At the EcoCar Challenge, held at GM's Desert Proving grounds in Yuma, Arizona, 16 university teams competed for more than $100,000 in cash and prizes to convert a Saturn Vue 2-Mode Hybrid into an even greener machine. To improve fuel economy and reduce well-to-wheel emissions, each team must replace the SUV's existing hybrid engine and transmission with an extended-range, plug-in electric, fuel-cell, or all-electric power train using their choice of B20, E85, or liquid hydrogen fuel. See the students working on their prototypes as they prepare for final testing.
Before each prototype is allowed onto the track, it must pass the 300-point safety inspection, governing all sorts of requirements from being able to start to placement of sponsor decals. Virginia Tech team members are hard at work troubleshooting a sensor issue that prevented them from passing the safety check the first time around. That's right--all this work is to figure out why a sensor didn't turn on. Virginia Tech went on to win second place in the competition and additional awards for Best Static Consumer Acceptability and Best Braking. Vehicle Design: The Virginia Tech hybrid Electric Vehicle Team has designed and built an extended range electric vehicle (EREV) plug-in hybrid. The vehicle has the ability to charge a high-energy-capacity battery from any standard wall outlet, and run in electric-only mode for more than 65 km (40 miles). The design has two electric motors integrated into the vehicle along with the battery pack in a split parallel architecture.
Rose Hulman Institute of Technology team members reinstall the fuel tank and get the engine running, which works fine in EV Mode, says team lead Cameron Hazel. On Twitter, team members updated their progress or lack thereof: "Lots of people standing around our engine... hopefully someone figures it out and gets us up and running." Followed later by a post-deadline: "So, engine was running, but things happen. We unfortunately did not complete safety inspection in time, and now we are working for pride." Vehicle Design: The Rose-Hulman architecture is a parallel pre/post transmission hybrid electric power train. A 1.3-liter GM diesel engine using B20 biodiesel is assisted by TM4 electric motor, both of which are connected to a GM four-speed transmission. A second TM4 motor is attached to the rear axle for regenerative braking and enhanced acceleration. A custom EnerDel lithium ion battery completes the system.
Mississippi State, front-runner in the competition, departs for the Ramp and Breakover Angle test to make sure that the vehicle complies with the minimum clearance requirements. Vehicle Design: The Mississippi State University EcoCAR team has chosen a plug-in series range-extended hybrid for its architecture. An electric range of 40 miles will be provided by a 21.3 kWh A123 Systems battery pack. Additional range will be provided by a 1.3-liter GM turbodiesel engine coupled to a 75 kW UQM generator. A 51 kW Magna electric motor in the front and a 125 kW UQM electric motor in the rear will provide the tractive power.
Pennsylvania State University Team coming back from the Ramp and Safety Check. Points are given to the team to pass the safety check, points that Penn State might have won had a team member not dropped a washer into the power inverter, delaying the team for hours while they fashioned magnets to extract the rogue washer. Penn State went on to win third place in the competition and additional awards, including Best AVL Drive. The team selected B20 as a fuel because it's more energy-efficient than E85. Other than that, "It's a lot like the Volt," says Benjamin Koch. Vehicle Design: Penn State's vehicle architecture is an extended-range electric vehicle with an estimated electric range of 25 miles. The vehicle will use a 1.3-liter GM diesel engine to drive a 75 kW electric generator that produces electricity to charge the energy dense, air?cooled lithium ion battery pack. Finally, a 120 kW electronic traction system will be used to propel the vehicle.
How many engineers does it take to fix a battery leak? Ohio State took first place in the 2009 EcoCar Challenge, and this year placed in the top five overall finalists with its EREV that uses E85 fuel. The team won several additional awards, including the Women in Engineering Award (team leader Beth Bezaire), second-place outreach, and third-place Bosch Diversity Award. Vehicle Design: The Ohio State University Team's vehicle architecture is an extended-range electric vehicle (EREV). The design features a 22 kWh lithium ion battery pack with a 103 kW rear electric machine to provide primary drive power and regenerative braking. In addition, the design utilizes a 1.8 L high-compression engine recalibrated for E85 fuel, coupled with a 80 kW front electric motor/generator via an innovative twin-clutch transmission. This transmission design allows the vehicle to operate in a series or parallel hybrid mode and enables front axle regenerative braking.
The University of Virginia team prepares to test the emergency disconnect button, which would cut all electrical systems in the event of, well, an emergency. In a completely unrelated event, they fried the first custom in-dash display they installed. However, a very kind individual drove 8 hours through the Arizona desert to provide a replacement. Vehicle Design: The University of Victoria's vehicle design is an extended range electric vehicle (EREV) with 40 miles of all-electric plug-in range provided by a high-capacity A123 lithium ion battery. The use of a GM 2-mode powersplit transmission and separate rear traction motor also enable AWD functionality. The 2.4 L Ecotec engine is flex-fuel-capable and can run on E85 for reduced emissions and petroleum use. The flexibility of this design is expected to yield low fuel consumption and emissions, but still provide large amounts of power for exciting performance.
Part of the reason GM gave Saturn Vue 2-Mode Hybrids to the teams is because the vehicle was roomy enough for the teams to maneuver around in and incorporate all the necessary components, which is doubly important for the teams tackling hydrogen fuel cells. The University of Waterloo Alternative Fuels (UWAFT) team is making full use of that interior volume, and is willing take the small penalty for not having four seats. But the team is ultimately banking on the advantage of zero tailpipe, not counting the emissions generated to produce H2. But for right now, the goal is to bring the whole system online, says co-team-lead Alexander Hoch. Vehicle Design: UWAFT's entry into EcoCAR is a fuel cell plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (FC-PhEV). The vehicle will have an all-electric mode using battery modules from A123 Systems with grid charging capabilities. This all-electric operation will be blended with a GM hydrogen fuel cell engine that, together with the battery, will power an electric traction system to propel the vehicle. Battery from any standard wall outlet, and run in electric-only mode for more than 65 km (40 miles). The design has two electric motors integrated into the vehicle along with the battery pack in a split parallel architecture.
Hard at work on a control system issues. The Embry Riddle Aeronautical School chose to use biodiesel to take advantage of their on-campus biodiesel fueling station. The team has plans to leverage their university's composite technology for weight reduction in year three. Composites are estimated to shaving off a targeted 200 pounds from the baseline vehicle. Vehicle Design: The EcoEagles vehicle is an extended-range electric vehicle (EREV), consisting of a GM 1.3 liter diesel engine running on B20 biodiesel, a GM 2-mode transmission, a 55 kW Magna electric rear-drive motor, and an A123 330 V, 12.9 kWh lithium ion battery pack. The vehicle will be able to drive approximately 25 miles on electric-only power, before having to switch to hybrid mode, in which the engine switches on to sustain the battery and power the vehicle. The addition of the rear motor allows for higher all- electric speeds and overall power and acceleration.
You can't see it from this angle, but apparently the Texas Tech team applied a massive Texas flag decal that covered the roof of the car. All that's left for the team to do is to torque all the front suspension and finish applying the decals. The team is using E85 in their prototype, which they admit isn't as energy-dense as B20, but they're planning on making up the difference with four battery packs. Vehicle Design: Texas Tech University's EcoCAR vehicle is designed as front-wheel drive 2-mode hybrid. The vehicle will consist of a 1.6 L GM Europe engine intended to run on E85, a GM 2-mode transmission which has two planetary gear sets as well as two 55 kW electric motors, and a battery pack containing four A123's 25S2P modules. The engine is lighter than stock and helps to balance the added weight of the 2-mode transmission.
Michigan Technical University team members wiring up the battery charger. MTU selected the 3.9-liter V6 engine running on E85 because it was the easiest engine to put in at the time. Their strategy is "to get running. If you can do that, you have an advantage over a lot of the teams," says Jason Socha. Sarah Cavanagh from Michigan Technological University went on to win the "Outstanding Women in Engineering Rookie of the Year" award. Vehicle Design: Michigan Technological University's proposed design consists of a General Motors E85-compatible 3.9 L engine longitudinally mounted in the engine bay with a 2-mode transmission. A 100kW UQM electric motor mated to a Corvette differential drives the rear wheels, giving the vehicle all-wheel-drive capabilities. Plug-in charging allows the vehicle to be charged when not in use. The power is stored in a battery pack provided by A123 Systems.
"It moves! And it stops, which is a good thing," says Mississippi State team member Thomas Godette. Qualifying for braking and acceleration, the team's goal is take the car from 60 mph to complete stop in less than 170 ft. Mississippi State was the first team to pass safety check in garage, and they ultimately took First Place Overall. Vehicle Design: The Mississippi State University EcoCAR team has chosen a plug-in series range-extended hybrid for its architecture. An electric range of 40 miles will be provided by a 21.3 kWh A123Systems battery pack. Additional range will be provided by a 1.3 L GM turbodiesel engine coupled to a 75 kW UQM generator. A 51 kW Magna electric motor in the front and a 125 kW UQM electric motor in the rear will provide the tractive power.
The Georgia Tech team created the only non-plug-in hybrid in the competition. While plug-ins may provide good gas mileage, most electricity is produced from coal-firing plants, and the overall goal of the competition is to reduce greenhouse emissions and improve well-to-wheel fuel efficiency. And their advantage is that they have one of the lightest vehicles and smallest battery packs. However, the toughest part of the competition for this team is being held to the same standards as production cars: "They don't let us duct tape things together." Vehicle Design: The GT team decided to implement a split hybrid power train, where the vehicle dynamically changes between parallel and series operational modes. The power train consists of a 1.6L Si dedicated E85 engine paired with GM's 2-mode hybrid transmission. Onboard energy is stored with a lithium ion battery pack developed by A123 Systems. E85 was chosen as the vehicle fuel as a result of its large net WTW GhG and petroleum reductions. in addition, the higher quality of E85 fuel (compared to gasoline) allows for more efficient and higher power engine operation. The GT team has plans for several engine modifications to aggressively pursue efficiency gains while also improving vehicle performance. Even if all ethanol consumed by this vehicle is produced from corn (the least efficient process), the GT vehicle is projected to reduce net WTW GhG emissions by more than 50 percent and WTW petroleum consumption by more than 75 percent.
"We are college students, so we all have old cars," said North Carolina State University student Rylan Wilshire-Eshelman, who seems at home while he works on putting everything back together after pulling everything apart to fix a leak in the cooling tubes. Last year's underdog, NC State won the 2010 award for "Most Improved Team."
A NC State graphics communication student designed the custom nylon wrap. In addition to the operating funds and parts donated by GM and the sponsors, students spend a good portion of their time fundraising and recruiting additional local sponsors to help with their prototypes.
"We have until noon tomorrow," says Missouri University of Science and Technology team member Andrew Meintz (not pictured). MUST took advantage of their school's H2-safe garage and H2 fuel to work on their prototype. As with many teams, integration seems to be the main challenge. Students are working on integrating the battery pack, which is extended to the center console to provide more space between the hydrogen tanks and the battery in case of an accident. But even if they don't finish by deadline, they still have next year. Vehicle Design: The Missouri S&T team is designing a cutting-edge hydrogen fuel cell plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (FC PhEV). This technology represents a dramatic transformation of the vehicle's power-train system. The power train consists of a 95 kW polymer electrolyte membrane (PEM) hydrogen fuel cell, coupled with an 80 kW continuous power electric motor that includes regenerative braking. Additional power and range is provided by a 21.3 kWh lithium ion battery pack.
In May, the temperature in the Arizona can reach above 100 degrees in the shade. Unfortunately, the University of Wisconsin team had to work outside while they worked on fuel issues. Scoring unofficial points for the most creative power plant, University of Wisconsin is the only team to use a 110 hp, 750 cc snowmobile engine converted to E85, which is also used by the Clean Snowmobile team. Challenge has been using a lot of parts that weren't designed for automotive use. Vehicle Design: The University of Wisconsin hybrid Vehicle Team vehicle design is considered an extended range electric vehicle (EREV). A 60 kW electric motor, coupled with a Weber engine 750cc turbo- charged running E85, powers the front wheels and also has the capability to generate electricity to recharge the battery pack. Additionally, a 55 kW motor is used to power the rear wheels. The lithium ion battery pack, donated by Johnson Controls-Saft, is capable of propelling the vehicle approximately 25 miles on full electric.
The famed EV1 motor lives on in the University of Ontario Institute of Technology's full-electric vehicle. They chose to forgo a conventional engine because their simulations showed that it would be the most environmentally friendly. Their simulations also assumed the energy would be coming from Canada, where most electricity is generated from hydro-electric plants rather than coal-fired plants. Tests show that their vehicle has a 400 mile range on a full charge. Converting a conventional hybrid to all-electric presented a few challenges. "The car expects to see components that we took out, like the fuel tank," says Hugo Provencher, team controls lead. To create space for the battery packs, they removed the fuel tank, which had the unintended side effect of making the car not work. Next year the team plans to install additional battery packs in the current big, empty space where the engine used to be. Vehicle Design: The architecture is a full-function electric vehicle. It has a stored energy capacity of approximately 80 kWh, contains 90 high energy density lithium polymer batteries, and is driven by a 110 kW electric motor. Electrical led by Chad Conway, Controls led by Eric Stokes, and Mechanical led by Zach Brune and Rich Thomas. All of the publications and media are handled by Thomas Reives.
The only team to use a diesel engine with GM's 2-mode hybrid, West Virginia University's team got a real-world lesson in supply chain management--specifically how one glitch can delay the entire system. Due to late arrival of parts from GM, WVU was working under the gun to get their vehicle ready to pass inspection. In hindsight, one team member said he learned a valuable lesson: "It would have been best to have a backup plan." Vehicle Design: The heart of West Virginia University's vehicle is the GM 2-mode Electrically Variable Transmission (EVT) which provides two continuously variable EVT modes and four fixed gear ratios, enabling flexibility to optimize performance efficiency and emissions for a wide range of driving conditions. A fuel efficient 1.3 L, four-cylinder SDE turbo-diesel engine rated at 71 kW (95 hp) and 200 N-m (147 ft-lb) peak torque fueled with B20 biodiesel fuel will provide primary propulsion power. Electrical energy storage will be accomplished with a lithium ion battery pack composed of four 25S2P battery modules from A123 Systems. Simulation results indicate that the vehicle should achieve 6.2 L/100 km (35 mpg) gasoline equivalent, with WTW GhG Emissions of approximately 150 g/km and WTW PEU of 0.40 kWh/km.