The US Department of Energy has announced that it will give $5.5 million (£3.4m) from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act to support the X Prize Foundation’s competition to build mass production capable cars that can get at least 100 MPG.

X Prize recently whittled down the amount of qualified teams looking to build cars that can get at least 100 MPG and qualify for the $10 million (£6m) Progressive Insurance Automotive X Prize from 111 to 43. Performance testing will begin in spring 2010 and winners will be announced in September 2010.

The DOE funding builds on a partnership with the X Prize that began in 2008 and with it the agency will provide technical assistance and expand national education and outreach efforts for the competition. The Department of Energy will provide technical expertise to ensure that each of the competition designs is reviewed correctly and consistently.

The DOE said its Vehicle Technologies Program regularly works with schools, the private sector, and non-profit organisations, such as X Prize as part of the Department’s work to develop vehicle technologies and alternative fuels that can reduce greenhouse gas emissions, lessen the country’s dependence on foreign oil, and help the US transportation industry.

The automotive challenge is but one of the wild X Prize challenges going on. The Google Lunar X Prize is a $30 million (£18m) competition for the first privately funded team to send a robot to the moon, travel 500 metres and transmit video, images and data back to the Earth. The Northrop Grumman Lunar Lander Challenge is a two-level, two million dollar competition requiring a vehicle to simulate trips between the moon's surface and lunar orbit.