Mississippi takes top prize in EcoCar challenge

Students from Mississippi State University placed first in the 2010 EcoCAR: The NeXt Challenge finals in San Diego Friday after designing and building a biodiesel extended-range electric vehicle (EREV).

A member of the EcoCAR-winning team from Mississippi State University, Jenna Grantham, works on car modification in Yuma, Ariz., before the final competition in San Diego General Motors

Students from Mississippi State University placed first in the 2010 EcoCAR: The NeXt Challenge finals in San Diego Friday after designing and building a biodiesel extended-range electric vehicle (EREV).

Teams from 16 universities competed in the Year Two Finals of the three-year competition sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy and General Motors. The competition challenges engineering students to re-engineer a GM-donated vehicle to minimize the vehicle's fuel consumption and emissions, while maintaining its utility, safety, and performance. The teams have been preparing for the final testing and inspection of the competition for the past week.

"This was our most challenging year, and stakes were high to have our vehicle ready for inspections. To finish a year of hard work and long hours in first place is an incredible honor for me and my teammates," said Matt Doude from Mississippi State. "We look forward to the next chapter of the competition; with so much talent among the schools it will not be an easy road to another victory. But it's this rigorous, hands-on process that gives us the valuable experience we'll need in the workplace."

The Mississippi State EcoCAR team chose to design an EREV hybrid with a 21.3 kWh A123Systems battery pack, which provides an range of 60 miles. It's also equipped with a 1.3-liter GM turbodiesel engine and 75 kW UQM generator in a series plug-in configuration. During testing, the vehicle's fuel economy stood out, achieving 118 miles per gallon gas equivalent (combined city/highway cycle). In addition to the overall winner's award, Mississippi State won nine additional awards, including performance events in auto-cross and acceleration, GM said in a news release.

Virginia Tech earned second place with an ethanol-powered EREV design, and Penn State came in third place building a biodiesel EREV vehicle.

The Virginia Tech team designed an EREV vehicle with a 40-mile electric range. And Penn State's vehicle is also an EREV design, which includes a 12.8 kWh battery pack coupled with a GM 110 kW Electric Traction Motor and 75 kW UQM generator. It includes a four-cylinder 1.3 L biodiesel engine and achieved more than double the fuel economy of the baseline vehicle, or 57 miles per gallon gas equivalent.

About the author

Suzanne Ashe has been covering technology, gadgets, video games, and cars for several years. In addition to writing features and reviews for magazines and Web sites, she has contributed to daily newspapers.

 

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