NU Students Compete in National Ethanol Vehicle Challenge

Nebraska Governor Nelson (second from left) congratulates NU team. Joining the Governor are Associate Engineering Research Dean Samy Elias at left, mechanical engineering students and co-team leaders Frank Pruitt and Kevin Halvorsen and the team's co-faculty advisor, Associate Professor William Weins.

Engineering students across the nation will be revving up cars with fuel made from corn and other crops such as grain sorghum in a new vehicle competition.

University of Nebraska-Lincoln students and fourteen teams from 13 other colleges and universities will compete in the National Ethanol Vehicle Challenge being sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy and General Motors.

"The time is right for an Ethanol Challenge," said Tom Gross from the U.S. Department of Energy. "Because ethanol can be made from crops grown in North America, it is truly an American fuel for American autos. This Challenge will not only build vehicles, but it will also help 'build' the engineers who will carry their knowledge and enthusiasm for ethanol throughout their engineering careers."

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The students will convert a 1997 Chevrolet Malibu, originally powered by gasoline, to a vehicle fueled by 85 percent ethanol and 15 percent gasoline, a fuel mixture commonly called E85. The goal of the contest is to run the car with the alternate fuel while meeting or beating the performance of conventional gasoline engines.

A 30-member team from the University of Nebraska from freshmen to graduate students will work on modifying their entry in the competition. The team plans to beat the gasoline engine's performance by at least 25 percent by increasing the engine's compression ratio and adding a turbocharger. The team may even change some of the engine's basics such as pistons and crankshafts.

During the week-long finals of the competition next May at the General Motors Technical Center in Michigan, the vehicles will be put through a rigorous series of tests for emissions, acceleration, range, handling, energy efficiency, cold start capability, and a design report. After the tests, the teams will travel 600 miles to a Washington, DC, conference to demonstrate that ethanol vehicles are practical and reliable.

For more information about the National Ethanol Vehicle Challenge, contact Shelley Launey at 202-586-9815 or or Carlos Buitrago at 630-252-7261 or

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