FutureTruck project announces first year results

Industry, government and universities deliver economic-environmental benefits

provided by FutureTruck 2000

he final numbers are in and the winners of the FutureTruck 2000 competition are official. Fifteen university engineering teams spent two blistering weeks under the Arizona sun, where teams of experts evaluated their experimental, high-tech, "super trucks" of the future. And the biggest winners of this contest so far are everyone who cares about cleaner air and fuel conservation.

Two universities in particular, the University of Maryland and West Virginia University, turned in such strong performances they ended up tied for first place overall in this year's competition. One of Maryland's strongest events was on-road fuel economy, where it demonstrated a 12 percent increase over the fuel economy of the stock Chevrolet Suburban. West Virginia earned its strongest score in the greenhouse gas impact evaluation, where it showed a 23 percent decrease in greenhouse gas emissions compared to the stock vehicle.

Each of the top finishing universities achieved these results while maintaining much of the overall performance of the original production-model Chevrolet Suburban.

The third place finisher, Virginia Tech, designed a FutureTruck capable of using a hydrogen fuel cell as its main power source. Fourth place finisher, the University of California at Davis, demonstrated the highest on-road equivalent fuel economy. At 18.7 miles per gallon, this is a 13 percent increase over the stock Suburban.

With material, technical and financial support from General Motors and the US Department of Energy, 15 university teams from the United States and Canada took on the task of reinventing the sport utility vehicle. They are creating designs for the "super truck" of the near future.

The challenge was to maintain all the "truck-ness" - the ability to carry cargo and pull heavy loads such as trailers while reducing fuel consumption and greenhouse gas emissions. With gasoline hitting unheard-of prices in recent months in the United States, reducing fuel consumption in large vehicles such as these takes on increased significance.

"The first year of this competition has been a real 'everybody wins' situation," said Mark Maher, Director of Powertrain Systems for General Motors Truck Group. "The student team members are leaving here with incredible experience in advanced automotive technologies, GM has developed great recruiting opportunities for the best talent, and the rest of the country will eventually benefit from the types of cleaner, more efficient technologies we're seeing here."

The entire world has already had a preview of these FutureTruck strategies. Thanks to the other headline sponsor, Yahoo! Inc., portions of the competition were made available worldwide through live webcasts. Anyone with an internet connection was able to log on, right from their desktop, and watch each team describe their vehicle design and the various strategies they were using to create their FutureTruck.

Each team began their project with the same building blocks. General Motors donated a brand new Chevrolet Suburban and $10,000 to get each team started. Then GM and DOE provided technical and logistical support as the universities worked their way through the endless challenges along the road to higher fuel economy and lower greenhouse gas emissions.

The Department of Energy has, for many years, supported and sponsored advanced technology automotive programs. DOE sees this support as an important factor in reducing dependence on imported oil and addressing the strategic disadvantages of that dependence. The fuel needs of motor vehicles create America's single, largest demand for petroleum. FutureTruck and other advanced automotive projects provide a cost-effective, practical way to address that demand for fuel and, at the same time, develop strategies for reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

The FutureTruck teams competed in more than a dozen technical events. They were evaluated on safety, performance, towing ability, greenhouse gas emissions, fuel economy, consumer acceptability and other areas. Every vehicle demonstrated innovative approaches to the fuel economy and greenhouse gas emission challenge.

This year, the first of a two year project based on the Chevrolet Suburban platform, produced some specific award-winning performances in several categories:

Overall Scores:

  • First: West Virginia University, University of Maryland (tie);
  • Third: Virginia Tech;
  • Fourth: University of California at Davis;
  • Fifth: University of Wisconsin-Madison;
  • Sixth: Ohio State University.

Other Awards included:

  • Lowest Greenhouse Gas Emissions: West Virginia University;
  • Best Acceleration: Georgia Tech;
  • Best On-The-Road Fuel Economy: University of California at Davis;
  • Best Off-Road Performance: University of Maryland;
  • Best Use of Advanced Technologies: Michigan Tech;
  • Best Consumer Acceptability: Virginia Tech.

General Motors, the US Department of Energy and Yahoo! Inc. are the headline sponsors of FutureTruck 2000. Other sponsors include the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration; the National Science Foundation; the Aluminum Association; Automotive Testing Laboratories, Inc.; Delphi Automotive Systems; Natural Resources Canada; the Governors' Ethanol Coalition; the Renewable Fuels Association; the National Biodiesel Board and Newark Electronics. General Motors is supplying vehicles, seed money and prize money to the universities for this first stage of competition. Ford Motor Company will replace General Motors as the automotive sponsor in the second two years of competition, while the US Department of Energy, through Argonne National Laboratory, provides financial, organizational and technical support.

Competing universities include: Concordia University; Cornell University; George Washington University; Georgia Institute of Technology; Michigan Technological University; Ohio State University; Penn State University; Texas Tech University; University of California, Davis; University of Idaho; University of Maryland; University of Tennessee; University of Wisconsin-Madison; Virginia Tech; and West Virginia University.