Wayne State students giving a Malibu an eco-friendly makeover

Wayne State students giving a Malibu an eco-friendly makeover

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Students at Wayne State University are working to make this Chevy Malibu more eco-friendly. Students at Wayne State University are working to make this Chevy Malibu more eco-friendly.

Wayne State University's EcoCAR 2 team is in the third year of a three year challenge to turn a Chevy Malibu into a more eco-friendly car by changing the engine and other key components.

"This is not trying to build a conventional vehicle.  This is trying to do the latest and greatest in hybrid electrics," said Chief Engineer Kevin Snyder.

General Motors donated the car for this competition sponsored by GM and the Department of Energy.  The 40 or so students and grad students involved are studying mechanical and electrical engineering.  They have spent countless hours getting hands on experience converting the car from a gas only vehicle to a plug-in hybrid, which isn't easy.

"America itself and the rest of the world, we are all going green.  That's just the direction that we're taking.  So everyday, it doesn't matter whether you're looking at vehicles and reducing the fuel emissions or your just doing computers or if it's waste management, everything is looking for a more efficient way to locate our waste and to reduce it," said Business Manager Ashley Davis.

Wayne State is one of 15 universities across the country competing in this challenge.  Students must use cars that are on the road today, and the finished product has to be something an ordinary consumer would buy.

When this project is finished, the engine will run on E-85, a mostly plant-based fuel, and the car will have a battery pack and electric motor so it can go 30 to 40 miles without burning any fuel at all.

"The front wheels will be driving on the engine, and the rear wheels will be driving on [an] electric motor and a battery," said Project Manager Dan Regev.

In addition to building a greener vehicle, the students are learning about design, engineering, budgets and deadlines -- the kind of real world experience that is likely to help them land jobs with GM or other companies who are watching.

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