The challenge of FutureTruck was to re-engineer a Ford Explorer to achieve at least 25% higher fuel efficiency and lower emissions without sacrificing performance, utility, safety, and affordability. Fifteen engineering teams from universities across North America took up the gauntlet. FutureTruck is sponsored by Ford Motor Company, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), and more than a dozen other industries and supporters. Now in its third year, the competition has challenged more than a thousand of the best and brightest engineering students from the U.S. and Canada.
After months of preparation, on June 9-17, 2004, teams participated in a series of intense testing and other events at Ford's Michigan Proving Ground in Romeo. First, vehicles faced a comprehensive safety evaluation, followed by dynamic testing such as acceleration, trailer tow, off-road and on-road fuel economy, and static-design events such as vehicle-design inspection, consumer acceptability, and oral presentations. Ford's Allen Park Test Laboratory evaluated tailpipe and greenhouse-gas emissions. The FutureTruck vehicles participated in a road rally across the Detroit metropolitan area on the morning of June 17, culminating in a Finish-Line Ceremony at Ford World Headquarters in Dearborn.
Students from the University of Wisconsin — Madison took top honors by re-engineering a base 2002 Ford Explorer to achieve a 33% increase in on-road fuel economy and a 50% reduction in emissions over the stock vehicle. The winning vehicle, a parallel hybrid that uses a compression-ignition engine with an advanced catalyst system capable of super ultralow emission-vehicle (SULEV) level emissions, also met the competition's safety and performance requirements.
The second-place vehicle, re-engineered by students at Pennsylvania State University, is a hybrid-electric vehicle that uses a 2.5-L common-rail diesel engine and an AC-induction motor. Penn State implemented a urea-selectivecatalytic-reduction system, among other measures, to significantly reduce diesel emissions. The Georgia Institute of Technology was awarded third place overall with a split-parallel, through-the-road hybrid powertrain with an AC-induction electric that drives the front wheels and a six-cylinder engine that drives the rear wheels — a design that would allow the hybrid-electric powertrain to be a factory option.
This year's competition, held at Ford's facilities in Romeo and Allen Park, Mich., was the grand finale of the program. Teams squared off in eight days of vehicle testing that measured acceleration, towing ability, fuel economy, off-road performance, and greenhouse-gas emissions, among other qualities.
"Our team has worked hard over the past three years to re-engineer our Explorer, and we're proud to take home first prize in the final FutureTruck competition," says Glenn Bower, team advisor for Wisconsin — Madison. "The students have learned a lot through this program, and look forward to applying that knowledge and their enthusiasm to the real world of vehicle design."
The Wisconsin — Madison team used a Ford Lynx 1.8-L compression-ignition engine in conjunction with a modified Delphi EV1 AC induction motor in a post-transmission parallel hybrid. A selective catalytic-reduction catalyst and particulate filter helped Wisconsin strive for SULEV emissions.
Six teams achieved better on-road fuel economy in this year's contest. Ten teams managed to maintain or exceed the base Explorer's performance while lowering environmental impact through greenhouse-gas emissions.
"This competition helps develop tomorrow's engineers by giving students a hands-on opportunity to work with and explore clean, fuel-efficient technologies," comments Al Kammerer, Ford's executive director of SUV and body-on-frame vehicles. "These engineers will lead the automotive industry in the 21st century."