Campus: Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo -- October 12, 2001

Cal Poly Students Team Up to Make SUVs 'Greener'

A multidisciplinary team of Cal Poly students is working to make sport utility vehicles "greener."

Cal Poly's team is one of 15 selected from universities across the country to take part in Future Truck 2002, a national competition drawing on college students' ingenuity to help make sport utility vehicles more "environmentally friendly" without reducing vehicle performance.

This year's sponsors are the Ford Motor Co. and the U.S. Department of Energy. The Ford Motor Co. has contributed $10,000 seed money and a 2002 Ford Explorer to the Cal Poly team.

"Cal Poly's first challenge is to raise additional funding needed to achieve its design goals," said Andrew Johnson, the team's marketing manager.

The vehicle "showcases the ultimate in hybrid vehicle design," Johnson said. "It combines the power and poise of a fully functional SUV with trace emission levels.

"To those that say, 'Power and functionality do not go hand in hand with non-polluting, environmentally friendly vehicles,' we reply, 'How does a full-time, all-wheel-drive, 200-horsepower, 1-ton towing package and a huge 32 miles per gallon sound?'"

Cal Poly, the newest contestant in the Future Truck competition, was chosen because of its "outstanding new design, past experience with competitions, and its famous, hands-on, 'learn-by-doing' approach," Johnson said.

The teams work to meet certain emission criteria without compromising vehicle performance.

"The trucks are designed to be aesthetically pleasing and practical while also helping to clean up the environment," Johnson said.

For the competition, Cal Poly engineering students will introduce a state-of-the-art engine that uses technology known as 'homogeneous charge compression ignition,' according to Johnson.

"So far, this technology has only existed in a laboratory setting," Johnson said. "We will be the first to put it to actual use.

With the support from engineers at Sandia National Laboratories, we will show the world how incredibly efficient and powerful this engine technology is.

"Cal Poly's unique solution to the hybrid conversion not only sets us apart from the other participants," Johnson said, "it sets us apart from current automotive trends. Our design uses a series hybrid motor/generator that allows for near zero emissions of greenhouse gases.

"The lab results have made our team very confident the transition from the lab to the road will be smooth," Johnson added.

The Cal Poly students plan to have a functional vehicle ready for competition by spring 2002. Cal Poly has assembled the largest team of the 15 competitors, bringing together top students from the College of Engineering and Orfalea College of Business. The multidisciplinary team includes students in aeronautical, electrical, environmental, and mechanical engineering as well as in business and marketing.

For more information, contact Johnson at (805) 235-6310.

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