Students at Mississippi State University won the 2010 EcoCAR: The NeXt Challenge finals with their Saturn biodiesel hybrid. The team of students competed against 15 other universities to win first place in year-two finals of the three-year competition sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy and General Motors (GM).

The competition challenges students to reduce the environmental impact of vehicles by minimizing the vehicle’s fuel consumption and reducing its emissions while retaining the vehicle’s performance, safety and consumer appeal. They use a real-world engineering process to design and integrate their advanced technology solutions into a GM-donated vehicle.

The first year of the competition focused on design. This year, students built the vehicles. The third and final year will focus on road testing and fine tuning the vehicle so that it is production ready.

Mississippi State’s team designed an extended range electric vehicle (EREV) hybrid with a turbodiesel engine. Third place finisher Penn State’s EcoCAR vehicle is also an EREV design with a biodiesel engine.

“The students’ hard work goes beyond this competition – each EcoCAR team member’s contribution and innovation is also helping to build a cleaner energy future,” Pat Davis, program manager of DOE’s Vehicle Technologies Program said in a news release.