Hybrid SUVs and Cars Take Part in Challenge Bibendum

Gas-sipping SUVs and high-mileage sedans built by students at the University of California, Davis, will join teams from the world's leading automakers in Michelin's Challenge Bibendum, Sept. 23 to 25, 2003. The vehicles will be tested on fuel efficiency, emissions and performance and take part in a road rally from Sonoma to San Francisco.

"It's the only event in the automotive world that demonstrates green technologies and is open to all manufacturers and researchers," said Andy Frank, professor of mechanical and aeronautical engineering at UC Davis and director of the Hybrid Electric Vehicle Center.

UC Davis has four gas-electric vehicles entered in the event: "Yosemite," a modified 2002 Ford Explorer; "Sequoia," a 2000 Chevrolet Suburban; "Coulomb," a 1998 Mercury Sable; and "Joule," based on a 1996 Ford Taurus.

Sequoia, the Suburban, won the national FutureTruck competition, sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy, U.S. automakers and others, in 2001. Yosemite, the Explorer, placed second in that competition this year and third in 2002.

All four cars are "plug-in" gas-electric hybrids. An electric motor drives the wheels at lower speeds for city driving, with a range up to 60 miles. On the highway, a gasoline engine provides extra power and maintains the charge in the batteries. The batteries can also be charged by connecting the vehicle to a domestic power outlet overnight.

"The vehicles don't need to be charged from the plug, but if they are, that allows the driver to get to his destination at a fuel cost equivalent to buying gasoline at 50 cents per gallon," Frank said.

Also entered in the competition is a Toyota fuel-cell hybrid vehicle that is leased for research to UC Davis' Institute of Transportation Studies. The Highlander FCHV is a sport-utility vehicle powered by a hydrogen fuel cell and an electric battery. For this event, it will compete as part of the Toyota vehicle fleet.

UC Davis will also host a booth in the Challenge Bibendum Learning Center, where students and faculty members will be on hand to talk about transportation research and education. One of the world's few fuel-cell-powered transit buses, which recently joined the UC Davis research program, will be on display there.

"At UC Davis, we study a diverse range of transportation options for the future. Michelin's Challenge Bibendum is a wonderful showcase of those options, and we'll have 30 students and faculty there teaching and learning," said Dan Sperling, director of the transportation institute.

In previous competitions, the UC Davis gas-electric hybrid SUVs have achieved fuel economy of about 30 miles per gallon, with driving performance equal to or better than a stock vehicle. The Explorer, with nearly 300 horsepower in its gas and electric motors, can accelerate from zero to 60 miles per hour in just 7 seconds.

Coulomb, a hybrid Mercury Sable with a UC Davis-designed continuous automatic transmission, has achieved fuel economy of over 50 miles per gallon with a zero to 60 miles per hour acceleration comparable to a standard model.

When running on gasoline, all the UC Davis vehicles are designed to meet California's Super Ultra Low Emissions Vehicle (SULEV) standard. Running on electric motors only, they qualify as zero emissions vehicles (ZEVs) -- even when towing a load.

Events begin Sept. 23 with a public display at Sonoma Square, Sonoma. The next day, Sept. 24, in activities closed to the public, vehicles will be put through their paces at Sonoma's Infineon Raceway. On the final day, the teams will rally through the Sonoma Valley, cross the Golden Gate Bridge and finish at San Francisco City Hall, with a public display at Crissy Field.

Challenge Bibendum was established by the Michelin Group to bring together and test the best available technologies for environmentally positive vehicles. The annual event features vehicles from major manufacturers on three continents and brings together all partners in the automotive world: vehicle manufacturers, designers, energy suppliers, technical leaders, policy-makers, universities, government organizations and trade media.

More than 100 passenger and commercial vehicles are expected to participate in this year's event. Other competitors in the event include manufacturers Audi, BMW, DaimlerChrysler, Ford, Freightliner, General Motors, Honda, Hyundai, Isuzu Truck, Nissan, Volkswagen, Volvo Car and Volvo Truck. In addition to UC Davis, other university teams competing are the University of Wisconsin-Madison, the University of Oklahoma, Georgetown University and Michigan Tech.

Challenge Bibendum is one of the few events to compare different advanced technologies head-to-head. The event is open to all energy sources from electric cars to gas-electric hybrids, fuel cells and hydrogen powered buses. Advanced technology vehicles are rated on emissions, acceleration, braking, handling, noise and energy efficiency during the annual competition.

The UC Davis team participated in the first Challenge Bibendum in southern California in 2001, and in last year's event in Europe.

Media Resources

Andy Fell, Research news (emphasis: biological and physical sciences, and engineering), 530-752-4533, ahfell@ucdavis.edu

Andy Frank, Mechanical and Aeronautical Engineering, (530) 752-8120, aafrank@ucdavis.edu

Dan Sperling, Institute of Transportation Studies, 530-752-6548, dsperling@ucdavis.edu

Dahlia Garas, Hybrid Electric Vehicle Center, (530) 848-3706, dmgaras@ucdavis.edu

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