From the Elektra One electric airplane to Siemens’ plug-in hybrid aircraft, we’ve been seeing a lot of eco-friendly airplanes lately. While we love any airplane that doesn’t spew massive amounts of carbon emissions, the fact is that most planes are still gas-guzzling beasts, which is why search giant Google has teamed up with NASA to sponsor the NASA Centennial Challenge competition (a.k.a. the Green Flight Challenge). Google is working with aircraft technology research group CAFE Foundation to find a winning design that shows emission-free flights are not only practical, but entirely possible. The first place team will take home a whopping $1.3 million, the largest ever in civilian aviation.

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The Green Flight Challenge was first announced back in 2009. Qualifying aircraft designs must be able to fly 200 miles in under two hours, and achieve the equivalent of 1 gallon of gas per passenger. Thirteen teams are registered for the competition, and seven of the designs are electric, three are hybrids, one runs on ethanol, and another runs on bio-diesel. They range in size from the smallest (spanning 16.7 feet) to the largest (at 69 feet). We’ve covered several of the planes, like the Elektra One by PC Aero and the e-Genius electric glider, right here on Inhabitat.

The planes’ batteries will be recharged with geothermal energy from geo-thermal fields in the Mayacama Mountains North of Santa Rosa at the CAFE Flight Test Center’s first-ever Electric Aircraft Charging Station, which will be sponsored by Google. Prototypes of all of the designs will be shown to the public at the Google Green Flight Challenge Exposition hosted by NASA at the Moffett Field-NASA Ames Research Center on October 3.

The first place team will take home $1.3 million in prize money, and the four runners up will also receive cash prizes. There will also be a prize awarded to the best biofuel airplane and the quietest airplane. If you’re interested in attending the challenge exposition, tickets will soon be available for purchase on the CAFE Foundation’s website.

+ Green Flight Challenge

Via Treehugger