April 2, 2003

Students predict improved SUV fuel economy/emissions reduction

Los Angeles, California – Less than two months remain before the finals of the 2003 FutureTruck competition and teams of students are confident they’ll exceed the goal of achieving 25 percent better over-the-road fuel economy in SUVs and also are certain they can significantly reduce overall emissions.

FutureTruck challenges teams of students from 15 top North American university engineering departments to re-engineer a mid-size 2002 Ford Explorer to improve fuel economy and lower emissions while maintaining the safety, performance and comfort levels that have made them so popular. The competing teams employ many novel ideas and approaches that provide both near- term and long-term solutions to increasing efficiency and decreasing the overall environmental impact of light-duty vehicles.

“The experimental vehicles that are developed in the FutureTruck competition give the engineering students the opportunity to explore various automotive technologies and use creative applications to reach the program’s technological goals without being restricted by development, production or cost processes typically associated with mass vehicle production,” said Al Kammerer, Executive Director, SUV and Body on Frame, Ford Motor Company. “These efforts reflect Ford’s own goals to develop advanced technologies to continuously improve fuel economy and emissions in our vehicles.”

By integrating hybrid electric vehicle (HEV) design strategies, lightweight materials, hydrogen internal combustion engines and applying various fuel applications, the teams are forecasting their SUVs will surpass the competition goals for 2003.

Last year, seven out of ten teams achieved better overall over-the-road fuel economy compared to the base 2002 Ford Explorer. The University of Wisconsin at Madison achieved a greenhouse gas reduction greater than 50% and increased the Explorer’s over-the-road fuel economy by 45 percent. The team re-engineered components and used advanced materials such as an aluminum/steel hybrid frame and a titanium exhaust system.

“More than 50 percent of all new vehicles sold are SUVs and light duty trucks, which have historically been less fuel-efficient than passenger cars,” said Bob Larsen, Director of the Center for Transportation Research at Argonne National Laboratory. “By increasing the fuel efficiency of vehicles, including SUVs, it will help decrease our dependence on foreign oil and help boost our economy.”

The final competition involves more than ten days of intense testing, such as acceleration and off-road performance events to determine which team will win the challenge. Various judging events will take place at Ford’s Michigan Proving Ground in Romeo and the Allen Park Testing Lab in Allen Park, Michigan. The winning university team will be announced at a press conference June 13th as part of Ford’s centennial celebration in Dearborn, Mich.

Ford Motor Company and the U.S. Department of Energy are the headline sponsors for the 2003 FutureTruck competition. Argonne National laboratory, a DOE R&D facility, provides competition management, technical and logistical support. More than 16 other government and industry sponsors also support the program.

Competing universities for FutureTruck 2003 are: California Polytechnic State University, San Louis Obispo; Cornell University; Georgia Tech; Michigan Technological University; The Ohio State University; Pennsylvania State University; Texas Tech University; University of Alberta; University of California, Davis; University of Idaho; University of Maryland; University of Tennessee; University of Wisconsin-Madison; Virginia Tech; and West Virginia University.

Additional information about the FutureTruck 2003 program is available on the web at http://www.futuretruck.org.

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