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Profile: Harnessing Youthful Ideas

After spending a year researching various technologies in the quest to develop a crossover vehicle requiring less petroleum and improved emission performance, more than 17 teams from a variety of universities throughout the U.S. and Canada displayed their concepts at the second Challenge X: Crossover to Sustainable Mobility competition held at GM’s Mesa, AZ, proving grounds; the competition is underwritten by GM and the U.S.

After spending a year researching various technologies in the quest to develop a crossover vehicle requiring less petroleum and improved emission performance, more than 17 teams from a variety of universities throughout the U.S. and Canada displayed their concepts at the second Challenge X: Crossover to Sustainable Mobility competition held at GM’s Mesa, AZ, proving grounds; the competition is underwritten by GM and the U.S. Department of Energy, with a number of other software and technology component suppliers offering support at various levels. This year, teams were challenged to put their ideas into working—or provable—concepts, all based on a 2005 Chevrolet Equinox. Teams devised a number of hybrid-based solutions including through-the-road parallel and series hybrid solutions, complete with regenerative braking and high-load electrical assist, with many using bio diesel or ethanol-based fuels to power their vehicles. One team went to the outer limits by devising a series fuel cell vehicle. While the team from the Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (Blacksburg, VA) took the top spot with their split parallel hybrid with two electric motors running on E85—accomplishing a 74% reduction in overall petroleum use—all still have a third and final year of competition to perfect their concepts by following GM’s Global Vehicle Development process through to its conclusion. If you’re sensing an ulterior motive on GM’s behalf, you are right. The automaker said it hired several students directly from the competition this year and will watch the teams as they progress over the next 12 months to pick another few ripe apples from the engineering tree. As the automaker and the government began exploring the program, universities were hesitant to offer academic credit for participating in Challenge X, but they eventually relented when the benefits were laid out on the table. Now, not only does academia get increased access to funding and support from the world’s highest-volume auto manufacturer, they also give their students an avenue to careers after achieving their diploma.
 

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