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Mississippi State University Students Win GM and DOE Challenge X 2008 Competition; New ZEV-Based Competition To Begin

The Mississippi State winning Equinox.

Mississippi State University, for the second consecutive year, earned top honors in the GM and US Department of Energy’s (DOE) Challenge X student engineering competition. Over the past nine months, the 2008 Challenge X: Crossover to Sustainability competition challenged 17 university teams from the US and Canada to re-engineer a Chevrolet Equinox that employs advanced powertrain technologies.

The Mississippi State team designed a through-the-road parallel hybrid electric vehicle powered by a 1.9L GM direct injection turbo diesel engine fueled by biodiesel (B20). It used a GM F40 6-speed manual transmission and a Johnson Controls 300V NiMH battery pack in conjunction with a 67 kW Ballard AC induction motor. It achieved a 38% increase in fuel economy over the production vehicle on a modified urban test cycle.

The second place vehicle, engineered by students at the University of Wisconsin, is also a through-the-road parallel hybrid electric vehicle with a 1.9L GM direct injection turbo diesel engine fueled by B20. Ohio State University was awarded third place for its power-split hybrid electric vehicle powered by a 1.9L GM direct injection turbo diesel engine fueled by B20.

Challenge X is a unique engineering competition that provided 17 university teams from across North America the opportunity to follow the GM Global Vehicle Development process and develop advanced propulsion technology solutions that will increase energy efficiency and reduce environmental impact. The teams used a variety of alternative fuels including biodiesel (B20), ethanol (E85), reformulated gasoline and hydrogen.

Additional highlights of the Challenge X vehicles include:

  • Plug-in Hybrid. The University of California at Davis is the only team to use plug-in hybrid technology for the energy source for its Challenge X vehicle.

  • Biodiesel Fuel Source. Twelve teams used biodiesel fuel (B20).

  • Hydrogen Fuel Cell. The University of Waterloo has a dedicated hydrogen fuel cell for its primary propulsion source.

  • Hydrogen Fuel Source. Pennsylvania State University, Texas Tech University and the University of Tulsa used hydrogen as a supplementary or secondary propulsion source. Penn State injected hydrogen into its vehicle's diesel engine as an emissions abatement strategy.

  • Belt Alternator/Starter Technology. Five teams, including Ohio State University and Virginia Tech, used belt alternator/starter technology for an electric performance assist in their vehicles.

  • Ultracapacitors. West Virginia University and the University of Akron used ultracapacitors to source high levels of power for short periods of time and recapture energy from braking.

The first year of the program, which began in 2004, focused on vehicle simulation, modeling and subsystem development, and testing. In years Two and Three, students integrated their advanced powertrains and subsystems into the Chevrolet Equinox. In the fourth year, students focused on customer acceptability and over-the-road reliability and durability of their advanced propulsion systems with real-world evaluation outside of the laboratory and proving ground environments.

The 17 teams that participated in Challenge X are: Michigan Technological University; Mississippi State University, The Ohio State University; Pennsylvania State University; Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology, San Diego State University, Texas Tech University; University of Akron; University of California, Davis; University of Michigan; University of Tennessee; University of Texas at Austin, University of Tulsa, University of Waterloo, University of Wisconsin; Virginia Tech; and West Virginia University.

DOE and GM are the headline sponsors for Challenge X. Other sponsors include Natural Resources Canada; The MathWorks; National Instruments; Freescale Semiconductor; AVL Powertrain Engineering, Inc.; National Science Foundation; Sensors, Inc.; Cobasys; Johnson Controls-SAFT Advanced Power Solutions; Ballard Power Systems, Inc.; Renewable Fuels Association; Caterpillar, Inc.; MotoTron Corporation; XM Radio, OnStar and Siemens PLM Software.

EcoCAR: The Next Competition from DOE and GM. EcoCAR: The NeXt Challenge is a new national collegiate competition series that kicks off in the Fall of 2008. Sponsored by the DOE and GM as well as Natural Resources Canada and others, EcoCAR will challenge university engineering students across North America to design and build advanced propulsion solutions that are based on the vehicle categories from the California Air Resources Board (CARB) zero emissions vehicle (ZEV) regulations.

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 such as ethanol, biodiesel and hydrogen.

DOE, GM and NR Canada have selected 17 teams to participate in EcoCAR. EcoCAR will use a Saturn VUE as the base vehicle. The following teams have been selected to compete in the EcoCAR competition:

  • Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University (Daytona Beach, FL)
  • Georgia Tech (Atlanta, GA)
  • Howard University (Washington, D.C.)
  • Michigan Technological University (Houghton, MI)
  • Mississippi State University (Starkville, MS)
  • Missouri University of Science and Technology (Rolla, MO)
  • North Carolina State University (Raleigh, NC)
  • Ohio State University (Columbus, OH)
  • Pennsylvania State University (University Park, PA)
  • Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology (Terre Haute, IN)
  • Texas Tech University (Lubbock, TX)
  • University of Ontario Institute of Technology (Oshawa, Ontario, Canada)
  • University of Victoria (Victoria, British Columbia, Canada)
  • University of Waterloo (Waterloo, Ontario, Canada)
  • University of Wisconsin (Madison, WI)
  • Virginia Tech (Blacksburg, VA)
  • West Virginia University (Morgantown, WV)

During the three-year program, General Motors will provide production vehicles, vehicle components, seed money, technical mentoring and operational support. The DOE and its research and development facility, Argonne National Laboratory, will provide competition management, team evaluation and technical and logistical support.

In the first year, teams will develop their vehicle designs through the use of GM’s Global Vehicle Development Process—the modeling and 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 utilized, and teams will be challenged to model and simulate the integration of their subsystems into the overall vehicle design. The emphasis is on optimizing a practical, realizable solution that will meet the goals of the competition.

During the second and third years of the competition, 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 production. The Greenhouse gas, Regulated Emissions, and Energy in Transportation (GREET) model, developed at Argonne National Laboratory, will be used to assess a well-to-wheel analysis of the greenhouse gas impacts of each technology approach the teams select.

In addition to sponsorship from GM and DOE, Platinum sponsor Government of Canada is providing extensive operational support. The other Platinum sponsors, dSPACE, National Instruments, The MathWorks and Freescale Semiconductor are providing critical software and hardware components.

Gold sponsors are The National Science Foundation and MotoTron Corporation. Silver sponsors are: SnapOn Tools and Renewable Fuels Association. Bronze sponsors are: Delphi Corporation, EcoMotors, CarSim and Bosch.


Jim Anderson

I suppose cost is the barrier, but I would like to see the following. A biodiesel (up to B100) plug-in electric hybrid, which also uses ultra-capicitors for regenerative braking. Additionally, I want a bank of solar cells on the roof and dashboard to trickle charge the battery while parked and while driving. Now if someone could mass produce this, economy of scale might make it cost effective. I'd like to see the B100 sourced from algal-based oil out of Florida or Louisiana.


GM's sponsorship of this event and now EcoCAR is just an example of how they are trying to advance these next-gen propulsions platforms, plus get a look at some of the up and coming engineers of the future--an awesome program that I know most students highly value! Living in LA myself, I am excited about the EcoCAR competition!

Gib Etheridge

Should it be within the parameters of this competition, the school most certain to win would be the team to develope a retrofit compressed air propulsion system. There is much to be learned about this on the internet, and I expect it would be considerably more interesting and challenging than further fine tuning of the internal combustion engine. Compressed air will run the cars of the future, and environmental impact will be lessened exponentially, as will dependence on foreign powers.


Air cars sound too good to be true, but if it really is a viable alternate to the internal combustion engine, the rewards would be unblievable. MDI is entering one or two in the X-Prize competition. It will be interesting to see how they perform.


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