Sidebar: What is EcoCAR?
EcoCAR: The NeXt Challenge is a three-year collegiate advanced vehicle technology engineering competition established by the United States Department of Energy (DoE) and General Motors, and is managed by DoE's Argonne National Laboratory.
The competition challenges 16 universities across North America 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. Students use a real-world engineering process to design and integrate their advanced technology solutions into a GM-donated vehicle (a Saturn Vue).
During the three-year program, General Motors provided vehicles, vehicle components, seed money, technical mentoring, and operational support. The Doe and its research and development facility, Argonne National Laboratory, provided competition management, team evaluation, and technical and logistical support.
Paul Smith is director of Consulting Services for MathWorks.
[Ed. Note: I had the privilege of interviewing members of the University of Waterloo (Canada) EcoCAR team last fall and was impressed with their enthusiasm and expertise.
Winner of the three year EcoCAR competition is scheduled to be announced on June 16, 2011 in Washington, D.C.
The previous ChallengeX competition saw university teams integrate a hybrid power system into a GM SUV. The EcoCAR program is different in that the teams are integrating into the vehicle different powertrains, including battery electric, biodiesel, hydrogen fuel cell, and ethanol. Design tools include hardware-in-the-loop testing as well as simulations. The students not only have to consider integration of mechanical, electric/electronic, and chemical systems but implications such as consumer appeal, as well as safety issues including procedures of emergency responders if the vehicle were in an accident. --Rick DeMeis]