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Challenge X 2006: Virginia Tech Takes Top Honors

A student team from Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University won the second-year Challenge X: Crossover to Sustainable Mobility, a three-year engineering competition designed to improve the fuel efficiency and reduce the environmental impact of a 2005 Chevrolet Equinox. The Virginia Tech team developed and built a hybrid version of the Equinox that uses two electric motors and runs on E85, a fuel blend containing 85 percent ethanol and 15 percent gasoline. The Virginia Tech vehicle also exhibited the best braking and handling, the lowest tailpipe emissions, and the lowest petroleum usage. The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and General Motors Corporation (GM) are the lead sponsors for Challenge X, in which 17 teams of North American engineering students are participating (see box). Argonne manages the competition every year.

Challenge X, a unique three-year engineering competition, provided 17 North American university teams with the opportunity to follow GM's Global Vehicle Development process and create advanced propulsion technology solutions. This year's competition was held at GM's Desert Proving Grounds May 30 - June 8 in Mesa, Arizona.

Other teams that placed at the top in the competition include University of Wisconsin-Madison (second place), Mississippi State University (third place), Ohio State University (fourth place), Pennsylvania State University (fifth place), and University of Tennessee (sixth place).

Like Virginia Tech, most of the teams in this year's competition used a combination of hybrid technology and alternative fuels, filling their tanks with E85, B20 (a diesel blend containing 20 percent biodiesel), or hydrogen. For example, the University of Wisconsin-Madison students designed a through-the-road parallel biodiesel electric hybrid with a diesel 1.9-L turbo-charged engine. The Mississippi State University team developed a split-parallel, through-the-road hybrid electric vehicle that runs on B20 biodiesel.

Deviating from the pack was the University of Waterloo, which employed a hydrogen fuel cell. While Virginia Tech and most other teams drew on a nickel-metal-hydride battery for their power supplies pack (the same type used in today's hybrids), the University of Akron also added ultracapacitors, and West Virginia University's power supply came from ultracapacitors alone. Two teams employed lithium-ion battery packs, while the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor forsook electrical storage, and instead employed a hydraulic system to store the vehicle's mechanical energy. The list of technologies (437kb pdf) used by each team is posted on the Challenge X Web site.

The first year of Challenge X, which began in 2004, focused on vehicle simulation and modeling and subsystem development and testing. In years two and three, students integrate their advanced powertrains and subsystems into the Chevy Equinox. The final competition will be held at the end of the 2007 academic year.

"The demonstration of performance and realization of vehicle designs in this year of Challenge X was phenomenal," says Argonne's Steve Gurski, Lead Technical Coordinator – Challenge X. "Testing in record temperatures in the Phoenix area challenged the student teams to their limits, and they were able to rise to the occasion. Year two of Challenge X utilized cutting-edge vehicle testing technologies such as on-road emissions that will be the basis of future competition emissions testing. If the fantastic results of year two are any indication, year three of Challenge X will be truly spectacular."

Participating Challenge X Teams
  • Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University
  • Texas Tech University
  • University of Wisconsin-Madison
  • University of Akron
  • Mississippi State University
  • University of California, Davis
  • The Ohio State University
  • University of Michigan
  • Pennsylvania State University
  • University of Texas at Austin
  • University of Tennessee
  • University of Tulsa
  • Michigan Technological University
  • University of Waterloo
  • Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology
  • West Virginia University
  • San Diego State University

 


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