Challenge X:Mississippi wins first place!

“Someday, your work could be in our museum inspiring those who come after you. You are today’s pioneers, today’s risk takers.”

Cristian Samper
Acting Secretary, Smithsonian Institute
Smithsonian Castle, Washington DC
May 21, 2008

In May, 2004 Challenge X started a competition involving 17 university teams from the United States and Canada to improve fuel economy and lower emissions. When the challenge started the price of gasoline was $206.4. By the time Challenge X was over the price of gasoline was $379.1.

The United States consumes one-fifth of the world’s oil, but has only 3 percent of it’s reserves. We need to diversify our energy in order to diversify our automobiles. The oil companies are not obligated to sell to us at any price. These university students have been working on the future.

The 17 teams that helped inspire our future are: Michigan Technological University; Mississippi State University, The Ohio State University; Pennsylvania State University; Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology, San Diego State University, Texas Tech University; University of Akron; University of California, Davis; University of Michigan; University of Tennessee; University of Texas at Austin, University of Tulsa, University of Waterloo, University of Wisconsin; Virginia Tech; and West Virginia University.

All seventeen universities used a crossover, Chevy Equinox, hence the title: Challenge X: crossover to sustainability competition. The university kids employed many advanced powertrain technologies. UC Davis was the only university to use plug-in hybrid technology. In fact, it was part of the reason they didn’t win. You see, there is a little rule that says that you can’t touch your car after 10pm. A plug-in hybrid needs to be plugged in at night to recharge. Since UC Davis couldn’t plug-in, they didn’t have the juice to finish.

The closest any of the crossovers came to using gasoline was one team using reformulated gasoline. Twelve teams used biodisel fuel (B20), three teams used E85. Three teams used hydrogen as a secondary source. Only one team, Canada’s University of Waterloo, was a dedicated fuel cell vehicle using hydrogen.

While the top prize went to the crossover that maintained drivier comfort and vehicle performance I had to smile at the university students that were the scrappiest. One team used leftover hurricane katrina batteries from Prius’. Another team cut out the unibody of their Equinox, so that the discarded elevator motors they had found could be utilized.

The University of Wisconsin’s car was named Moovada. The cow is Madison’s mascot and, according to Glenn Bower, a faculty advisor from University of Wisconsin, they used borrowed the rest from Bravada. Bower’s group bought a used Equinox and used the old adage, measure twice, cut once. UOW mocked up the old Equinox, then put it all together in the new Moovada Equinox. They also tried gasoline/hybrid before deciding on diesel hybrid. It needs to be said that UOW helped Mississippi State the previous year. According to Bower UOW is the “Only university that changed no sheet metal.”

General Motors imbedded an engineer with each university, and in the end hired almost sixty engineers from these seventeen schools. Department of Energy (DOE) and Argonne Laboratory have also hired university engineers.

Moovada was Wisconsin’s nickname for their car. Michigan Technological University’s nickname was “Huskynox”. University of Tennessee-Knoxville named their car “Revolution-X”. The University of Akron’s nickname was “Joey”, UC Davis’ nickname was “Trinity” and the slogan for University of Michigan was “Live Green, go Blue”. But my favorite was San Diego State University’s “Frequinox”, and their slogan was “Green fuels good”.

These challenges are about the vehicle right now, but just as we can’t assume that we will fuel with the same energy we drive with today, we can’t assume the fueling infrastructure will be the same as today. These challenges get tougher ever year. The future is now and it is here. In includes conservation and renewable fuels.

According to General Motors, EcoCAR: The NeXt Challenge is the next university competition series that kicks off in the Fall of 2008. Sponsored by the DOE and GM as well as Natural Resources Canada and others, EcoCAR will challenge university engineering students across North America to design and build advanced propulsion solutions that are based on the vehicle categories from the California Air Resources Board (CARB) zero emissions vehicle (ZEV) regulations. Students will be encouraged to explore a variety of solutions including electric, hybrid, plug-in hybrid and fuel cells. In addition, they will incorporate lightweight materials, improve aerodynamics and utilize alternative fuels such as ethanol, biodiesel and hydrogen.

The following teams have been selected to compete in the EcoCAR competition:
¢ Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University (Daytona Beach, FL)
¢ Georgia Tech (Atlanta, GA)
¢ Howard University (Washington, D.C.)
¢ Michigan Technological University (Houghton, MI)
¢ Mississippi State University (Starkville, MS)
¢ Missouri University of Science and Technology (Rolla, MO)
¢ North Carolina State University (Raleigh, NC)
¢ Ohio State University (Columbus, OH)
¢ Pennsylvania State University (University Park, PA)
¢ Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology (Terre Haute, IN)
¢ Texas Tech University (Lubbock, TX)
¢ University of Ontario Institute of Technology (Oshawa, Ontario, Canada)
¢ University of Victoria (Victoria, British Columbia, Canada)
¢ University of Waterloo (Waterloo, Ontario, Canada)
¢ University of Wisconsin (Madison, WI)
¢ Virginia Tech (Blacksburg, VA)
¢ West Virginia University (Morgantown, WV)

About the Author:

Lou Ann Hammond is the CEO of Carlist and Driving the Nation. She is the co-host of Real Wheels Washington Post carchat every Friday morning and is the Automotive, energy correspondent for The John Batchelor Show and a Contributor to Automotive Electronics magazine headquartered in Korea. Hammond is a founding member of the Women's World Car of the Year #WWCOTY, and the Concept Car of the Year, and former member of the North American Car and Truck of the Year #NACTOY. She is a guest contributor for Via Corsa magazine and Vicarious magazine.