Students Re-Engineer Ford Explorer

Students Re-Engineer Ford Explorer to Burn Less
John Lyons-Gould, Sierra Club Planet

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
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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