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Future Automotive Engineers Converge in Detroit for Ethanol Vehicle Challenge

18 May 1999

U.S. Department of Energy: Future Automotive Engineers from 14 Universities Converge on Detroit for Ethanol Vehicle Challenge
    MILFORD, Mich., May 18 -- While car fans everywhere will turn
to the Indy 500 later this month, the eyes of many of America's top automotive
engineers will be focused on an altogether different kind of competition.
    That's when an elite group of college students converge this Thursday at
General Motors' (GM) Proving Ground in Milford, Mich., with something big to
prove:  that the four-wheel-drive 1999 Chevy Silverado pickup trucks they
re-engineered to run on ethanol fuel not only can perform as well as their
gas-powered counterparts, but also can stand up to the rigors of a five-day
test at one of the world's most sophisticated automotive testing centers.
    The 200 students -- representing 14 of the top U.S. and Canadian
engineering colleges and universities -- as large as the University of
Nebraska and as small as Ohio's Cedarville College -- will come together
outside Detroit May 19 to compete in the 1999 Ethanol Vehicle Challenge, a
college-level automotive engineering competition sponsored by U.S. Department
of Energy (DOE), GM, Natural Resources Canada and others.
    At stake for these students is more than $21,000 in prizes, a chance to
demonstrate both their engineering ingenuity and the technologies they've
developed to future employers, and bragging rights across North America.
    The Challenge tests the student designs for converting Chevy trucks with
5.3L, V-8, Gen. III gasoline-powered engines to vehicles that run on E85 (a
blend of 85 percent denatured ethanol and 15 percent gasoline primer).
Ethanol, a domestic renewable fuel generally made from sugars from corn
starches, is one of several alternative fuels endorsed by both DOE and Detroit
as a cleaner-burning, renewable alternative to gasoline and diesel fuel.
    "These student efforts are paving the way for ethanol to fulfill its
potential  to reduce foreign-oil dependence, pollution and global warming.
Beyond the technology these students may develop, however, sponsorship of
these competitions goes a long way toward developing engineers of the future
-- and that benefit cannot be overemphasized," said Shelley Launey , DOE
Director of Clean Cities.

    Opportunity to 'Dream up' and Demonstrate
    Now in its second year, the Ethanol Vehicle Challenge is one of several
college automotive engineering competitions sponsored by the U.S. DOE and
America's automakers.  The competitions challenge student teams to design
advanced automotive technologies, but also offer aspiring engineers a rare
opportunity to 'dream up' and demonstrate solutions to real-world problems.
Indeed many of the student competitors are eventually hired by the automakers;
65 percent of last year's 200 Ethanol Vehicle Challenge graduates were offered
jobs in the auto industry.
    The benefits of the competition go far beyond the classroom, however.
Both the DOE and GM -- along with 11 other sponsors and supporters -- are able
to use the information gathered during the vehicle competitions to bring
cutting-edge results closer to the consumer's driveway.  In 1998, for example,
GM tested the ethanol-power vehicles to validate a new diagnostic instrument
that could one day reduce emissions testing costs for alcohol-fueled vehicles.
    "GM intends to learn from the experiences of the participating schools
about ethanol vehicle technology," said Ed Koerner, Executive Director of
powertrain, chassis, HVAC and cooling systems.  "Our plan is to transfer that
knowledge to our alternate fuels programs as quickly as possible."
    The students' work began last November when each team took possession of a
1999 Chevy Silverado 4x4 pickup donated by the GM Truck Group.  Next week, the
teams travel to Detroit for the final evaluation of their vehicles.  The
Challenge includes five days of intense vehicle and student testing at GM's
Milford, Mich., Proving Ground, followed by a two-day, 600-mile "victory
    The competition, conducted May 19-23, includes technical reports and oral
presentations by the students, as well as a series of performance tests for
the trucks.
    Once the contest is complete, the teams and their ethanol-powered trucks
will form a motorcade and, from May 24-26, travel more than 600 miles to test
the reliability of the converted trucks.  Scheduled stops include the State
Capitol Building in Lansing, Mich., the GM assembly plant in Ft. Wayne, Ind.,
the State Capitol Building in Indianapolis, Ind. and the Williams Ethanol
plant in Peoria, Ill.   The motorcade ends at the Illinois State Fairgrounds
in Springfield, where the winners will be named May 26.

    Developing Engineers of the Future
    Awards will be made for first through fifth place in overall performance,
plus categories such as most appealing vehicle, lowest emissions and best fuel
    While the competition begins on Wednesday, May 19, opening ceremonies for
the Challenge are scheduled for 1 p.m. (EDT) Thursday, May 20, at the Milford
Proving Ground.  Speakers include Richard Moorer, associate deputy assistant
secretary for transportation technologies, DOE; Ian McEwan, director of
engineering, quality and product assurance, GM Proving Ground, and Tom
Stephens, GM Vice President and Group Director, Truck Group.
    Other sponsors include:  Illinois Department of Commerce and Community
Affairs, State of Nebraska, Council of Great Lakes Governors, Renewable Fuels
Association, the Illinois Corn Marketing Board, Governors' Ethanol Coalition,
National Corn Growers Association, Canadian Renewable Fuels Association,
Williams Ethanol, GROWMARK, Delphi Automotive and Energy Systems.

    Overall Engineering Design     Overall design and execution of the vehicle
                                   conversion, including fuel delivery and
                                   induction, emissions control and

    Emissions                      EPA's Standard Federal Test Procedure and
                                   Highway Fuel Economy Test are conducted
                                   (measures, oxides of Nitrogen, Hydrocarbons
                                   and Carbon Monoxide)

    Cold start                     How quickly the truck starts after spending
                                   eight hours in sub-freezing temperatures.

    Driveability                   How well the engine responds after warming

    Acceleration                   How quickly the truck accelerates from a
                                   standing start over a quarter mile.

    Noise                          The amount of noise the vehicle makes while
                                   traveling at approximately 37 mph.

    On-road fuel economy           Under controlled conditions, how far the
                                   truck, loaded with 1,000 lbs. of sand, can
                                   travel before it runs out of fuel.

    Hill climb                     How quickly the truck can pull a 7,000 lb.
                                   ballast trailer up a constant 7 percent

    Off-road event                 How well the truck maneuvers, accelerates
                                   and brakes on a gravel road.

                          Ethanol Vehicle Challenge:
                            Participating Schools

    Schools competing in the 1999 Ethanol Vehicle Challenge include:

     -- Cedarville College (Cedarville, Ohio),
     -- Crowder College (Neosho, Mo.),
     -- Idaho State University (Pocatello, Idaho),
     -- Illinois Institute of Technology (Chicago),
     -- Kettering University (Flint, Mich.),
     -- Minnesota State University (Mankato, Minn.),
     -- University of California at Riverside
     -- University of Illinois at Chicago
     -- University of Kansas at Lawrence
     -- University of Nebraska at Lincoln
     -- University of Texas at Austin
     -- University of Texas at El Paso
     -- University of Waterloo (Waterloo, Ontario, Canada)
     -- Wayne State University (Detroit)