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Two of the major focuses of the EcoCAR Challenge have been Model-Based Design and Hardware-in-the-Loop (HIL) simulation. These techniques allow teams to test everything from failures to fuel economy using a virtual vehicle model. They also help to ensure that a robust, reliable and safe control system makes its way into the car.

Throughout the past semester, several members of the University of Victoria EcoCAR Controls Team worked diligently to improve their HIL system, taking advantage of EcoCAR sponsor dSPACE’s advanced Automotive Simulation Models. The team’s upgraded model accurately represents the real vehicle from the ignition and body roll, right down to the frictional forces between the tires and the road. This work has already paid dividends, allowing the team to accurately test their real-time optimization strategy before making any updates to the vehicle. The new model and preliminary on-road testing also confirmed that UVic’s EcoCAR will be capable of 0-100 km/h (0-60 mph) in about 7.5 seconds, as predicted back in Year One!

Check out the video below to see the UVic team’s model running a 0-100 km/h test on dSPACE MotionDesk Software. Don’t let the default car body in the video fool you, ‘under the hood’ is UVic’s model and just like the real car, it is fast!

With the first semester of the third and final year of EcoCAR: The NeXt Challenge under their belt, Mississippi State University’s EcoCAR controls team has been hard at work applying what they learned from the Winter Workshop at The Mathworks headquarters in Boston, MA, to their vehicle control systems.  Not only has the controls team updated their Hardware-in-the-Loop simulator to match their championship competition vehicle, but will soon begin the optimization process using super-computers.

Super-computing allows for iterative simulations to deterimine how systems and components will behave under varioius conditions (image from

MSU is part of the High Performance Computing Collaboratory.  As such, the MSU EcoCAR team is excited to leverage these resources to produce a controller strategy that is optimized for energy management.  Thanks to the support of dSPACE and The Mathworks, the MSU controls team will be optimizing using the latest versions of MATLAB® & Simulink®, which will help keep MSU on top of the competition.

“We are very fortunate to have access to some incredible resources here at Mississippi State University, and as a competition team, we are very excited to use super-computing to push the boundaries of our control systems,” said team leader Matt Doude. “We like having a competitive edge, and we like that edge to be sharp.”

As the team moves forward in the competition, they will also be utilizing other cutting-edge technologies, including a four-wheel chassis dynamometer and 3D virtual environment simulations.

At the EcoCAR Year Two awards ceremony in San Diego, three teams were presented with the dSPACE Embedded Success Award for demonstrating the most effective use of dSPACE HIL equipment. The first-place winner of the dSPACE Embedded Success Award was The Ohio State University. 
“The Ohio State team exemplified the best attributes sought in how to use HIL simulation effectively, from clear specification-based test development to highly mature and in-depth plant modeling,” said Santhosh Jogi, dSPACE Inc. Engineering Director. 
OSU had to create their own engine controls for their chosen vehicle architecture.  This required the use of accurate plant models for the internal combustion engine and the integration of the engine controller and the primary supervisory controller with the HIL system. 
“Not only did they accomplish these tasks, but also conducted a thorough analysis of fidelity versus efficiency in determining their modeling approach,” Jogi added.  “For test development, they followed a methodical approach to define, create and automate testing, and in doing so, developed the ability to regression-test new versions of control strategies effectively and quickly.”

EcoCAR students receiving the dSPACE award

Second and third place honors were presented to Mississippi State University and the University of Victoria.
“Mississippi State had a thorough approach to HIL-based development and testing, one that mimics what is seen in the industry today,” said Jogi.  “They successfully used HIL technology to simulate their system, test major control strategies, failure conditions, and even debug and solve issues in the vehicle.”
Jogi said the University of Victoria demonstrated a clear and impressive strategy in using HIL simulation to develop their control systems and test their planned vehicle features and architecture. 
“Their plant modeling, test development, and validation of control system function, diagnostics, and integration in Year Two, along with their plans for further simulation fidelity in Year Three, are strong indicators of the forward-looking attitude of this team, which exemplifies the spirit of EcoCAR,” Jogi said.
The winning teams received cash prizes and Floating Network License packs of dSPACE’s ASM Engine, Vehicle Dynamics, Traffic, and Electric Component simulation models.
“The software packages are designed to allow schools to create automotive technology curriculum in the areas of advanced powertrain, chassis and driver assistance using the same tools that OEMs and Tier1s around the world use for developing new products,” said Vivek Moudgal, dSPACE Inc, Sales Director. 
Using tools that are preferred by OEMs will help the universities produce engineers ready to work in the automotive industry.
We look forward to seeing what the teams have in store for Year Three!

Time has flown by! The Mississippi State EcoCAR team is finding it hard to believe that their vehicle ships to competition in less than three weeks. The team is making serious progress, but the evidence of the progress changes every day.

On any given day in the last month, the vehicle could be assembled and driving around the team’s parking lot in the morning, and that afternoon it could be six feet off the ground – no engine, no motors, no wheels, no axles, no seats, no dash -basically a shell of a vehicle with hundreds of electrical wires exposed. The MSU team has two team members that are becoming experts at installing and removing a 1.3L diesel from their EcoCAR.

Despite minor set-backs, the team has met several goals in the last few weeks. The battery pack is installed and meets clearance, fuel, brake, coolant, and HV lines have been routed safely and to code, and additional communication has been added and validated between the Mototron and dSPACE controllers.

This past weekend, the team’s engine finally arrived and is up and running! The students made great progress with the engine and are excited to load their vehicle on the transporter and send it to Yuma! 

Check out the video below for an update from the team from inside their garage!

We are pleased to announce four new award opportunities made possible by EcoCAR Platinum Sponsors dSPACE, National Instruments, MathWorks and Freescale Semiconductor! The awards are designed to showcase exceptional ways the EcoCAR teams use the sponsors’ technologies, and as a result, successfully advance in the competition. Here’s an overview of the new awards:

  • dSPACE Embedded Success Award. The award will be granted to the teams that have effectively utilized dSPACE Hardware-in-the-Loop technology for controls/diagnostics development and validation in preparation for the Year Two vehicle testing. 
  • National Instruments Most Innovative Use of Graphical System Design Award. The award will be given to the team that demonstrates the most innovative use of National Instruments tools during the vehicle development cycle.
  • MathWorks Modeling Award. The award will be granted to the top three teams that best apply the core concepts of Model-Based Design with  the MathWorks tools to help achieve the overall competition objectives.
  • Freescale Semiconductor Innovation Award. The award will be granted to the team with the most innovative use of controls and electronics to give its EcoCAR a competitive advantage.  

The teams must notify the competition organizers by April 30, 2010 if they wish to participate. Only a couple weeks left to showcase how your EcoCAR team stands out from the pack! Check back for the winner’s listing in May.

After a great finish in last year’s competition, Ohio State continues to lead the Hardware in the Loop (HIL) development in Year 2 with a first place finish in the HIL Evaluation event that took place at the EcoCAR Winter Workshop in January! This presentation was a technical demonstration of the team’s continued development with its HIL setup.

HIL enables OSU to develop its vehicle much faster and with less software development required once the vehicle is put together. This is because HIL allows the team to develop and test its software in parallel with its physical vehicle integration. In fact, they think using HIL methodology for vehicle development is so effective that they teamed up with EcoCAR and their HIL sponsor, dSPACE, to film a video about it. 

John Kruckenberg, OSU's controls team leader, sitting next to the team's HIL set up

The OSU video discusses the control challenges of developing a vehicle and illustrates the state-of-the-art hardware and techniques the team uses to solve engineering problems. The team explains its progression from mathematical models to lab-based tests with HIL, then to in-vehicle testing of its vehicle software, and finally taking its vehicle results back to the HIL bench for continued improvement. The video also highlights the team’s use of HIL for failure simulation, since testing for faults in a lab-bench environment is much safer than doing all of their fault analysis in the vehicle! Team members discuss their use of automated testing, which allows them to create a standard series of tests for validation of each new software release.

The OSU team would like to thank dSPACE for its sponsorship and support! The team’s success would not be possible without dSPACE’s extensive contributions and dedicated support! Take a look at how OSU takes HIL to the next level in the video below:

This week, we are featuring two more mentors from EcoCAR’s platinum sponsor, dSPACE. If you remember from last week, dSPACE is providing Hardware-in-the-Loop (HIL) support to 8 of the 17 EcoCAR teams.

Jim Hollowell working with EcoCAR students

Jim Hollowell is a senior applications engineer for dSPACE responsible for providing design, testing and customer support services for HIL systems.  Jim is serving as a mentor to the Mississippi State University team during the EcoCAR competition. 

“It’s a wonderful learning experience, for both the students and me.  The future of the industry looks bright. Great young minds, with wonderful enthusiasm and new ideas.”

Tobias Eifler teaching EcoCAR students about HIL implementation

Tobias Eifler is a senior applications engineer for dSPACE responsible for the implementation of automotive simulation models on HIL systems.  Since the kick-off of the EcoCAR Challenge in the fall of 2008, Tobias has been serving as a mentor to the University of Waterloo.

“I am training students on rapid prototyping and Hardware-in-the-Loop model-based implementation utilizing dSPACE hardware and software.  The tools and technologies that the EcoCAR teams are using are very sophisticated.  The students were faced with a steep learning curve and it is very satisfying and encouraging to see the fast progress they are making. It’s an honor for me to be able to play a role in educating the engineers of tomorrow.  I am from Germany, but temporarily working in the dSPACE U.S. office, so the events associated with the EcoCAR competition have made it possible for me to see some extraordinary and exciting places in North America.  It’s been a great experience!”

Mentor Monday is dedicated to the many EcoCAR sponsors that provide valuable time and insight to the teams through mentoring.  This week, we are featuring a mentor from dSPACE, a platinum EcoCAR sponsor providing Hardware-in-the-Loop (HIL) support to 8 of the 17 EcoCAR teams – including The Ohio State University team which placed first in the HIL event at the Winter Workshop.

Shreyas Nagaraj is an applications engineer at dSPACE responsible for providing support and engineering services to engineers working on HIL simulation at General Motors.  His interests include: test automation, plant modeling, vehicle dynamics, and developing new products that will assist engineers in testing and validating various electronic control units.  Shreyas has been a mentor to The Ohio State University since the EcoCAR Challenge kick-off  in 2008.

“EcoCAR has given me the opportunity to relive my college days.  Working with students who are dealing with real world problems and coming up with new ideas to solve them is very exciting and rewarding. Great ideas are born through the EcoCAR program that could someday revolutionize the cars we drive. Serving as a mentor to such an innovative, creative and motivated team gives me great personal satisfaction and makes my job even more interesting.”

Shreyas Nagaraj talking to EcoCAR students at a training workshop at the dSPACE headquarters in Wixom, MI

Nicole Hard at Work

Nicole Hard at Work

A look back on my first Fall Workshop as an organizer…

As a student in the EcoCAR competition, you never realize how much work goes into these workshops. All you really think about is when breakfast/lunch will be served, when the buses will come pick you up and what training course or session track to pick from.

After my first fall workshop as an organizer, I am awed by the amount of work it takes for these events to run smoothly. It really does take a village for these competition events to work effectively. Collaboration from so many sponsors like GM, DOE, the Government of Canada, A123Systems, The Math Works, dSPACE, NI, Woodward, EPA, Freescale and so many others make it possible for this program to become the success it always has been. It is really a great experience to be behind the scenes and help make the program a triumph.
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The Winning OSU Team

The Winning OSU Team

We are excited to be writing a blog as the EcoCAR Year 1 Champs! Here is a little information about our team and a reflection of what has contributed to our success this year.

How did OSU get involved in EcoCAR?

OSU has been a participant in Hybrid Electric Vehicle (HEV) competitions such as FutureCAR, FutureTruck and ChallengeX since 1992. Most recently, our biodiesel, parallel-through-the-road hybrid electric vehicle placed 3rd in the final year of Challenge X, along with multiple awards including the MathWorks: Crossover to Model-Based Design Award. In addition, the OSU team placed a significant emphasis on marketing and outreach efforts in Challenge X, paving the way for further sophistication of Advanced Vehicle Technology Competitions through the increased Business and Outreach focuses in the EcoCAR Challenge Competition.
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September 2020