for the American Fiber Manufacturers Association showed that in the lifespan of a woman’s blouse - from production to use to disposal - approximately 80 percent of the total system energy is energy used for laundering the blouses.

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Wireless Power Transmission XPRIZE

The goal of this prize is to create radical breakthroughs in wireless transmission technologies that will transform the way we collect and distribute energy, dramatically increase the availability of affordable carbon-free energy, and reduce our dependency on fossil fuels. Innovations in this area will expand the supply of clean energy, remove the need for land dedicated to traditional transmission lines, and positively impact global climate change.

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Electric Aircraft XPRIZE

A new class of all-electric aircraft would help minimize our dependence on fossil fuels. The development of faster and more capable aircraft was initially incentivized annual races held during the 1920s and 1930s. The goal of this XPRIZE is to incent a new generation of fast, safe, long-endurance, electric aircraft that will reduce noise pollution and dependence on fossil fuels.

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ePOD Home Energy Storage XPRIZE

Most utility companies are paid for the amount of power they sell and are provided little incentive for improvements in efficiency. A home-based energy storage system (i.e. an ePod) that is able to buy energy from grid when it is cheap (off-peak) and supply it for household needs when electricity is expensive can lower peak energy demand, lessen pollution, and increase access to renewable power generation. The device will also create greater resiliency to blackouts and brownouts.

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Featherweight Solar & Wind Power XPRIZE

(1) Most solar photovoltaic improvements focus on incremental gains in panel efficiency, not materials or process improvements to reduce weight and therefore cost of production and installation.
(2) Despite the availability of wind, less than two percent of total world power needs are currently met by power generated from wind turbines. Breakthroughs in ultra-lightweight wind turbines would mean reduced costs, increased production rates, and increased ease of installation.

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