San Fernando Valley : Students' Goal: 80-m.p.g. Car

For a group of engineering students at Cal State Northridge, it is the ultimate test in car-conscious Los Angeles: Create a fuel-efficient automobile that can go 80 miles to the gallon. On Friday, they will receive their canvas.

"What we're getting is a made-to-order, 1996 five-passenger, four-door sedan," said mechanical engineering professor Tim Fox, the faculty member overseeing 52 students who have been working on the project since April.

Part of a partnership between the government and the Big Three auto makers announced in September, 1993, the "FutureCar Challenge" will involve 12 universities nationwide. CSUN and UC Davis are the only West Coast colleges participating, Fox said.

"The idea here is to develop technology and demonstrate emerging technology that would lead to an 80 miles-per-gallon sedan by 2004," he said.

Once the car arrives, it will be transported to CSUN's new, 3,000-square-foot automotive engineering lab where students will "take the engine and transmission out and throw it away," Fox said.

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