EcoCAR Excitement Intensifies at Fall Workshop

ecocar fall workshop participants

EcoCAR teams gather in the dSPACE lobby after participating in HIL technical sessions.

Student teams are buzzing with talk of what vehicle architecture each will choose for EcoCAR: The NeXt Challenge competition.  Nearly 200 students from seventeen North American universities gathered in Detroit to expand on what they learned from last month's intense five-day kick-off workshop, an introductory training course in Boston. The fall workshop was the second in a series to continue building the tools and knowledge the students will need to successfully develop their vehicle architecture to compete in EcoCAR: The NeXt Challenge (www.ecocarchallenge.org). 

EcoCAR is a three-year collegiate advanced vehicle technology engineering competition established by the United States Department of Energy (DOE) in partnership with General Motors (GM) and is being managed by Argonne National Laboratory.

The workshop was hosted by General Motors at its headquarter Renaissance Center building in Detroit where detailed competition rules, plus enhanced technical information was shared with the teams. "GM just celebrated its centennial and as we look to the next 100 years we see the avenues of the future being driven by the innovation of these students," said Cindy Svestka, Executive Technical Assistant, GM Powertrain/Vehicle Integration. "We were very excited to host the teams and other EcoCAR partner sponsors as we head on the path to a sustainable future."

The competition mirrors real-world vehicle development, and a critical foundation for the teams to establish a successful vehicle is utilizing hardware-in-the-loop (HIL). Two key EcoCAR sponsors, dSPACE, Inc. and National Instruments are providing the teams with the opportunity to use HIL by donating testing hardware and technical support. During the workshop, teams learned how to use the real-time advanced simulation technique so they can develop and refine control strategies.

student interacts at workshop

An EcoCAR student interacts with two representatives from National Instruments during the
Sponsor Social at the Fall Workshop.

dSPACE, Inc., a leading producer of engineering tools for developing and testing mechatronic control systems, hosted an afternoon session at its facility in Wixom, Michigan. Santhosh Jogi, director of engineering for the company said, "dSPACE is thrilled to be part of the EcoCAR challenge, where students will work with tools and processes that are automotive standards to develop their control systems in the same manner as industry leaders like GM."  He added, "HIL simulation will be a vital tool for the EcoCAR teams, it will enable controls development and testing in a virtual environment, and will help manage the challenge of introducing new systems safely and effectively into the competition vehicle."

During the session hosted by National Instruments, John Wilson, the company's automotive business development manager for the Americas said, "With tools like hardware-in-the-loop students will be able to experiment with design and modeling of controls during the entire vehicle development process." He added, "By utilizing this real-time system, the teams will have the best opportunity to refine their vehicle solutions."

One evening featured a sponsor social and recruiting event which brought more than a dozen EcoCAR sponsors together with the students who were able to view displays and interact with those that support the program. During the day prior to the social, various sponsors hosted sessions for the students to learn about a number of additional software packages, tools and equipment that the sponsors are providing to the teams.

The competition goals are to challenge university engineering students across North America to re-engineer a 2009 GM Saturn VUE to achieve improved fuel efficiency and reduced emissions, while retaining the vehicle's performance and consumer appeal.

Students will be encouraged to explore a variety of solutions including hybrid, plug-in hybrid and fuel cells, electric, and range-extending electric vehicles. In addition, they will incorporate lightweight materials, improve aerodynamics and utilize alternative fuels such as ethanol, biodiesel and hydrogen.

Argonne National Laboratory provides competition management, team evaluation, as well as technical and logistical support. More information about EcoCAR is available at www.ecoCARchallenge.org.