UW Engineering Students Work on Fuel Economy of the Future

By: Zac Schultz
By: Zac Schultz

Madison: If you're wondering how you can afford to travel when gas costs $2.25 at the pump, the answer may be in getting 40 miles per gallon.

While that's out of reach for most vehicles today, UW Automotive Faculty Advisor Glenn Bower says it's not unrealistic for the vehicles of tomorrow. "More like a Ford Taurus will be in the high 35's to the 40 range 5 years from now is what I'd predict. The SUV's will be around 30."

Bower and his students have dominated the FutureCar and FutureTruck competitions since the late '90's. And fuel economy has always been a key factor in victory.

"It plays a very large part. This vehicle managed to get 83 miles a gallon on a test track," says UW student Kristi Morrissey.

Morrissey says solving these problems is more than getting a good grade or securing a job after graduation. "That's a great feeling knowing you're actually able to help the environment out. You're able to help with the oil problems the country has."

They've been working on hybrid engines and cleaner diesel emissions for years, and some of their work has already is already on the road. "In 1999 we incorporated the engine stop mode. So as you're coming to a stop you shut the engine off. Two years later the Toyota Prius had that in that vehicle," says Bower.

And if using any gas is still too much, the one seated Carbon Free Car may be for you. UW Renewable Energy Program advisor Ted Bohn explains, "This car for the rest of its life will never use any carbon based fuel. When it's windy we collect the wind. When it's sunny we collect the sun. And if it's neither we use hydrogen. The car goes about 150 miles on a charge."

The company that originally marketed the Carbon Free Car is already out of business.

So while some of these ideas work better here than in the marketplace, this is definitely the time of change in the way drive. "It's exciting and somewhat scary at the same time because it's going to be a big change for the world," says Bower.

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