Who said it's difficult to defend a championship title?
For the second consecutive time, Mississippi State University won the General Motors and U.S. Department of Energy's Challenge X competition, which saw 17 teams from different colleges and universities attempt to transform an ordinary Chevrolet Equinox into the most efficient hybrid SUV available.
Using a lot of creativity and time (all teams spent four years purchasing equipment for and developing their hybrids), students were able to create vehicles that underscore the importance of clean, alternative energy, and energy conservation.
However, to win the Challenge X competition, students had to worry about more than just improving their Equinox's gas mileage and emissions.
Participating teams and their Equinox hybrids were graded in several different categories, including vehicle acceleration, on-road energy use, Equinox consumer acceptability, drivability, and technical presentation. Teams were penalized for issues such as ground clearance and poor vehicle reliability.
Mississippi State's winning through-the-road parallel hybrid electric SUV was powered by a GM 1.9-liter, direct-injection turbocharged diesel engine (fueled by B20 bio-diesel). The MSU vehicle achieved a 38-percent increase in fuel economy over the ordinary production Equinox vehicle.
The University of Wisconsin and Ohio State University won second and third place, respectively. Both universities also chose to power their vehicles with the same GM-sourced 1.9-liter turbocharged diesel engine.
The University of Michigan was the only participating school that was not able to get its Equinox hybrid to properly function. Michigan's team chose to apply "series hydraulic" hybrid technology that, according to other Challenge X teams and advisors, "was very difficult to engineer into the Equinox."
Beth Lowery, GM Vice President, Environment, Energy, and Safety Policy said advanced powertrain technologies and alternative fuels play a key role in GM's overall strategy to help decrease the nation's dependence on petroleum and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
"From colleges across North America, Challenge X students have developed vehicles that are right in line with GM's strategy and thinking," Lowery said. "At GM we're excited about the real-world training and experience Challenge X students have received."
Though no official announcement has been made, some Challenge X teams say they expect GM to donate a fleet of Saturn Vues for the next competition.