EcoCAR Teams Hone In On Final Architectures at Winter Workshop

After months of hard work simulating, modeling and strategizing, nearly 200 students from 17 North American universities gathered at various locations throughout the metro Detroit area to finalize their vehicle architecture selections for the competition, EcoCAR: The NeXt Challenge.

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

EcoCAR students are 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.

The Winter Workshop was the third opportunity the teams had to come together and continue building on the tools and knowledge needed to successfully implement their chosen EcoCAR vehicle architectures. 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 after making their architecture selection.

In addition to the technical requirements for EcoCAR, teams are also judged on educational outreach efforts by encouraging youth to seek careers in engineering. During the workshop, team Outreach Coordinators participated in the North American International Auto Show Automotive Education Day, where several EcoCAR organizers and former competition graduates spoke at the opening ceremonies to more than 5,000 high school students. The teams then spent the afternoon staffing the EcoCAR vehicle exhibit at the auto show and answering questions from local area students passing by.

One evening during the workshop, teams and sponsors gathered at the General Motors Heritage Center—a display of more than 200 vehicles highlighting GM's rich history of innovation. Here, to EcoCAR insiders, the teams announced the architectures that will carry them through the next three years of competition.

The teams' platforms will be announced to the public at the Washington Auto Show in Washington, D.C. on February 3, 2009.