GM's Challenge X Comes to DC

The other day, the Green Piece Blog was invited to the arrival of GM's Challenge X teams in Washington, DC. After driving from New York to DC, stopping at a few places in between, the teams were going to finally arrive at their final destination, the Department of Energy headquarters.

Challenge X is a competition hosted by GM and the US Department of Energy that is designed to encourage young engineers to think about new technologies that will reduce fuel consumption and greenhouse gas emissions.

This is the fourth year for the competition. In the first year, university teams from the US and Canada worked in simulation environments to test different engineering choices in a way that mirrored early vehicle design. At the end of the year, 17 teams received a stock Chevrolet Equinox "crossover SUV." In years two and three, those teams moved onto the next phase in vehicle design, integrating the advanced powertrain and vehicle subsystems into the actual automobile. For this, the final year, the teams moved into the final phase of development, implementing safety, comfort and marketing plans for their finished products.

Those finished products drove from New York to DC and arrived at the ceremony we attended. Waiting for the cars was a huge crowd of students waving checkered flags and wearing their team polos. The cars on the outside lall ooked the same, with the exception of different stickers plastered all over the windows and doors. They did, however, sound a little different from each other as they drove by. This was due to the different approaches each team used in making their vehicle more fuel efficient and environmentally friendly.

The different factors each team could tweak in their vehicle included: HEV architecture, engine, fuel, transmission, energy storage, and motor. The teams chose to use a range of fuel options including reformulated gasoline, bio diesel, hydrogen and ethanol.

The first place winning team for the competition was Mississippi State University with their Equinox that contained a "through the road" parallel hybrid electric system with a 1.9L GM direct injection turbo diesel engine utilizing bio diesel fuel. Their car increased fuel economy of the Equinox by 38%. Second place went to the University of Wisconsin and third place went to Ohio State University.

Some other accomplishments of the teams included a vehicle from Virginia Tech that reduced its wheel-to-wheel petroleum use by 77%. Fourteen of the 17 teams successfully reduced the green house gas impact of their vehicles, including the University of Wisconsin's vehicle which reduced its impact by 52% compared to the stock Equinox.

Overall, this looks like it is a great project. Hopefully GM is serious about implementing some of the teams' great achievements into their line of vehicles soon.

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