Georgia Tech to Compete in EcoCAR Challenge

The Georgia Institute of Technology has been selected as one of 17 teams chosen by the U.S. Department of Energy, General Motors and Natural Resources Canada to participate in EcoCAR: The NeXt Challenge, a collegiate vehicle engineering competition set to begin in the Fall of 2008.

EcoCAR will challenge university engineering students across North America to reengineer a 2009 Saturn VUE to achieve improved fuel economy and reduced green house gas emissions, while retaining the vehicle's performance and consumer appeal.

Students will design and build advanced propulsion solutions that are based on the vehicle categories from the California Air Resources Board (CARB) zero emissions vehicle (ZEV) regulations. They will be encouraged to explore a variety of cutting-edge clean vehicle solutions, including full-function electric, range-extended electric, hybrid, plug-in hybrid and fuel cell technologies. In addition, they will incorporate lightweight materials into the vehicles, improve aerodynamics and utilize alternative fuels such as ethanol, biodiesel and hydrogen.

During the three-year program, General Motors will provide production vehicles, vehicle components, seed money, technical mentoring and operational support. The U.S. Department of Energy and its research and development facility, Argonne National Laboratory, will provide competition management, team evaluation, and technical and logistical support. Through sponsoring such advanced vehicle technology competitions, GM and the U.S. Department of Energy are developing the next generation of scientists and engineers.

"I couldn't be more excited about the project. It's a great opportunity for Georgia Tech's students to show their creativity and technical excellence in addressing one of society's greatest needs," said Dr. Tom Fuller, director of the Center for Innovative Fuel Cell and Battery Technologies in the Georgia Tech Research Institute, a professor in the School of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering at Georgia Tech and a lead faculty advisor for the project. "Working together with Georgia Tech's world-class research community and coordinating with industry, EcoCAR will serve as a significant demonstration project for the College of Engineering and the Institute. The interdisciplinary and multifaceted nature of this project will foster collaboration among students in Mechanical, Electrical and Computer, Civil and Environmental, and Chemical Engineering as well as students in the Colleges of Management, Sciences, and Liberal Arts. Furthermore, this project fits well within the scope and heart of Georgia Tech's Strategic Energy Institute, whose charge is to actively engage in and facilitate energy technology development."

In the first year, teams will develop their vehicle designs through the use of GM's Global Vehicle Development Process - the modeling and simulation process currently used to develop all of GM's vehicles. Sophisticated hardware in the loop (HIL) and software in the loop (SIL) systems will be utilized, and teams will be challenged to model and simulate the integration of their subsystems into the overall vehicle design.

"EcoCAR is the latest in a series of Department-sponsored student competitions that will foster the training of the next generation of engineers who will develop the clean vehicle technology solutions to enhance our energy security and reduce greenhouse gas emissions," said Ed Wall, DOE's Vehicle Technologies Program manager. "It will be exciting to watch as the students work over the next three years to design, build, test and showcase their vehicles."

The emphasis is on optimizing a practical, realizable solution that will meet the goals of the competition. During the second and third years of the competition, students will build the vehicle and continue to refine, test, and improve vehicle operation. At the end of years two and three, the re-engineered student vehicle prototypes will compete in a week-long competition of engineering tests. These tests will be similar to the tests GM conducts to determine a prototype's readiness for production.

The Greenhouse gas, Regulated Emissions, and Energy in Transportation (GREET) model, developed at Argonne National Laboratory, will be used to assess a well-to-wheel analysis of the net greenhouse gas impacts, energy consumption and pollutant emissions of each technology approach the teams select.

In addition to sponsorship from GM and DOE, Platinum sponsor Government of Canada is providing extensive operational support. The other Platinum sponsors - dSPACE, National Instruments, The MathWorks and Freescale Semiconductor - are providing critical software and hardware components. Gold sponsors are The National Science Foundation and MotoTron Corporation. Silver sponsors are SnapOn Tools and Renewable Fuels Association. Bronze sponsors are: Delphi Corporation, EcoMotors, CarSim and Bosch.