SEAS team prepares for FutureTruck competition

A delegation of students from GW’s School of Engineering and Applied Sciences are among students from 15 schools chosen from across the United States and Canada to compete in the FutureTruck competition, sponsored by the General Motors Corporation and the Department of Energy.

The sponsors chose the competitors from 99 proposals.

The competition challenges teams to develop alternative fuel systems to increase energy efficiency and lower emissions. The vehicles must also meet customer expectations.

The whole process has been ongoing for the past two years, said junior Dan Boucher, head of the GW team.

“The first year involved submitting design work,” he said. “We submitted a very aggressive plan. The second year involves implementing that plan into a prototype.”

Boucher said GMC provided the team with a stock truck so they could convert it into an environmentally friendly machine.

“Essentially, a stock truck is a truck that is right from the factory, nothing has been done and no dealer has touched it after it was completed,” senior Brian Murphy said. “What we want to do is make a gas-electric hybrid, like a Honda Insight, only an SUV.”

In June the team will bring a prototype to the GM-Milford grounds in Michigan, where the trucks will undergo several days of testing. Other schools competing include Georgia Tech, Penn State and Cornell universities.

The FutureTruck competition includes a series of technical events, such as consumer acceptability, engineering design review and technical oral presentations. The competition also includes performance events, such as acceleration, trailer tow performance, off-road handling and on-road fuel economy.

The goal of the competition is to develop technologies that reduce total cycle greenhouse gas emissions, according to the competition Web site.

Boucher said the winner receives presidential-like treatment.

“The trucks are shipped to D.C. where a police motorcade escorts the trucks from the Arlington National Cemetery to the Capitol and they are put on display and the winner is announced at the Smithsonian,” he said.

Boucher said SEAS Dean Timothy Tong provides support for the project.

“He has allocated some funds for us,” Boucher said. “The different departments have also been supportive through various monetary funds and contributions of professors’ time.”

Boucher said that the group has made significant progress, and believes it will be a strong competitor.

“Some teams weren’t as aggressive with their design as us, but I think we will pull it off,” Boucher said.

Murphy said he has enjoyed the challenging experience.

“It is definitely worthwhile, but sometimes frustrating. But when you have created something out of nothing it is worthwhile,” Murphy said.

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