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New EcoCAR Engineering Challenge Uses California ARB ZEV Requirements as Framework

GM, the US Department of Energy, Natural Resources Canada and others are sponsoring a new national collegiate competition series to re-engineer a GM vehicle to achieve improved fuel economy and reduce emissions while retaining the vehicle’s performance and consumer appeal. EcoCAR: the NeXT Challenge will begin in the Fall of 2008.

Students will design and build advanced propulsion solutions that emulate the vehicle categories from the California Air Resources Board (CARB) zero emissions vehicle (ZEV) requirements. Students will be encouraged to explore a variety of solutions including electric, hybrid, plug-in hybrid and fuel cells.

In addition, they will incorporate lightweight materials, improve aerodynamics and utilize alternative fuels and energy carriers such as ethanol, biodiesel, hydrogen and electricity.

EcoCAR will follow the successful student engineering competition, “Challenge X: Crossover to Sustainable Mobility,” also sponsored by GM and the US Department of Energy, along with other government, automotive and technology industry partners.

The Challenge X student engineering competition, which began in 2004 and concludes in May 2008, includes 17 North American universities, which have re-engineered a Chevrolet Equinox with alternative propulsion systems to improve fuel economy and reduce emissions.

EcoCAR will launch in the 2008-2009 academic year as a three-year program with General Motors providing production vehicles and parts, seed money, technical mentoring and operational support. The US Department of Energy and its research and development facility, Argonne National Laboratory, will provide competition management, team evaluation and technical and logistical support.

EcoCAR is a reflection of GM’s philosophy that there is no single silver bullet that will solve the world’s energy challenges. “Our approach is based on energy diversity and customer choice, using advanced propulsion technologies that play a significant role in displacing large amounts of petroleum and reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

—Tom Stephens, group vice president of GM Global GM Powertrain and Quality

In the first year teams develop their vehicle designs through the use of GM’s Global Vehicle Development Process—the modeling simulation process currently used to develop all of GM’s vehicles. Sophisticated hardware in the loop (HIL) and software in the loop (SIL) systems will be designed, and teams challenged to model and engineer the subsystems into their design.

During Years Two and Three, students will build the vehicle and continue to refine, test, and improve vehicle operation. At the end of Years Two and Three, the re-engineered student vehicle prototypes will compete in a week-long competition of engineering tests. These tests will be similar to the tests GM conducts to determine a prototype’s readiness for a production decision.

A selection process open to all accredited engineering schools in the US, Canada and Mexico will begin 3 December 2007, and approximately 16 teams will be selected in April 2008 for the competition.

EcoCAR: the NeXt Challenge will have its own web site at Until that site is complete, updates on the program will be posted on the ChallengeX site (



Sounds like they already know what to do. More stall tactics.


I think the above comment is idiocy, and applaud the student competitions.


Uh, this sounds like UC Davis' entry into the 1998 FutureCar contest. UC Davis converted a Mercury Sable 5-passenger sedan into a PHEV with a very small gas motor, and intended for primarily electric travel under most daily driving, and getting something like 69 MPG.
Because it was developed by the University of California, it followed stricter pollution standards than the University of Wisconsin diesel hybrid which hit 75 mpg that year.

However, UC Davis' entry was what many automakers are now finally talking about making. So, y'know, 10 years later you could either solve the oil problem for a generation...or, ask college students to come up with more good ideas you won't use...I guess for Detroit it was an obvious choice.

Disclaimer: I know batteries weren't as good, and aluminum chassis were considered exotic back then, but so what? We've imported something like $1.2 Trillion dollars worth of oil since 1998. Do you know how much that trade deficit messes with the value of the dollar? It makes sense as a society to put the financial incentives in place to make the jump.

Bob Bastard

Interesting, I wonder which truck/SUV they will choose for this project.


I can definitely understand the cynicism about GM. Hopefully this time they're serious and using college students to get around people who may be stuck in their ways.


This load of BS has been going on for almost a decade. It used to be called the FutureTruck competition.
A better name for this would be "The national collegiate PR competition"

Tom Street

God, I am sick of prototypes.


Engineering schools should understand that engineering is not the answer to anything. Whining and moaning about the inevitable end of civilization is the best education and should be implemented with unbridled enthusiasm.


I think its great that GM finally recognized that their engineers have been muzzled for so long that they cant think outside the box and are relying on students to come up with the solutions they should have been working on for the past ten years instead of copying the competition badly. Given their billions in losses, students working nearly for free is about all GM can afford since they arent about to cut executive pay and perks.

Stan Peterson

Yada, yada, yada. From know-nothings that don't understand technology; how it works, how it develops, and how it's utilized.

Sort of the "civilized barbarians" who can twiddle a TV knob, or turn an ignition switch on their car, but don't have the damndest idea how they work. And glory in their ignorant stupidity, and yet think they are "educated".

What's more these ignorant fools deem themselves qualified to try to dictate policy on how the rest of the world should live. All based on foolish claims, made by at best misguided, but more than likely malicious power grabbers. All because they are too ignorant to be able to understand the facts, and rely on heresay or simplified nonsense uttered by modern day cycnical shamans, manipulating them.


Go College kids! Persist with your youthful enthusiasm.


@ Stan,

It's amazing how you sound like your opinion is based on something when it is based on so little.

GM was vociferously saying hybrid's were "impossible" up until Honda and Toyota shipped them.

GM could have taken 2/3rds of the batteries out of an EV1, added a 600 cc 3-cylinder generator, and become the PHEV leader 7-10 years ago.

The technology was proven by UC Davis' future car entries 10-12 years ago.

So, Stan, forgive us for believing that our observation that Detroit talks about fuel cells, and future car contests, and perhaps even flexfuel ethanol as ways to stall making lighter, lower-powered, more aerodynamic cars with off the shelf technology today.


GM was right, hybrids are impossible.

assuming you want to sell large numbers of normal cars to normal people at normal prices, hybrid cars can only fail. the only hybrid to succeed so far has been the prius.

the hybrid accord is dead, the hybrid camry is dead. so, Japan essentially proved GM right.

they also proved that you can sell a small number of halo environmentalist cars, just like ford can sell a small number of sports cars (what is the ratio of mustangs to priuses sales per year? about 1:1), at a premium.

the lesson? hybrids are fine, just don't expect people to want to buy them unless they look distinct enough that everybody will know what they are driving.


@ Shaun,

It's probably fair comment that Prius has the best marketing of any hybrid by being obviously a hybrid. However, the Camry Hybrid costs ~$25K (which is $7K more than the entry-level Camry model) compared to an entry-level Prius for $21K. The Accord hybrid has a big premium, too. The delta doesn't pay for the modest mileage improvement, and better mileage is available, if that's what you really want.

I think it makes more sense to sell a hybrid-only car, to avoid the hybrid premium bad aftertaste.

But, come on, if everybody just drove the most fuel efficient version of the car they already own (the 4-cylinder instead of the 6-cylinder, etc.), the US would use about 20% less oil. Same sized car. Same number of seats. Just less conspicuous consumption and a cheaper car, too.


They stopped making the V6 Accord hybrid, they sold too few of them. The Camry hybrid will probably sell much better and may be worth the price premium, as gasoline heads towards $4 per gallon.

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