What's the best way to improve nearly every aspect of a car's performance? Make it lighter. Shedding weight is guaranteed to make a car both better to drive and more fuel efficient, and that's why innovative crowd-sourcer Local Motors is hoping to spur a major development in automotive dieting with a new design contest.

Local Motors' new LITECAR Challenge asks participants to create a "purely conceptual, novel lightweight vehicle" that can demonstrate a path to increased efficiency, There are no restrictions on what materials or technologies can be used, but the finished product must take the form of a standard five-passenger sedan, and must demonstrate the ability to meet current safety standards.

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Local believes reducing weight is the key to unlocking increased fuel efficiency, noting that while fuel economy has roughly doubled over the past 40 years, average curb weights have remained stagnant. That shows a lot of advancement in virtually every area besides weight reduction.

Befitting its crowd-sourced business model, Local also hopes an answer can be found be trawling the Internet. Yet while other contests—like Local's sports-car design challenge—were intended to yield production-ready vehicles, this one seems more conceptual.

Reducing the weight of production cars has proven challenging for automakers because of the higher cost of lightweight materials like aluminum or carbon fiber, and the need to add heavy safety equipment and other features to meet consumer and regulatory demands.

Local is now accepting submissions and will continue to do so until March 6, 2015. A panel of judges will review the entries and award $150,000 in cash prizes—including $60,000 for the winner. If you'd like to submit an entry or review what other have already sent in, head over to the LITECAR Challenge website.


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