1 August 2002
Students boost SUV mileage numbers
Davis, Calif.—One of the problems with a sport utility vehicle (SUV) is it gets incredibly poor gas mileage. But engineering students at the University of California at Davis see that as a challenge.
They turned a 2002 Ford Explorer into a low-emissions vehicle with at least 25% higher fuel economy—without sacrificing performance, utility, safety, and affordability.
The students are among the Top 15 North American university engineering schools that competed in the 2002 FutureTruck competition.
UC Davis's entry, called Yosemite, is a "plug-in" hybrid electric vehicle. An onboard battery and electric motors power the vehicle during low-speed city driving and on trips of up to 50 miles. A small, fuel-efficient gasoline engine powers the vehicle for extended highway driving. Drivers can charge Yosemite's batteries at night using inexpensive off-peak electricity, or they can drive it indefinitely, stopping only to refill the fuel tank.
Using electricity from the wall plug to power the vehicle is extremely efficient and results in doubling fuel economy and reducing tailpipe emissions to below California's strictest Super Ultra Low Emission Vehicle standards. For people concerned about global warming, "plugging in" reduces Yosemite's carbon dioxide emissions below that of other, much smaller hybrid electric vehicles that cannot be plugged in.
FutureTruck is a joint government/industry project the Department of Energy created to explore alternative propulsion systems and fuels through student competition. The program's goal is to help raise the environmental performance of popular SUVs while keeping the amenities and features that have made them so popular.
The winner of the event was the University of Wisconsin at Madison, which scored 839 points out of a possible 1,000. Michigan Tech took second place, and UC Davis came in third. Last year, UC Davis won first place overall with Sequoia, a modified 2000 Chevrolet Suburban.
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