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OSU Hybrid Placed 4th in SUV Competition

Ohio State University's hybrid SUV placed 4th in the recent ChallengeX competition in Mesa, Arizona. The competition, sponsored by General Motors and the Department of Energy, challenges universities to build an SUV that minimizes environmental impacts while maintaining vehicle performance.

That's the sound of Ohio State University's hybrid vehicle, a 2005 Chevrolet Equinox SUV. It looks like a regular vehicle, except that it runs on gas and an electric battery. A team of students designed the vehicle for ChallengeX. ChallengeX is a three-year competition that began last year with design and modeling. This year, teams had to actually create a prototype vehicle that underwent a variety of rigorous road tests.

The competition challenged 17 teams from the U.S. and Canada to minimize emissions and gas use without sacrificing performance. Although OSU's vehicle did not win, team member Mike Arnett is happy to finish 4th.

"There were a lot of challenges that we had to overcome once we got out there, many of them, and the top three teams didn't have to, so the fact that we were able to work hard and pull it together at the end, I'm pretty happy with 4th place. We have a whole year to fine tune this car, so I think next year we'll have a better showing than 4th," Arnett said.

Another team member, Azher Salikuddin, said he learned a lot about the engineering principles of working in a team.

"We play to win, but we also play to learn," he said.

The Big Green Bus from Dartmouth College also uses alternative fuel. It recently stopped in Columbus as a part of a nationwide, environmental road trip. The Big Green Bus was designed by students from Dartmouth College. It's a school bus painted green and revamped to run on used cooking oil. The 12 students on tour take turns sleeping on three bunkbeds and two sofas inside the bus as they take their 15,000 mile lap around the country.

One of those students is Andrew Zabel. He says they're trying to get people to talk about alternative energy use and environmental responsibility. Throughout the trip, fuel is free, since the bus collects discarded grease, or what Zabel calls "greasy spoons," from restaurants along the road.

"We go in and have our meal; at the end of our meal, we ask the restaurant manager, 'excuse me, can we have your waste vegetable oil and a lot of people think it's going to be some sort of scam; they think we're out to get them, but we're like no, no really. We have a big green bus out in the parking lot and it runs on waste vegetable oil and they don't believe us, until we bring them outside and we have a 77-foot-long bus that's big and green," Zabel said.

The Big Green Bus's next stop is Ann Arbor, Michigan. Meanwhile, the OSU ChallengeX team is getting ready for the next and final step in the competition.