FutureCar in Europe

A high-mileage, low-pollution car built by students at the University of California, Davis, will drive from Hockenheim, Germany to Paris, France between Sept. 22 and 25 as part of the Challenge Bibendum, a competition run by tire manufacturer Michelin to promote new technology in automobiles.
UC Davis is the only university represented among 70 participants including auto industry giants Ford, DaimlerChryser and Honda. Graduate students Eric Chattot, Thomas Dreumont and Charnjiv Bangar from the university’s Hybrid Electric Vehicle laboratory will drive the car.

The UC Davis vehicle, “Coulomb,” is a Mercury Sable converted to a gas-electric hybrid engine with a continuously variable transmission. An electric motor drives the wheels at lower speeds for city driving. On the highway, a 660 cc gas engine provides extra power and also maintains battery charge. The batteries can also be recharged from a domestic power supply. Coulomb has an all-aluminum body to reduce weight with additional streamlining to reduce wind resistance.

Coulomb is designed to achieve fuel economy of over 50 miles per gallon and acceleration of zero to 60 miles per hour in 11 seconds while meeting California’s Super Ultra Low Emissions Vehicle (SULEV) standards.

Competitors in the Challenge Bibendum — named after Michelin’s “tire man” mascot — are judged on pollution, noise, fuel economy, performance and safety under normal road conditions as well as on design. The competitors will visit the European Parliament in Strasbourg, France and display their vehicles at the Paris Motor Show on Sept. 26.

Coulomb was the UC Davis team’s entry for the 1998-99 FutureCar competition, sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy and U.S. auto makers. The team won awards for Best Design Review, Best Application of Advanced Technology and Best Technical Report in that competition.

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