Biodiesel, Ethanol Vehicles Win EcoCAR Challenge

John Davis

Two biodiesel-powered and one ethanol vehicle took top honors in the latest EcoCAR competition.

This press release says a biodiesel extended-range electric vehicle (EREV) from Mississippi State University won first place in the General Motors and Department of Energy-sponsored EcoCAR: The NeXt Challenge finals in San Diego, with Virginia Tech earning second place with an ethanol-powered EREV design and Penn State coming in third building a biodiesel EREV vehicle:

The competition challenges university engineering students from across North America to re-engineer a GM-donated vehicle to minimize the vehicle’s fuel consumption and emissions, while maintaining its utility, safety and performance. The winning teams will answer questions about their work and vehicles during an online chat on Friday, June 4 at 3 p.m. EDT.

During the second year of the EcoCAR competition, the teams utilized cutting-edge automotive engineering processes, such as Hardware in the Loop (HIL) simulation, to move their designs into the physical vehicles. Once the vehicles were built and rolled out of their respective Green Garages – or design and construction shops – they went through a series of safety and technical tests at GM’s Desert Proving Grounds in Yuma, Ariz., similar to those conducted on production vehicles. Each of the cars was evaluated based on the ability to decrease fuel consumption and greenhouse gas emissions, and maintain consumer acceptability in the areas of performance, utility and safety.

The Mississippi State EcoCAR team chose to design an EREV hybrid with a 21.3 kWh A123Systems battery pack, which provides an electric range of 60 miles. It’s also equipped with a 1.3 L GM turbodiesel engine and 75 kW UQM generator in a series plug-in configuration. During testing, the vehicle’s fuel economy stood out, achieving 118 miles per gallon gas equivalent (combined city/highway cycle). In addition to the overall winner’s award, Mississippi State won nine additional awards, including performance events in auto-cross and acceleration.

Virginia Tech’s entry has a a 40 mile electric range, and Penn State’s EcoCAR vehicle includes a 4-cylinder 1.3 L biodiesel engine and achieved more than double the fuel economy of the baseline vehicle, or 57 miles per gallon gas equivalent.

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