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Hiring new engineers in the auto industry is always something of a gamble. Just because someone coming out of school has a 4.0 GPA, it doesn't mean that they are well suited to the day-to-day problem solving and innovation required of a modern engineer. In the past, a lot of new engineers were recruited through co-operative education programs or internships where companies got see students work first hand. However, cost cutting efforts in recent years have caused these programs to be curtailed.

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

The three-year Challenge X program from GM will end in May with a championship announcement in Washington, D.C. 17 student teams are adding biofuel, hybrid, PHEV and/or hydrogen fuel cell propulsion systems to the Equinoxes. Before the student get to find out who's re-engineered a Chevy Equinox into the best green ride, there are still tests to run and promotion to be had.

Last spring we provided a bunch of coverage of Year Three of GM's Challenge X program. Challenge X is a GM-sponsored student competition where teams from universities all around North America use the company's global development process to convert a Chevrolet Equinox into a vehicle with some sort of alternative powertrain. The goal is for the teams to produce the most efficient vehicle while still meeting customer expectations for performance and refinement. Teams are currently gearing up for th

The Challenge-X student design competition sponsored by General Motors and the Department of Energy is now in the last of a four-year schedule with the final phase coming up in May 2008. The Challenge-X gave teams of engineering students the opportunity to convert a Chevrolet Equinox to an alternative power-train. The teams designed and installed a wide variety of hybrid and alternative fuel power-trains.

At the award press conference for Year three of the Challenge-X competition General Motors provided the opportunity for attendees to ride and drive in some of the competitor vehicles. I had time to drive the vehicles from Michigan Tech University, University of Wisconsin-Madison and the Ohio State University. The UWM and OSU vehicles both used the same 1.9L Opel diesel engine as the winning team from Mississippi State. The Michigan Tech team used a Ford 2.0L gas engine.

Click on the photos for more images from the Challenge-X competition