University students from The Ohio State University earned top honors at the 2009 finals of the EcoCAR: The NeXt Challenge competition in Toronto, Canada for their design of a Extended Range Electric Vehicle (EREV).
The Ohio State University took first place out of 17 universities in the US and Canada that competed in the first major milestone of this three-year competition sponsored by the US Department of Energy, General Motors, and many others including the Government of Canada. The competition challenges university engineering students across North America to re-engineer a 2009 Saturn VUE to improve fuel efficiency and reduce emissions while retaining the vehicle’s performance and consumer appeal.
For this first year of competition, students were tasked with creating innovative concepts for their vehicle design and given the opportunity to use advanced software and computer modeling tools which allowed for testing and refinement under the simulation of real-world conditions.
The Ohio State’s design was powered by a 1.8-liter engine and fueled by E85 ethanol. The next-generation design predicts a 300% increase in fuel economy over the production 4-cylinder vehicle.
The second-place vehicle design, engineered by students at the University of Victoria, is also an EREV that runs on E85 ethanol. Mississippi State University was awarded third place for its EREV, fueled by B20 biodiesel.
In year two of the competition, teams incorporate their unique powertrains into the Saturn VUE. In the final year, teams must refine their vehicles to near-showroom quality.
Students were encouraged to explore a variety of solutions including hybrid, plug-in hybrid, fuel cell, electric, and extended range electric vehicles. Almost half of the EcoCAR teams chose to design EREVs, including Ohio State, University of Wisconsin, Virginia Tech, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, Mississippi State University, North Carolina State University, Penn State and University of Victoria.
One team, University of Ontario Institute of Technology, chose to design a Full Function Electric Vehicle. Two of the teams, University of Waterloo and Missouri University of Science and Technology, designed a Fuel Cell Plug-in Hybrid Vehicle which uses an onboard hydrogen fuel cell to either propel the vehicle or recharge a battery pack.
Six of the EcoCAR teams designed Plug-In Hybrid Electric Vehicles which utilize a large lithium ion battery: Texas Tech, West Virginia University, Michigan Tech, Howard University, Georgia Tech, and Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology.
While each of the 17 EcoCAR designs is unique, the common attributes include:
- Li-ion battery technology.
- Plug-in capability.
- Renewable fuels (when a liquid fuel is required).
- Powertrain diversity. Many EcoCAR teams like The University of Victoria, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, and Howard University have innovative powertrains that let one vehicle operate in engine-only, hybrid-electric, and electric only modes to optimize efficiency and performance.