TW4XP may not be the catchiest name in the Progressive Automotive X-Prize line-up, but this unusual-looking battery-powered three wheeler does have staying power. As one of only eleven vehicles left in the competition – and one of only six in the Alternative Side-by-Side category (the others are the Aptera 2e, Li-ion Motors' Wave II, the RaceAbout, Western Washington University's Viking 45 and the Zap Alias) – the TW4XP still has a chance to drive away with the $2.5 million prize.
TW4XP hails from Germany, and the car was built just for this competition. The name stands for "three wheeler for X-Prize," after all. We talked with Matt Childress, an American team member, who said that even with the team's singular focus, it's been a tough competition. This past week, during the Finals Stage, they had a problem with the X-Prize's communication system that was connected to the TW4XP to relay data to the judges. The problem was serious; it immobilized the car. Once the telematics device was disconnected, the car operated just fine and the team was allowed to continue. "We are the team with nine lives," Childress said. The biggest challenge for the vehicle-to-grid capable TW4XP is the range test, which Childress said "is always a problem with electric vehicles."
Childress has a long-standing connection to the people who are running the TW4XP in competition sine they're also behind the Twike, a human-electric hybrid that is available in Europe. There are two Twike models, the Easy and Active, and neither one is cheap – prices range from 20,000 to 40,000 Euros, depending on battery size – but almost 1,000 have been sold since they went on sale in 1996. You can read more in this PDF. Childress has been using a Twike as his daily driver for the past few years, and said there are around 20 in the U.S.
Whether or not TW4XP wins the Side-by-Side class, the team plans to bring something to market based on the vehicle, maybe with a partly-removeable powertrain. The idea here is that, if the pedal-power hybrid setup from the Twike makes the jump to the TW4XP, it could maybe be taken out so people can use it as an exercise device in their home. So, instead of driving your car to the gym and then going on the exercise bike, you have your gym with you.
There's a video about the TW4XP team at the X-Prize after the jump. You can also follow the TW4XP blog here.
Photos by Sebastian Blanco / Copyright ©2010 Weblogs, Inc.