Students Re-Engineer Ford Explorer

| September 18, 2002

Students Re-Engineer Ford Explorer to Burn Less Gas, John Lyons-Gould, Sierra Club Planet Newsletter
Last June, teams from 15 different North American universities gathered for FutureTruck 2002, an engineering competition sponsored by the Ford Motor Company. Each team came equipped with a midsize Ford Explorer that they had spent the previous months re-engineering to become cleaner and at least 25 percent more fuel efficient. The catch was that the SUVs had to retain their existing performance, utility, safety, and affordability. Fuel cell propulsion, alternative fuels, and gas/electric hybrid technologies were all represented as the Fords were tested, once at Ford's Arizona Proving Ground for performance and durability, and again at the University of California at Riverside for emissions. At the end of the 11-day event, first prize was awarded to the team from the University of Wisconsin-Madison for their bio-diesel hybrid model, which reduced the Explorer's previous greenhouse gas index by 50 percent and improved its fuel economy by 45 percent. 'Automakers have existing technology to dramatically increase fuel efficiency in today's vehicles,' says Kate Simmons of the Sierra Club's Energy and Global Warming Campaign. 'It's mind-boggling that they haven't already.' Ford, at least, may be listening. Its new hybrid SUV, the Escape, to be released in late 2003, will reportedly get 40 miles per gallon.
--Chuck Terhark
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