Nearly 200 future engineers from 17 universities are getting the opportunity to demonstrate their talents and knowledge in developing a next generation propulsion system for the EcoCAR challenge. Officially called "EcoCAR: The NeXt Challenge," the competition is a three-year engineering competition headlined by General Motors and the U.S. Department of Energy. The challenge is managed by the Argonne National Laboratory and is sponsored by more than 30 groups and organizations including the California Air Resources Board and the Government of Canada.

The challenge for each team will focus on the implementation of an alternatively powered powertrain system while maintaining the performance, safety, and consumer appeal of their 2009 Saturn Vue crossovers. In addition to using a next-generation powertrain system, the teams will also incorporate lightweight materials into the vehicles and make improvements to aerodynamics. Improved efficiency and reduced greenhouse emissions are important as benchmarks, but an exceptional total package is the overall key to success.

While each of the 17 Vue EcoCARs will come out unique per team, there will be the following common characteristics shared for each Vue:

  • Plug-in capability
  • Use of lithium-ion battery technology
  • Use of a renewable energy source
  • Must retain the safety and real-world performance characteristics of a production Saturn Vue

On February 3, each team revealed their architectures of choice for their respective Vue crossovers. There are a total of four different architecture types -- Extended Range Electric Vehicles, Plug-In Hybrid Electric Vehicles, Full Function Electric Vehicle, and Fuel Cell Plug-In Hybrid Electric Vehicle.