SAN FRANCISCO--Programs like the college-engineering-focused EcoCar
2 challenge have gone a long way toward improving the design and
fuel efficiency of commercial cars, but ultimately the consumer will
determine how successful fuel-miserly automobiles will be in the
So said Steve Gurski, an engineer at General Motors who works with
challenge, now its second of three years in its current incarnation.
Gurski spoke from Natick, Mass., where he, other industry
professionals and members from 15 college teams are
meeting at Mathworks for the fall EcoCar 2 workshop for training and
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"We've shifted the industry and pushed the industry toward more
fuel-efficient vehicles. EcoCar is one of these leveraging points,"
Gurski said during a conference-call interview with Mathworks, organizers and a student competitor. "GM builds vehicles that people want. If fuel economy
is important, we'll build economic vehicles, It's a chicken-and-egg
question. Do (tighter fuel-economy) standards help push it in that
direction? Of course they do."
Brian Benoy, lead technical coordinator for Argonne National Labs,
and another EcoCar mentor, said all signs point toward cultural
acceptance of--and even demand for--fuel-efficient cars.
"I personally believe that with the newer generations that are
coming up in our country ... there's an emphasis on fuel efficiency
and only using what you need and being environmentally conscious,"
Both Benoy and Gurski are alumni of the EcoCar challenge or its
predecessor competitions, which stretch back a quarter century. They
argue that student participation is not only good for engineering
students, who get hands-on experience building automotive systems,
but the automotive industry itself, which can cherry-pick EcoCar
alums for choice positions.