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UC Davis Challenge X Team Unveils Trinity: a 2006 Chevy Equinox Plug-in Hybrid SUV

22 May 2006

Engineering students at the University of California, Davis unveiled “Trinity,” a plug-in hybrid vehicle that is the team’s entry in the national Challenge X competition, sponsored by GM and the US Department of Energy. (Earlier post.)

Trinity is a 2006 model Chevy Equinox SUV powered by electric motors and a small internal combustion engine that can run on gasoline or ethanol, augmented by hydrogen injection. Trinity is a PHEV 40—the electric motors and batteries provide power for driving at low speeds and for a range of up to 40 miles, and the gas engine supplies additional power for longer journeys and highway driving.

Original Equinox vs. Trinity Plug-in
Original EquinoxUCD Trinity
Acceleration 0-60 mph 9.1s 7.4s
Acceleration 50-70 mph 4.9s 4.9s
Fuel economy city 19 mpg 36.2 mpg
Fuel economy highway 25 mpg 38.7 mpg
Plug-in AER
(All electric range)
0 mi 40 mi
Highway range 415 mi 275 mi
Mass 1,686 kg 1,985 kg
Effective fuel economy 21 mpg ~200 mpg

The UC Davis Team Fate advisor is Prof. Andy Frank, professor of mechanical and aeronautical engineering at UC Davis. Frank is widely credited as being the inventor (around 1990) of the modern plug-in hybrid, and he testified last week before Congress on the potential of the architecture. (Earlier post.)

Computer models run by the team show that Trinity’s average gas consumption in everyday use could reach about 200 miles per gallon, assuming an all-electric range of 40 miles, said graduate student Peter English, outreach coordinator for the team.

The Trinity plug-in hybrid system includes:

  • A UC Davis-modified Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT);

  • A turbocharger/generator to compress charge air for the engine and to use exhaust gases to recharge the battery pack;

  • A 3kW hydrogen fuel cell for auxiliary systems such as power steering and air conditioning;

  • Hydrogen injection into the combustion chamber to allow the engine to operate at higher temperatures and reduce NOx emissions.

Trinity is the latest refinement in a series of award-winning plug-in hybrids built by Frank and his students. Others include “Sequoia,” a Chevy Suburban, and “Yosemite,” a Ford Explorer. The group has also built high-mileage versions of the Mercury Sable and other cars.

The original unmodified vehicle was donated by General Motors and supplied locally by Hanlees Chevrolet of Davis for the competition.

Challenge X is a three-year national competition sponsored by General Motors, the US Department of Energy (DOE) and other partners. Engineering students from 17 universities across North America are challenged to re-engineer a mid-size SUV to achieve better fuel economy and lower emissions. The program provides the opportunity for engineering schools to participate in real-world research and math-intensive development with leading-edge automotive propulsion, fuels, materials and emissions-control technologies.

In the first year (2004-5), teams worked on vehicle design using the same techniques and software as auto industry designers. Over the past year, they have worked on putting their designs together in an actual vehicle, which will compete in field trials in Phoenix in June. In the final year (2006-7), they will refine their vehicles leading up to the final competition.

A team from the University of Waterloo (Ontario, Canada) took first place in year one—which was judged on the basis of design plan, simulations, modeling and testing—with their fuel-cell-powered series-hybrid vehicle design. The Waterloo team, sponsored by Natural Resources Canada and Hydrogenics Corporation, was the only one to use fuel cells in the design.

The University of Akron took second place with a parallel-hybrid design using a 1.9-liter Volkswagen TDI biodiesel-powered engine and a Ballard 65-kilowatt/45-kilowatt drive motor.

Ohio State University grabbed third-place with another biodiesel-electric parallel-hybrid design that featured a Panasonic NiMH battery and a 1.9-liter Fiat 110-kilowatt CIDI engine.

UC Davis ranked seventh out of the 17 teams.

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May 22, 2006 in Conferences and other events, Plug-ins | Permalink | Comments (17) | TrackBack (1)

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Comments

PHEV 40 is good to hear! I wonder what the top speed is in EV mode?

I agree that a plug in only range of 40 m. is pretty good, but only if it is assuming an electric only top speed of at least 35 mph. If I buy a PHEV Escape or such, I want to drive it to work and back at a decent speed, say 35 mph, and not use much more than a drop of gas til I hit the highway on the weekend. Otherwise the high cost and increased complexity of a hybrid just doesn't come close to making sense.

I agree that a plug in only range of 40 m. is pretty good, but only if it is assuming an electric only top speed of at least 35 mph. If I buy a PHEV Escape or such, I want to drive it to work and back at a decent speed, say 35 mph, and not use much more than a drop of gas til I hit the highway on the weekend. Otherwise the high cost of a hybrid just doesn't come close to making sense.

Why do these PHEVs look like Rube Goldberg machines?
Lots of little, complicated processes going on, but are they worth the time and expense?
Even if brought to commericalization wouldn't they create an even more expensive car?
Look at the list:
*Continuously Variable Transmission
* A turbocharger/generator to compress charge air for the engine and recharge the battery
* 3kW hydrogen fuel cell augmented by hydrogen injection.
And have not even talked about exhaust controls!

And my biggest beef of all, is to have a Battery runnng mode of only 35mph!(yeah I know in reduces power drain)
If you live in a big city, you don't need a car.

GM and DOE are just keeping the professors distracted, but busy, attempting to keep the same energy and transportation infarstucture-Fuel stations and dealerships to fix the Goldberg machines.

UC Davis is using a 30kW electric motor. This would be more than enough for highway speeds in a nice light aerodynamic car, like a ford focus (which I personally think is just about the largest passenger car the needs to exist, but which is neither here nor there).

In a giant american truck with the aerodynamics of a brick, a modified weight over two tons, and basically the same functionality as a ford focus wagon, they should be able to get up to 35 mph. It'll just take it's time getting there and consume more energy than necessary to serve the same load.

Plus, you can buy the ford focus with a PZEV engine.

I know UC davis didn't choose the vehicle and I understand that GM sponsored the challenge so they will obviously focus the efforts on a truck, since that is the only thing the GM north america makes any money on. Even so, I felt the obvious should be pointed out.

Note: I didn't suggest using a Prius b/c it has very little cargo space compared to an SUV or focus wagon. Besides, Priuses get talked about way too much here already. For $10k less (according to www.carsdirect.com for the Seattle area, including the premiums and rebates) you can buy a top of the line focus wagon. In some states, it can be bought with the 2.3 liter PZEV engine that nearly eliminates the Prius ecological advantage (in terms of all pollutants except CO2). You can spend the $5k you save (assuming the other $5k gets spent on extra gas) on solar panels or invest in a wind farm or butanol or something, if you really feel the need.


Focus Wagon ZXW SE Equinox
Standard Seating 5 5
Optional Seating No data No data
Front Headroom (in.) 39.10 40.90
Rear Headroom (in.) 39.80 40.10
Front Legroom (in.) 40.70 41.20
Rear Legroom (in.) 37.60 40.20
Front Shoulder Room (in 53.50 55.70
Rear Shoulder Room (in 53.60 55.90
Front Hip Room (in.) 49.40 51.10
Rear Hip Room (in.) 50.70 51.30
Payload & Towing
Focus Wagon ZXW SE Equinox
Passenger Volume (cu. ft.) 95.70 No data
Cargo Volume (cu. ft.) 35.60 35.20

This gets almost double the city mpg of the standard Equinox. Some people need larger vehicles and the short sighted hippies moaning that it isnt a smaller car need to realise that.

The team should be applauded.

Well, had they used a small DIESEL engine, burning BIODIESEL, then indeed the vehicle would have to use not a drop of oil, even at highway speeds. But I digress. So plug-in technology is such a blatantly obvious and easy method to achieve HUGE mileage increases. We all know this. So let's all place bets on how long the auto manufacturers will drag their feet on this one.

They could have used a diesel engine, but untill there is a suply of cleaner diesel so that they pass emmissions tests they can't be made.

Plugs ins can work, but the article did not say how much was spent on this project.

Maybe some people need larger vehicles, but most of the people in large vehcicles don't need them, especially those single commuters. Besides, I'm not sure that SUVs are the most efficient way to move around large numbers of people.

The well to wheel efficiency of an EV is way lower than a hybrid. Does this mean that a PHEV is also less efficient than a hybrid?

I think PHEVs make sense up to the point that we are recharging within the existing base load. After that, I'm not so sure. But I'd love to hear good arguments that it is the holy grail. I'd love to have a holy grail that cuts our need for energy and cuts cargon emissions.

As a research project, this is great. As numerous posters have stated, there is NO mention of cost. Not to be too much of a smart ass, but give me 10 million dollars, and trust me, I can build one heck of a car! I think the researchers should be applauded for their approach, and I do not think there will be one single solution to our oil addiction. Hybrids, PHEVS, Biodiesel, ethanol, HCCI gas engines, et al will all play a role in solving this dilemma; I don't think anyone should be knocked for an effective approach.

The main problem I see is the funding level for these sorts of projects is woefully inadequate relative to the immediate need to start weaning ourselves off of oil. Not to make too much of a political point, but as an example, Al Gore routinely talked about spending 150 billion over 10 years to reduce our use of fossil fuels during the 200 campaign. That's probably what is necessary. If that plan had implemented, be realistically would be half way there. Of course, everyone was too concerned with Al Gore wearing earth toned suits to actually elect him...

Peace,
Cosmo

The American people continue to vote for the image they want for themselves, and as an extension the President. In that image is our desired energy policy. And what we want are big cars, roaring machines and cheap fuel.
Our love for stuff that feeds our machines will not stop even when some Americans would rather be found dead from the effects of poor syphining technique(stealing gas) than be forced to drive a wimpy electric car.

Any "softness" detected in a candidate will be use to politicial advantage.
What more, can I say, except that this will always lead to

War

It's a cool project... now they need to do a service van and send me like 5 of them :P

I choose the focus wagon and listed the stats b/c it is EXACTLY THE SAME SIZE as the equinox. claims for need-based purchases of SUVs are just plain ignorant.

unless, of course, the person classifies their desire for a particular image and a tendency towards low performance and instability as a need.

theroetically, a person could claim that AWD is a need not met by the focus wagon. for such people, subaru provides the forester (the legacy and impreza are too small to meet my personal space needs)

While the genuine NEED for SUVs is low, it does exist.
No one makes a 7 passenger wagon anymore for example... and a van won't be any better than an SUV.

Also, locate a factory focus than can tow a 8,000Lbs boat or etc. Sure one could use a pickup for this, but then the seating is limited, it would be kind of silly to have a truck to haul the boat, and then a seperate car for all the people :P

But, 99% of those with SUVs don't use the seating, towing, or offroad capacity.

ANd yeah Subaru's AWD is superior to chevy and ford's 4wd, I see those little subarus pulling people out of the sand on the beach all the time.

I own a Kia Sephia and a Plymouth Grand Voyager. I put over 1300 miles and burned over 100 gallons in the past week bringing my daughter home from college. It took every cubic centimeter of cargo space squeezing her belongings into the Voyager. We've decided to move to the small Iowa town where she attends college.

The age of plenitude still awaits in spite of the anti-science and anti-technology crowd. Guys like Mao Tsetung and Amory Lovins can be banished to the dusty pages of history along with their simplistic "small is beautiful" nonsense.

You can do pretty much anything if you have plenty of clean energy. That's coming. lots of ways. solar PV, fro small local uses and Fusion for all others. Fusion is no longer a question of scientific possibility, but now entering the much simpler and assured engineering & design phase. In a few decades electricity will become more abundant than today, opening all kinds of possibilities


If there are climactic problems arising from anthropomorphic C02 releases, these are barely detectable over background. In spite of some who must worry, it won't have major climactic effects except on the order of 300-500 years or even more likely 3000-5000 years.

Please remmber that the most extreme climate change models predict only a .4-.6 degree change in a hundred years. It takes 300 years to get a degree and a half rise, if any rise will even happen! Other models, and thats what all these are is models, that don't even account for atmospheric disturbances called storms and clouds predict none to a rise of .1 degrees per century or 1000 years to rise but a single degree.

These modesl all assume to have this barely detectable effect, we will consume fossil fuels at exponential increasing rates, and with no cleanup efforts at all.

Use your own senses, we can't continue to use fossil for millenia in ever increasing amounts. You own efforts insure that todays goods are much cleaner and more efficient than yesterday's products, irrespective whether we are discussing an auto, airplane or household appliance.

In but a few decades the C02 will stabilize as fossil fuel for transportation uses gradually ceases. Not because of exhortation but simple scarcity and rising costs, versus lower costs for electric replacements.

Plants and the Oceans will rapidly scrub levels back down to the bare traces we have left in this geological epoch, and stunt enough plant growth to stop its falling further.

If Mr. Gore had his way we would have added 100,000 bureaucrats and ex-politicians and lawyers to the government, and gotten $10,000,000 prototypes like the cars of the government's last experiments. These were doomed to be unfordable, never built in quantity and, just "feel good" nonsense.

The enemy of the "good" is the "best" and government would have been driven to gold plating everything.It always does,since the people placed in charge are usually the least knowlwedgeable but the firmest true beleivers and msot politically releiable. Deleivering the 5th precint in Milwaukee, for their party is hardly credemntials to lead any big project, but that is indeed how governments functionand how the leaders are chosen. Do $800 dollar toilet seats sound familiar?

For example the governments last program created cars with bodies of carbon films, much like used in the $20 billion dollar B2 bombers. it save oh 100 pounds or soat a cost of a couple million per auto body.

Even today we can't recycle simple rubber auto tires, and there is no known way to recycle these proposed auto bodies, except burning them and making lots of dioxin, PCBs and of course CO2! Heaven stop us from using a iron carbon alloy we call "steel", which is almost wholly recycled.

The age of plenitude still awaits in spite of the anti-science and anti-technology crowd. Guys like Mao Tsetung and Amory Lovins can be banished to the dusty pages of history along with their simplistic "small is beautiful" nonsense.

You can do pretty much anything if you have plenty of clean energy. That's coming. lots of ways. solar PV, fro small local uses and Fusion for all others. Fusion is no longer a question of scientific possibility, but now entering the much simpler and assured engineering & design phase. In a few decades electricity will become more abundant than today, opening all kinds of possibilities


If there are climactic problems arising from anthropomorphic C02 releases, these are barely detectable over background. In spite of some who must worry, it won't have major climactic effects except on the order of 300-500 years or even more likely 3000-5000 years.

Please remmber that the most extreme climate change models predict only a .4-.6 degree change in a hundred years. It takes 300 years to get a degree and a half rise, if any rise will even happen! Other models, and thats what all these are is models, that don't even account for atmospheric disturbances called storms and clouds predict none to a rise of .1 degrees per century or 1000 years to rise but a single degree.

These modesl all assume to have this barely detectable effect, we will consume fossil fuels at exponential increasing rates, and with no cleanup efforts at all.

Use your own senses, we can't continue to use fossil for millenia in ever increasing amounts. You own efforts insure that todays goods are much cleaner and more efficient than yesterday's products, irrespective whether we are discussing an auto, airplane or household appliance.

In but a few decades the C02 will stabilize as fossil fuel for transportation uses gradually ceases. Not because of exhortation but simple scarcity and rising costs, versus lower costs for electric replacements.

Plants and the Oceans will rapidly scrub levels back down to the bare traces we have left in this geological epoch, and stunt enough plant growth to stop its falling further.

If Mr. Gore had his way we would have added 100,000 bureaucrats and ex-politicians and lawyers to the government, and gotten $10,000,000 prototypes like the cars of the government's last experiments. These were doomed to be unfordable, never built in quantity and, just "feel good" nonsense.

The enemy of the "good" is the "best" and government would have been driven to gold plating everything.It always does,since the people placed in charge are usually the least knowlwedgeable but the firmest true beleivers and msot politically releiable. Deleivering the 5th precint in Milwaukee, for their party is hardly credemntials to lead any big project, but that is indeed how governments functionand how the leaders are chosen. Do $800 dollar toilet seats sound familiar?

For example the governments last program created cars with bodies of carbon films, much like used in the $20 billion dollar B2 bombers. it save oh 100 pounds or soat a cost of a couple million per auto body.

Even today we can't recycle simple rubber auto tires, and there is no known way to recycle these proposed auto bodies, except burning them and making lots of dioxin, PCBs and of course CO2! Heaven stop us from using a iron carbon alloy we call "steel", which is almost wholly recycled.

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