Electric and Ethanol Power Win EcoCAR Competition

Cindy Zimmerman

Cars designed to run on electricity and 85 percent ethanol took top honors in a competition to engineer a more fuel efficient and environmentally-friendly vehicle.

A team from Virginia Tech University designed an extended-range electric vehicle (EREV) using 85 percent ethanol (E85) to win first place in the three-year EcoCAR: The NeXt Challenge competition sponsored by the Department of Energy and General Motors. The competition challenged participating engineering students to re-engineer a GM-donated vehicle to minimize the vehicle’s fuel consumption and emissions, while maintaining its utility, safety and performance. The Virginia Tech team hit incremental goals throughout the challenge that helped the vehicle achieve the equivalent of nearly 82 miles per gallon, a 70 percent improvement in fuel efficiency over the stock vehicle.

Taking second place, also with an E85 EREV, was Ohio State University. The University of Waterloo took third place with a hydrogen fuel cell plug-in hybrid electric vehicle.

“With the experience and skills these innovative students have gained through the EcoCAR competition, they will help reduce our nation’s reliance on oil imports and keep U.S. industries competitive in the global marketplace,” said U.S. Secretary of Energy Steven Chu.

Florida-based Protec Fuel supplied the E85 for several of the teams that made it to the competition finals last week, including the first and second place winners. “We are proud that EcoCAR Challenge winners were running on E85 fuel. This next generation of promising engineers has shown that combining E85 with electric vehicles augments the domestic fuel’s already cleaner burning properties,” said Todd Garner, CEO of Protec Fuel. “This just goes to show E85’s value to development in future – and everyday – vehicle technologies and why E85 deserves to keep tax credits that traditional fuels have enjoyed.”

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