At first glance, the new Chevy Malibu jacked up on the ground-floor lab of the University of Washington's mechanical-engineering annex doesn't look like anything special — except that it's missing its engine.
When they're done with it, though, several dozen of the school's engineering students will have transformed it into one of two electric-biodiesel hybrid Chevy Malibus in the world that run on two separate motors — one for the front wheels, one for the back.
The car will use battery power for the first 45 miles, then switch over to a biodiesel engine. Students estimate it will get the equivalent of 96 miles per gallon.
Last year, the UW was one of 15 universities selected to participate in a car-design competition sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy and General Motors. The EcoCAR 2 competition, which takes place over three years, aims to give students real-world, hands-on experience in redesigning a car to run on different fuel mixes.
The car-design challenge has a 23-year history, and in the past, participating college students gained enough experience to step immediately into jobs in the auto industry when they graduated. Some of the UW students already have received auto-industry job offers or internships.