SAE Congress '08: Riding in MTU's Challenge X hybrid Equinox (video)

I took a ride this morning through downtown Detroit in a 30+ mpg Equinox. Originally, the 2005 Equinox got 25 mpg on the highway and 19 in the city. Two Michigan Technological University seniors represented their school at a ride and drive event at GM's headquarters for the Challenge X while the SAE Congress was going on down the street at Cobo Hall. Todd Cimermancic, team leader, and Doug Sarsen, who is in charge of the powertrain, have both been working on the MTU vehicle since this Challenge X began three years ago and were great guides to explain how a group of just over a dozen student (it's fluctuated through the years) has gotten a 30 percent fuel economy increase out of a 2005 Chevy Equinox for the low price of $250,000. Actually, that's how much money has been put into the SUV all together through the years and includes the $300 roof art.

The MTU team decided that reducing weight was the best way to increase mpg, and added lightweight rear seats and polycarbonate windows to shave off a few pounds. The vehicle also has a gas engine that powers the front wheels and a 55 kW electric motor on the rear wheels. With regenerative braking, the Equinox achieves a 30 percent mpg bump, one of GM's original goals for Challenge X. The MTU team has been having trouble with the emissions part of the Challenge, but Cimermancic said he was confident that they'd hit the 30 percent reduction goal with the latest iteration of the system. We'll know the final results when Challenge X ends next month in Washington, D.C. For now, check out our video of this morning's ride after the jump. These kids are pros on camera.

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