Campus: San Diego State University -- May 11, 2004

SDSU Selected for Advanced SUV Technology Competition

Mechanical engineering students, faculty aim to boost energy efficiency, reduce emissions

SAN DIEGO, Tuesday, May 11, 2004 – Students and faculty from San Diego State University’s Mechanical Engineering department have been chosen to participate in a three-year competition to develop a more environmentally friendly sport utility vehicle, the U.S. Department of Energy and General Motors announced today.

The competition, called Challenge X: Crossover to Sustainable Mobility, is sponsored by the Department of Energy and General Motors. The 17 selected universities, which were announced at a press conference this morning in Washington, D.C., will re-engineer a 2005 Chevrolet Equinox, a new compact SUV. The competitors have three basic goals: Reduce energy consumption; decrease emissions; and maintain the performance and utility features of the stock model.

Mechanical Engineering associate professor Jim Burns, who will direct the SDSU team, said all of the participating universities have leading-edge programs that will provide
intense competition. Settling for second, though, is not in his thoughts.

“We intend to build the best new hybrid-electric SUV powertrain – period,” said Burns, who has worked with students in recent years to develop the L3 Enigma, an award-winning, high-performance, hybrid-electric sports car. “Many of the lessons we learned from building the L3 Enigma will be used in this new vehicle. We also have some new tricks up our sleeve that are going to continue to surprise and please both the driving public and the program sponsors.”

The first year of the competition will focus on modeling, simulation and testing of the powertrain and vehicle subsystems. The most promising approaches will receive funding and hardware in the second and third year to incorporate the advanced designs into the Equinox.

Students will use General Motors’ real-world methodology for managing, designing, building and testing their Challenge X vehicle. They will have a hands-on opportunity to work with the latest automotive propulsion and emission control technologies, fuels and materials. The competition will be managed and evaluated by the Argonne National Laboratory, a DOE research and development facility.

“This is a wonderful way to get our students involved in solving real problems,” said David Hayhurst, dean of SDSU’s College of Engineering. “They’ve been given an opportunity to work with some very elite people and institutions. The experience they will gain from this project will be tremendously valuable as they head into industry.”

Burns expects several dozen students per year will have the opportunity to work on the Challenge X project. “Work has already begun on the conceptual design,” he said.
David Garman, acting undersecretary for the Department of Energy and the DOE’s assistant secretary of energy efficiency and renewable energy, said the efforts of the Challenge X students may one day pay huge dividends for the country.

“Advanced vehicle technology competitions such as Challenge X demonstrate pathways which ultimately could help reduce our dependence on oil,” Garman said. “Reducing petroleum use is vital to our nation’s long-term energy security.”
The other teams participating in the competition are: Michigan Technological University; Mississippi State University; Ohio State University; Pennsylvania State University; Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology; Texas Tech University; University of Akron; University of California, Davis; University of Michigan; University of Tennessee; University of Texas at Austin; University of Tulsa; University of Waterloo; University of Wisconsin, Madison; Virginia Tech; and West Virginia University.

Contacts: Jason Foster, (619) 594-2585,

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