SID SALTER: ECO Car shows real Mississippi

By Sid Salter

STARKVILLE – Stepping out the back door of the Mississippi State University Library several weeks ago, I was reminded briefly of the self-serving remarks of North Carolina Gov. Beverly Perdue that sought to make Mississippi the political whipping boy when 61 percent of her state’s voters passed a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage.
Perdue’s reaction: “Folks are saying what in the world is going on in North Carolina. We look like Mississippi.”
Politically, what Gov. Perdue might have said was that the vote in North Carolina “looked like the South” or “looked like the Red states” and would have been correct on the issue of gay marriage rights.
Across the street from the MSU library’s back entrance – on the university’s “engineering row” – was something that truly “looks like Mississippi” today. It was the MSU EcoCAR model, a re-engineered General Motors SUV that gets 118 mpg and has a 60-mile all-electric driving range.
That research was done by MSU undergraduate and graduate students here in Starkville – not in the vaunted North Carolina Research Triangle.
The MSU Alternative Vehicle Design Team was formed eight years ago for ChallengeX, a four-year EcoCAR competition that MSU ultimately won
Recently, the MSU team won the first year of a three-year competition sponsored by GM and the Department of Energy on the ECO Car 2 – again designed by MSU’s Alternative Vehicle Design Team – in which 15 North American universities are tasked “to re-engineer a 2013 Chevrolet Malibu to improve its efficiency while maintaining safety and consumer appeal.”
The MSU team now consists of 80 graduate and undergraduate students from 16 different majors. They are led by faculty advisor Marshall Molen. Readers can learn more about the research at
Is the research relevant? Well, Gov. Phil Bryant just took part in the announcement of an additional 1,000 Mississippi jobs at the Nissan plant in Canton as the company brings production of the Nissan Sentra to the Magnolia State.
For the last two weeks, MSU’s Alternative Vehicle Design Team and their winning projects were on the National Mall in Washington as part of the Smithsonian Folklife Festival. More than a million visitors got a change to see first-hand what Mississippi really “looks like.”
Sid Salter is a syndicated columnist. Contact him at (601) 507-8004 or

Click video to hear audio