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Republican bill would award $1 billion for 100mpg midsize sedan

by Ronan Glon

Supporters claim the bill will cost the country less money than offering incentives on green cars.

Congressman Dan Lungren (R-CA) has drafted a bill that is sure to spark a debate on Capitol Hill. It aims to reward the first U.S.-incorporated car company that manages to build a car that gets at least 100 miles per gallon with a massive $1 billion prize.

The bill, called the "Excellence in Energy Efficiency Act of 2012", is the Republican response to the Democrats' backing of hybrid and electric vehicles. Its supporters claim that it will cost the country less money in the long run than offering incentives towards the purchase of a green car.

The challenge proposed by the bill seems easy enough at first glance. Several small companies have already built cars that get 100 miles per gallon or better for the Automotive X Prize contest.

However, the bill is looking for a very specific type of fuel-efficient car. For starters, it must be built by a company that is headquartered in the United States. It also needs to be a midsize sedan, so developing a one-seater that weighs as much as a scooter is out of the question.

Furthermore, the car must run on gasoline, which rules out EVs and hydrogen-powered cars. The bill does not mention anything about hybrid cars, so matching a gasoline engine with an electric motor is presumably acceptable.

Perhaps the most difficult criteria is that a company must sell at least 60,000 examples of the car on U.S. soil in order to qualify for the prize money.

At the time of writing there is not a single car on the market that is eligible for the prize. The bill does not give a specific time frame, so if passed, the money could be claimed several decades from now.