Wired NextFest Report: Virginia Tech's ethanol-electric Equinox

Ohio State wasn't the only school exhibiting an impressive alternative-powered car at NextFest. The Hybrid Electric Vehicle Team (HEVT) from Virginia Tech brought along their Challenge X-winning Equinox.

Challenge X is a 3-phase competition in which 17 teams were chosen to re-engineer an Equinox with the goal of minimizing energy consumption, emissions and greenhouse gases while maintaining performance and utilization.

Virginia Tech's 30 mechanical engineering students took an E85-electric hybrid approach. The car mates a 67 kW Ballard AC induction motor to a Saab 2.0 liter turbo. Kurt Johnson, Virginia Tech graduate student and HEVT's team leader, said they achieved 19.6 mpg during the competition which involved many rigorous stops and starts.

The competition is currently in the 3rd phase in which involves vehicle refinement aiming to deliver a "showroom model" with consumers in mind. Having won phase 2 and owning the overall lead in Challenge X, Kurt expressed a quiet confidence in HEVT's performance over the final stage which will be judged at the end of the academic year in 2007.

To find out more about the Hybrid Electric Vehicle Team (HEVT) at Virginia Tech, visit www.hevt.me.vt.edu.

To read more about Challenge X, go to www.challengex.org.

More pics after the jump.

The big red button mounted to the right section of the rear bumper is an emergency electrical disconnect.

Kurt was kind enough to remove an interior panel to show me what he called the "brains" of the vehicle. Yes, that is a Netgear router/switch.

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