February 6, 2007

Ontario students working in Texas on GM’s Challenge X

Austin, Texas – Engineering students from 17 North American universities, including Ontario’s University of Waterloo, are meeting at the University of Texas-Austin to learn how to use advanced technologies to deliver environmentally-friendly, functional and fuel-efficient vehicles to consumers.

The students are part of Challenge X, sponsored by General Motors and the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE). The program began in 2004 and was slated for completion this year, but GM and the DOE have extended the program until 2008; the fourth year will give student teams the opportunity to focus on independent customer acceptability and over-the-road reliability and durability of their advanced-propulsion systems, with real-world evaluation outside of the laboratory and proving ground environment. Currently, city officials and journalists are test-driving the students’ vehicles.

At the Austin Winter Workshop, the students are learning how to refine their vehicles to near-showroom quality, a required component of the program’s third year. In the first year, the students focused on math-based simulation, modeling, subsystem development and testing; in the second year, the student teams performed initial integration of their experimental powertrain designs into a Chevrolet Equinox. Student entries include bio-diesel hybrids, gasoline hybrids, bio-ethanol hybrids, plug-in hybrids and fuel cell propulsion schemes. The vehicles are judged in such areas as towing capacity, acceleration, ride and handling, noise and vibration, greenhouse gas impact, total well-to-wheels fuel economy, emissions and consumer acceptability.

The Challenge X teams will reconvene for the third-year competition from May 30 to June 7 at GM’s Milford Proving Ground in Michigan, where they will vie for more than US$90,000 in cash prizes and awards. For more information, visit ChallengeX.org.

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