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UW's 'FutureCow' Places 3rd in National Competition

FutureCow, a Dodge Intrepid converted into a "super-fuel-efficient" hybrid electric vehicle by a group of engineering students from UW-Madison, placed third in a two-year national competition featuring teams from 12 of North America's top engineering schools. The Madison team also brought home trophies for "best over-the-road fuel efficiency" and "best quality and execution."

Results of the contest, FutureCar Challenge, were announced Wednesday afternoon at a ceremony in Washington, D.C., following a week of testing near Detroit and a 600-mile over-the-road endurance rally to the nation's capitol. FutureCow was the only vehicle to travel the entire 600 miles without having to stop or be towed by a trailer, reports team leader Dan Nickchen.

Kent Krajewski with FutureCow

Kent Krajewski, engine group leader for UW-Madison's FutureCar team, poses with the group's Dodge Intrepid on Engineering Mall. (large image)

FutureCar Challenge is sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy and the United States Council for Automotive Research (USCAR), a joint research effort of Chrysler, Ford and General Motors. It is the student version of the Partnership for a New Generation of Vehicles (PNGV), the national effort begun almost four years ago that combines the resources of federal government, the domestic auto industry and academia to create highly fuel-efficient family cars.

The challenge was for student teams to design super-fuel-efficient cars without sacrificing comfort, safety and consumer acceptability. Each team was given a mid-sized car - a Dodge Intrepid, Chevrolet Lumina or Ford Taurus - and a "seed money" grant to get them started. The student engineers had two years to work on the vehicles. Most are hybrid vehicles, which means they use more than one type of power source. For example, some combine electric motors with internal combustion engines.

The UW-Madison student engineers converted their Dodge Intrepid into a diesel hybrid electric-assisted vehicle, which integrates a turbo direct injection diesel with an appropriately-sized electric motor in a parallel configuration.

Preparing to return to Madison from the nation's capitol Wednesday, team leader Nickchen described the two-year process as "wonderful, challenging and stressful," adding that "the best part has been working together as a team."

The 14-student delegation that traveled to Washington is expected to arrive back in Madison late Thursday afternoon. Their faculty advisor is Mechanical Engineering Professor Wayne D. Milestone.

The University of California-Davis won the competition, with Virginia Polytechnic Institute placing second. The other participating universities were California State University - Northridge; Concordia University; Lawrence Technological University; Michigan Technological University; Ohio State University; University of Illinois - Chicago; University of Maryland; University of Michigan; and West Virginia University.