Around the World on Three Gallons of Gas

It's not a small world when you have to get around it with barely any gas. (Photo: NASA)

If you could build a perfectly flat road around the equator and were driving the car that won Japan's Eco-Run efficiency race in 2001, you could get all the way around with less than $15 in gas. The car that won that year got a mind-boggling 8,080 miles per gallon.

More than 300 teams competed this year to drive a vehicle around a 10.4-mile track using the least amount of fuel. Their cars need to have at least three wheels and be less than 12 feet long.

The contest was open to all comers, so high school kids got to mingle and rub elbows with engineers who work on jet engine aerodynamics during the day. The world is a better place because of contests like this — we're advancing the knowledge of fuel efficiency while inspiring young people to study greener engineering in school.

The X Prize Foundation, the organization behind the Ansari X Prize which offered $10 million to the first people who launched a reusable manned spacecraft into space twice within two weeks, is working on a suite of prizes for environmental goals tied to clean energy and low impact living. Automotive Insurance is sponsoring the Automotive X Prize and will give away $10 million to anyone who makes a commercially viable car that gets 100 miles per gallon.