Nearly 200 future engineers from 17 universities are getting the opportunity to demonstrate their talents and knowledge in developing a next generation propulsion system for the EcoCAR challenge. Officially called "EcoCAR: The NeXt Challenge," the competition is a three-year engineering competition headlined by General Motors and the U.S. Department of Energy. The challenge is managed by the Argonne National Laboratory and is sponsored by more than 30 groups and organizations including the California Air Resources Board and the Government of Canada.
| 2009 Saturn Vue front Drivers Three Quarters View
The challenge for each team will focus on the implementation of an alternatively powered powertrain system while maintaining the performance, safety, and consumer appeal of their 2009 Saturn VUE
crossovers. In addition to using a next-generation powertrain system, the teams will also incorporate lightweight materials into the vehicles and make improvements to aerodynamics. Improved efficiency and reduced greenhouse emissions are important as benchmarks, but an exceptional total package is the overall key to success.
While each of the 17 Vue EcoCARs will come out unique per team, there will be the following common characteristics shared for each Vue:
- Plug-in capability
- Use of lithium-ion battery technology
- Use of a renewable energy source
- Must retain the safety and real-world performance characteristics of a production Saturn Vue
On February 3, each team revealed their architectures of choice for their respective Vue crossovers. There are a total of four different architecture types -- Extended Range Electric Vehicles, Plug-In Hybrid Electric Vehicles, Full Function Electric Vehicle, and Fuel Cell Plug-In Hybrid Electric Vehicle.
The 17 universities participating in the competition and their architectures of choice are:
- Embry Riddle Aeronautical University -- Daytona Beach, Florida -- EREV
- Georgia Tech -- Atlanta, Georgia -- PHEV
- Howard University -- Washington, D.C. -- PHEV
- Michigan Technological University -- Houghton, Michigan -- PHEV
- Mississippi State University -- Starkville, Mississippi -- EREV
- Missouri University of Science and Technology -- Rolla, Missouri -- FCPHEV
- North Carolina State University -- Raleigh, North Carolina -- EREV
- Ohio State University -- Columbus, Ohio -- EREV
- Pennsylvania State University -- University Park, Pennsylvania -- EREV
- Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology -- Terre Haute, Indiana -- PHEV
- Texas Tech University -- Lubbock, Texas -- PHEV
- University of Ontario Institute of Technology -- Oshawa, Ontario, Canada -- FFEV
- University of Victoria -- Victoria, British Columbia, Canada -- EREV
- University of Waterloo -- Waterloo, Ontario, Canada -- FCPHEV
- University of Wisconsin -- Madison, Wisconsin -- EREC
- Virginia Tech -- Blacksburg, Virginia -- EREV
- West Virginia University -- Morgantown, West Virginia -- PHEV
EREVs rely on an electric powertrain for all electric driving along with a combustion engine that can extend the range of the vehicle with its onboard fuel storage. The alternative fuels of choice are either B20 or E85. B20 is a 20/80% biodiesel/petroleum diesel blend, while E85 is an 85/15% ethanol/gas blend.
PHEVs rely on a high capacity lithium-ion battery, which may power the vehicle without using the engine. When the plug-in range of the battery is depleted, the vehicle can still run in the same manner as a normal hybrid. Fuel of choice will either be B20 or E85.
FFEVs use an all-electric motor to power its drivetrain, and has over 100 miles of range thanks to multiple batteries.
FCPHEVs use an onboard hydrogen fuel cell to either power the vehicle or to recharge the batteries also on the vehicle. These vehicles will use significant battery power to move before relying on the fuel cell to extend range.
| saturn Vue ecocar View
With each team having provided its architectural concept, it must now turn its attention to design and development. Working models from each team will be pitted against one another in a series of dynamic and static events. With the ultimate goal of getting more for less, criteria used in judging the new Vues compared to stock ones will include:
- Environmental impacts
- Consumer appeal
- Quality of workmanship
- Ride quality
- Mechanical accomplishments
- Control accomplishments
- Electrical engineering accomplishments
The EcoCAR competition finals will be held June 7-13, 2009, in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.
To learn more about the EcoCAR challenge, visit www.ecocarchallenge.org.