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Mississippi State University Takes First in Year Two of EcoCAR Competition With Biodiesel EREV

The winner: the MSU biodiesel EREV. Click to enlarge.

Students from Mississippi State University placed first in the 2010 EcoCAR: The NeXt Challenge finals in San Diego, Calif. after designing and building an biodiesel extended-range electric vehicle (EREV). Virginia Tech earned second place with an ethanol EREV design and Penn State came in third place building a biodiesel EREV.

The Mississippi State University EcoCAR team chose to design an EREV hybrid with a 21.3 kWh A123 Systems battery pack which provides an electric range of 60 miles. It’s also equipped with a 1.3L GM turbodiesel engine and 75 kW UQM generator in a series plug-in configuration. During testing, the vehicle achieved 118 miles per gallon gas equivalent (combined city/highway cycle).

In addition to the overall winner’s award, Mississippi State won nine additional awards including performance events in auto-cross and acceleration.

Mississippi State University competed against 15 other universities to win first place in Year Two Finals of the three-year competition sponsored by the US Department of Energy and General Motors (GM). The competition challenges university engineering students from across North America to re-engineer a GM-donated vehicle to minimize the vehicle’s fuel consumption and emissions, while maintaining its utility, safety and performance. The winning teams will come together to answer questions about their work and vehicles during an online chat on 4 June at 3 pm EDT on the Inside the Green Garage blog.

During the second year of the EcoCAR competition, the teams utilized advanced automotive engineering processes, such as Hardware in the Loop (HIL) simulation, to move their designs into the physical vehicles. Once the vehicles were built and rolled out of their respective Green Garages, they went through a series of safety and technical tests at GM’s Desert Proving Grounds in Yuma, Ariz., similar to those conducted on production vehicles. Each of the cars was evaluated based on the ability to decrease fuel consumption and greenhouse gas emissions, and maintain consumer acceptability in the areas of performance, utility and safety.

The Virginia Tech EcoCAR team designed an EREV vehicle with a 40 mile electric range using a 90 kW Ballard electric motor, 16 kW belted alternator starter and 21.3 kWh battery pack in a split parallel architecture. They chose to build the vehicle with a 2.4L Ethanol engine and use 78% less petroleum compared to the baseline vehicle.

Penn State’s EcoCAR vehicle is also an EREV design which includes a 12.8 kWh battery pack coupled with a GM 110 kW Electric Traction Motor and 75 kW UQM generator. It includes a 4-cylinder 1.3L biodiesel engine and achieved more than double the fuel economy of the baseline vehicle, or 57 miles per gallon gas equivalent.



OK, but the battery is too large.
They should have a 10 KwH class and a 5 KwH class.
At least the cars look like real cars, and not flatfish on wheels.
The trick would be to draw a graph of mpg vs KwH to see how low you can go before it all goes to hell.

Will S

Wow, if Mississippi State can do this, why is it so hard for the Big 3 (and Honda, etc)?


Resistance to change the past bread winners and lack of in-house e-vehicles knowledge may be part of it. Also, buyers interest is not there in very great numbers yet. This may change when improved lower cost batteries become available.


With EREVs like hybrids you have two of everything, but you want it to cost less. Using fewer batteries and getting them to cost less will help, but as long as you have a motor and engine and a gas tank and batteries and a fuel injection system and motor controller, it will cost more than a regular car. We are trading hardware for energy, but not many are willing to make that trade. They would rather pay as you go than pay up front.

Sanity Chk

New cars should be all electric with a 60+ mi range. Either 25 - 35kW portable gen-sets should be available (rent or purchase) to keep you car charged on long trips. Alternately, batteries your car be equipped with batteries that can be recharged in 10 - 15 minutes like the LiTi units made by Altairnano.

Individually or in combination, these would meet nearly all personal transportation needs without having to carry unnecessary weight like hybrids do.


"Wow, if Mississippi State can do this, why is it so hard for the Big 3 (and Honda, etc)?

Posted by: Will S | May 28, 2010 at 07:18 AM" clear enough.


60 mile range would work for most if there was charging on the other end of the trip. If employers would put in charging stations with some help from the government, we could clean the air and reduce oil imports.

Sanity Chk

ERJ: My sentiments exactly. Until your employer installs charging stations, get a car with an 80 or 100 mi range.


It am sure that as EVs of various types become viable, charging stations will sprout like weeds and we will be on the way to better things..
EREVs, parallel hybrids and series hybrids will all help support the charging stations the pure EVs will need to reduce costs.

We do NOT need studies and trials and gummint money for these any more that we needed them for big flat screen TVs or iphones.

When the EVs start to turn viable, they will come and so will charging stations.

As for the Mississippi State students being capable of doing something the Big 3 cannot do;
I am surprised at the time span between learning to read and being able to understand;

A. That being able to build a type of vehicle does not mean it will be cost effective in the market - and

B. That there is no reason for an automaker to go into production with an EV that is dirt simple, but costly to design and which has proven, over the last 10 years, to be not viable (or marginally viable) in the market place.

C. That the more ardently you wish a car type were in production, when it is not, the more likely you should seek help.


For the private sector to make enough money on chargers to interest them, they might have to charge the customer 60 cents per kWh. They buy it at 15 cents and charge you 60 cents. Otherwise there is not enough of a killing to make it worth their while.

If 40 miles takes 2 gallons at $3 per gallon, it costs the driver the same whether it is electric or gasoline. They may be willing to pay that for the convenience of charging at the other end, but that still is not enough of a profit to pay for lots of chargers that will seldom be used.

Making chargers available at say 30 cents per kWh through a public/private partnership may work. It is a steady sure profit and the chicken and eggs deadlock is broken where more people are charging every day. Since it clears the air and reduces oil imports, this could be a worthy effort for everyone.


I think SJC said it best "We are trading hardware for energy".
We trade complexity (2 engines) for increased fuel economy.
At present, most people won't pay for this (as it costs too much), so the question is, will the cost of the hardware come down, as the cost of energy goes up?

My guess is that the cost of hardware WILL go down, and go down fast enough, as long as governments apply pressure (like taxation and support for research).

The market is too intermittent - the price of oil fluctuates wildly, making planning difficult, but the EUs 120 gms/km mandate and generally high taxation in the EU will produce results.

I.e It will push the development of higher efficiency hardware, and once invented, ity will be perfected, and the price will come down.

Look at video recorders - they are(were) complex electro-mechanical devices, but they became very cheap once the technology was mastered and distributed.


We will need to do something because we have to. Usually the solution that gives the most benefit at the least cost is chosen. That is why I like FFVs for a few hundred dollars each running on M85 at $2 per gallon. It fits what we have now and will reduce imported oil right away.


What kind of business model says that the private sector must buy it at 15 cents and charge 60 cents per kWh to make enough of a killing to make it worth their while?

Even the totalitarian Chinese government does not operate that way. Russia did - - Cuba does.

Why would you assume we need government interference to break chargers free of large R & D costs? There is no chicken and egg deadlock for chargers – not even maybe.

Any big or little company can make chargers, and if/when battery performance makes EVs practical, and some big evil capitalist industrialist company makes a charger, and charges $.60/kWh, when it costs $15/kWh, another company will make one overnight and will charge $.50/kWh.

If it is a steady sure profit, where more people are charging every day, then in three more months you will find it available for $.20/kWh - and dropping.

Of course the cost of hardware WILL go down, and go down fast, as long as there is a demand and governments stay out of the way.
Look at video recorders and VCRs and DVD recorders/players - they are(were) complex electro-mechanical devices, but they became very cheap once the technology was mastered and distributed – and without the government.

The solution that gives the most benefit at the least cost is chosen.
This is where the government MUST make gas less attractive (higher priced) or push CAFE higher.

The monetary costs of gas and fuel inefficient vehicles are too low. It stifles alternatives like FFVs and furthers oil dependence.

The government is too spineless to act.
And it is irrational to think people will make a SIGNIFICANT personal sacrifice for some negligible (1 person out of 6.8 billion) common good.

We should – but we don’t and we won't.

We need low cost, high performance batteries; industry know this, and I am NOT sure we need to fund a bunch of inadequate, cost ineffective batteries on the assumption that good ones will therefore follow.


"There is no chicken and egg deadlock for chargers"

Of course there is, no one that wants to make money will put in 1000s of chargers with few customers. When there are 1 million EVs on the road they have a customer base, but getting 1 million on the road may require charging stations.


Where and how is there a chicken and egg deadlock for chargers?

You can only surmise there is a potential for a chicken and egg deadlock. Sure, might happen.

Some trips would benefit from chargers at malls and work places, but some would not.

Like with an H2 auto and infrastructure. Until the FCV is viable there is no deadlock. Ultimately, I believe infrastructure will holding it back, if it becomes viable – if.

Kristen Suggs

As we approach the 3rd competition in April I hope Mississippi State stands strong and brings home another win. I know everyone is working hard!!
Good Luck
Mississippi State student
Kristen Suggs


Wow! I am so proud of the Mississippi State's Eco car team! They are doing a wonderful job!
Keep up the good work!
Go Dawgs!
Amanda Jordan

Lauren Hinton

What a wonderful thing that Mississippi State's Eco Car team is doing! Go Bulldogs!

Amanda Butts

So great to see Mississippi State and the Bagley College of Engineering being recognized for the great work they are doing in the state of Mississippi! I hope that you guys wrap up the 3rd year of the competition with another victory!
Good luck and Go Dawgs!

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