Six West Virginia University engineering students are Arizona-bound to see how a vehicle they redesigned for fuel efficiency fares against similar vehicles from 14 other schools.

The WVU students will be participating in FutureTruck 2000 June 8-15 at the General Motors Proving Ground in Mesa, Ariz.

“Participation by students in this competition places them at the leading edge of automotive technology today,”said Chris Atkinson, faculty adviser for WVUs team.”It makes their skills immediately marketable and puts them in line for the top engineering jobs in the automotive industry.”

The competition, sponsored by GM and the U.S. Department of Energy, evolved from the FutureCar Challenge. Participating student teams modify the powertrain on a GM sport utility vehicle to increase fuel economy. They may employ various advanced automotive technologies, including hydrogen fuel cells, hybrid powertrains that combine electric motors with internal combustion engines, space-age lightweight materials, advanced electronics and alternative fuels.

WVUs vehicle, a Chevrolet Suburban, has been re-engineered as a hybrid electric vehicle, said Dr. Atkinson, a professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering in the College of Engineering and Mineral Resources.

During the week-long competition, vehicles will be judged on safety design, greenhouse gas impact, acceleration, handling, exhaust emissions, braking, fuel economy, off-road performance and other features.

Atkinson said that in addition to giving students an opportunity to develop marketable skills, the FutureTruck competition also teaches them the importance of teamwork.

“This is a team competition, which means that the students have to work very effectively together,”he said.”This particular team has shown tremendous depths of ability in being able to convert the vehicle from a conventional to a hybrid vehicle in less than six months.”

Information about FutureTruck 2000 can be found on the web athttp://members.aol.com/futurcar/. To find out more about WVUs FutureTruck project, visit the teams web site athttp://www.cemr.wvu.edu/~hev/.

Members of WVUs team are:

  • Jason Conley, team leader, Bridgeport
  • Sam Taylor, Richwood
  • Steven Glaeser, Morgantown
  • Csaba Toth Nagy, Morgantown
  • Emmanuel Malenya, Morgantown
  • Nene Azu, Morgantown