The University of Wisconsin was king of the road at this year's FutureTruck Competition.
Students there reengineered a base 2002 Ford Explorer to get 35% better on-road fuel economy and 39% less greenhouse-gas emissions. The vehicle also used lightweight aluminum components and ran on a biodiesel mixture.
Fifteen engineering teams from universities across the country took part in the competition. Capturing second place was the University of California-Davis with a parallel plug-in hybrid system, fueled by ethanol.
The FutureTruck challenge is to lower emissions and boost over-the-road fuel economy 25%. The U.S. Dept. of Energy and Ford Motor Co. sponsored the event, held at Ford's Michigan Proving Grounds in Romeo. Teams spend 10 days testing their reengineered SUVs for everything from acceleration to off-road performance. "This competition fosters tomorrow's engineers by encouraging them to explore clean, fuel-efficient automotive technologies," says Ford's Al Kammerer, executive director of sport-utility vehicles and body-on-frame. "FutureTruck's goals parallel Ford's research on advanced-propulsion vehicles and its attempts to make SUVs more fuel efficient."