A team of students from Ohio State University are in the lead after the first phase of the three-year EcoCar: the NeXt Challenge that took place last week in Toronto, Canada. The actual challenge was to convert a Saturn VUE into an electric vehicle with increased fuel economy and lower tailpipe emissions.
The team from Ohio State utilized a battery pack and E85 to power a 1.8 liter Honda engine which a rechargeable battery pack. The team’s engineering achieved a 300 percent increase in fuel economy.
Launched in late 2008 by the Government of Canada, General Motors, the U.S. Department of Energy, and others, 17 university teams from the U.S. and Canada competed. Approximately half of the teams, including the Ohio State team, designed extended-range electric vehicles, six teams utilized plug-in hybrids, two teams experimented with fuel cell plug-in hybrids using renewable resources, and one team designed an all-electric vehicle. Every team used lithium-ion batteries and then retrofitted them to become plug-in batteries.
GM provided the vehicles, parts, seed money, mentoring, and operational support. The DOE’s Argonne National Laboratory research facility provided team evaluation, technical and logistical support, and competition management.
The first step in the challenge was to design the vehicles using advanced software and computer modeling tools given to the teams by GM. In years two and three, students translate their design into reality and develop a working vehicle that meets the competition’s goals. The teams come together at the end of each academic year to compete against the other university teams in more than a dozen static and dynamic events.