UT Wins Future Truck Awards

KNOXVILLE – The University of Tennessee won awards in three categories at the Future Truck competition recently at the General Motors Proving Ground in Milford, Mich.

UT won awards for best off-road performance and best teamwork, and UT engineering professor Jeff Hodgson was named best faculty advisor.

UT also placed second in the computer modeling competition, finishing eighth overall out of 15 teams. The University of Wisconsin at Madison team had the top overall score.

Hodgson said Tuesday that UT’s success came despite an electric motor failure in
their modified Chevrolet Suburban SUV.

“We came here and zipped through the qualifying rounds, then our electric motor seized up,” Hodgson said. “We had to pull the engine and install a spare in one day.

“It took a lot of teamwork and impressed the judges that we were able to work together accomplish that task in record time.”

Each team was given a brand new Chevrolet Suburban in 1999 and $10,000 in seed money. They modified the vehicles to be more fuel-efficient and less polluting while retaining the safety, comfort and performance of the original vehicle.

UT used a hybrid electric power train, advanced electronics, lightweight materials and other strategies to modify their vehicle, Hodgson said.

The vehicles were exhibited Friday at the U.S. Capitol to tout their progress toward cleaner, greener transportation of tomorrow, Hodgson said. The Future Truck awards ceremony was held that same evening at the Smithsonian Museum in Washington.

“We were disappointed that the failure kept us from competing in three events but gratified by the fact that we were able to press on, regardless of the problem,” Hodgson said. “I think we set the stage for bigger and better things in next year’s competition.”

In 10 alternative fuel competitions over the last 11 years, UT has won three and finished among the top four nine times.

The U.S. Department of Energy and General Motors Corporation are the primary sponsors of the Future Truck program.

Ford Motor Company will replace General Motors as the automotive sponsor in the second two years of competition while the U.S. Department of Energy will continue to provide financial, organizational and technical support.

Competing universities include: Concordia University; Cornell University; George Washington University; Georgia Tech; Michigan Technological University; Ohio State University; Penn State University; Texas Tech University; University of California, Davis; University of Idaho; University of Maryland; University of Tennessee; University of Wisconsin-Madison; Virginia Tech; and West Virginia University.

Complete information about Future Truck can be found on the Web at www.futuretruck.org.