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Student Engineers Win National Road Rally

Racing from New York City to Washington, D.C., four UW-Madison College of Engineering students won the hybrid category of this year's American Tour de Sol road rally championship, an annual event for electric, hybrid and solar-powered vehicles. The students--Ted Bohn, Mike Ryan, Neel Vasavada and Mark Daun--were also recognized for having the vehicle with the best overall energy economy.

Approximately 50 corporate, student and independent teams from throughout the United States and Germany participated in the 350-mile Tour de Sol, organized by the Northeast Sustainable Energy Association. The UW-Madison entry, a 1992 Ford Escort Wagon that has faired well in previous national competitions, is propelled by an electric motor that draws power from an 830-pound lead acid battery pack. When the battery is low, a 25-horsepower generator supplies the needed electricity. The hybrid vehicle reaches a top speed of 80 mph, can accelerate to 40 mph in eight seconds, and achieves 50 mpg in the city and 35 mpg on the highway.

Ford Escort

UW-Madison College of Engineering students have faired well in national competitions with this half-electric, half-gas-powered Ford Escort wagon. (large image)

Bohn and Ryan, who have driven in national hybrid electric vehicle events since 1993, said key factors in the victory were the addition of a Baldor high-efficiency electric motor and a new fuel-injected Kohler engine. We had good breadth in our performance," said Bohn. "Our vehicle was consumer friendly, low on emissions and high on efficiency."

After the competition, the team took its car to a nearby middle school and answered questions from a throng of fascinated students. The vehicle was also displayed at the U.S. Department of Energy building.

Corporate sponsors for the UW-Madison team include Bosch, Baldor Electric, Kohler Company and Johnson Controls.