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Riding the Moovada

Would you drive a sport utility vehicle (SUV) if you could get 35 miles per gallon -- less than 7 liters per 100 km? This is the level of efficiency reached by the Moovada, a SUV modified by engineers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison for the Challenge X sponsored by General Motors.

Would you drive a sport utility vehicle (SUV) if you could get 35 miles per gallon -- less than 7 liters per 100 km? This is the level of efficiency reached by the Moovada, a SUV modified by engineers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison for the Challenge X sponsored by General Motors. With the parallel diesel-electric hybrid battery system they've put into a Chevrolet Equinox, "the electric motor powers the rear wheels while the engine powers the front wheels." If the price of gasoline continues to increase, the extra cost of this system could easily be absorbed by the owners of such cars in a couple of years. Read more...

Here is the introduction of the University of Wisconsin-Madison news release.

A group of engineering students at the University of Wisconsin-Madison has spent the last three years building one of the cleanest and most fuel-efficient SUVs in North America. The principles behind the vehicle, appropriately named the "Moovada," could one day be incorporated into mass-production hybrid SUVs.
The effort is part of a contest, "Challenge X: Crossover to Sustainable Mobility," sponsored by General Motors and U.S. Department of Energy.

Below is a picture of the Moovada painted in Wisconsin colors, red and black (Credit: University of Wisconsin-Madison).

The Moovada from University of Wisconsin-Madison

But why this SUV is so efficient?

According to Liz Casson, one of the leaders of the UW Hybrid Vehicle Team, the Moovada is unique because of the vehicle's power train. This is probably why "the UW-Madison team was awarded second place in the competition, coming in just behind a team from Virginia Tech University," but ahead of 15 other teams.

"The power train is a through-the-road, parallel diesel-electric hybrid design," Casson explains. "It basically means that the electric motor powers the rear wheels while the engine powers the front wheels."
It is a design that maintains the Equinox's handling and performance, but improves its fuel efficiency and emissions. Casson says the Moovada gets approximately 35 miles per gallon (mpg) -- 20 mpg better than the 15 mpg that a regular SUV averages.

Does this mean this kind of vehicles will be commercially sold anytime soon?

In the future, the principles of the Moovada and other participating vehicles could one day be incorporated into regular SUVs. [Glenn Bower, the team's adviser,] explains that if gas prices were greater than $4 per gallon, the Moovada would pay for itself.
"The Moovada is a highly hybridized vehicle," says Bower. "It would be a $3,000 to $5,000 cost premium to add this to a stock vehicle. Fuel prices would need to be around $4 per gallon for consumers to recapture their investment."

For more information about the Moovada, you can read the March 2006 issue of Quarterly Cow (Volume 7, Issue 1, PDF format, 4 pages, 4.23 MB) from which the above picture has been extracted, or this Challenge X 2006 technical report (PDF format, 13 pages, 2.34 MB).

Sources: University of Wisconsin-Madison news release, June 8, 2006; and various web sites

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