New College MPG Challenge Comes with $1 Million Purse

by Benjamin Jones on March 20, 2008

Where will you be from August 14th – August 23rd? For my part, I’ll be doing my best to represent my college at the Great Race MPG Challenge, driving from New York to San Francisco on as little fuel as possible.

Why would I be doing this? Because this year, to mark the 100th anniversary of the 1908 Great Race, the organizers of Hybrid Fest will be running a competition to see if any college teams can break 100 MPG in a cross country race.

More about the race after the break!

Here’s what the organizers have to say about the purpose of the competition:

Our goal? To encourage students, alumni, faculty and business to combine forces and discover the perfect combination of technology and driving habits to reach the magic number of 100 MPG. Sounds crazy, right? So did driving across the Bering Straits in the winter. Right now, people we call “hypermilers” are doing just that! In fact, one team achieved almost 110 MPG in an unmodified Toyota Prius and another scored 186 MPG with a Honda Insight! These are the very same cars you will find on the road today.

Every team will have a Prius to modify and then race, and will have to make the 4,000 mile journey within the rally time limits. If the winning team gets over 100 MPG over the entire trip they will take home the Great Race Innovation Prize of $1 Million, to be given to their school’s scholarship fund. Other teams will win prizes depending on their performance in the competition.

For a $5,000 entry fee any college can field a team made of of students, faculty, or other representatives of the college. As I have been told by the event organizer there is already interest at many schools and there will likely be a large field of competitors.

The most exciting thing about this contest is the combination of your standard Toyota Prius and the ability to do many modifications to that platform. Drivetrain mods are out, but it should be very interesting to see how a combination of driving skills, aerodynamics, and weight reduction can improve on what is generally thought of as the Prius “gold standard.”

This competition grew out of a larger plan to reenact the round the world trip from the 1908 Great Race, but the MPG Challenge portion fell through because the organizers could not find sponsors for such a large event. Unfortunate as that is, it’s great that there will still be a competition to help bring some of these issues to light in the public sphere.

For more information (though the site is still rather bare), and to sign up for email updates, check out the MPG Challenge homepage. And of course, more updates to come as a possible team goes through the works!


“Here is what I want my Prius to end up looking like.”
EcoModder forum thread about proposed aerodynamic mods to a 2nd generation Prius.

Prius aero mods (undertrays, grille block, mirror delete…)
Details of a front and rear undertray installation and passenger side mirror delete on a 2nd gen Prius.



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1 Clayton March 20, 2008 at 7:41 pm

Good luck Ben!

2 John March 21, 2008 at 10:26 pm

Cute idea. Too bad they’re still using gas driving people across the continent for nothing more than show!! I’ll still enjoy watching it.

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