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In order to make the wheels spin on UWAFT’s hydrogen fuel cell plug-in hybrid electric vehicle, the EcoCAR students at the University of Waterloo have successfully integrated two electric motors into the vehicle’s drivetrain – one at the front wheels and one at the rear wheels.  To effectively use the electricity of the team’s GM-donated fuel cell and A123Systems-donated battery, UWAFT needed frequent successful bench tests of its Siemens AC induction electric rear motor.

Since this motor was not originally intended to be incorporated into the stock GM sub-frame, UWAFT has designed a unique rear mounting system that retained the original suspension mounting points, while also housing the sizable motor.  Knowing that the electric motor would need to be detached from the vehicle on a regular basis for testing, UWAFT specially designed the rear sub frame to ensure that disassembly was as efficient as possible. The design was a success, effectively accommodating the electric motor while making it possible for two people to disassemble in 15 minutes. This small mechanical modification has led to an increase in productivity and overall efficiency when working on the motor.

Watch the video below to see a bench test of UWAFT’s rear electric motor in action!

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Dale Klein, OSU's GM Mentor

During the weeks before Dale Klein, GM mentor for Ohio State University, came to visit the EcoCAR team, all members worked hard to home in on final competition targets by improving software in the engine as well as the overall vehicle.  During this tuning the team greatly improved the car’s engine startup and throttle response, which offered noticeable improvements to its unique highway mode and charge-sustaining operation.  In addition, the team spent a great deal of time refining electric motor control with better motor mapping. These modifications gave the team a chance to improve the vehicle’s supervisory control, meshing all the components together in one seamless vehicle system.

The vehicle had a more-than-functional engine start and electric motor mapping that could strain the half-shafts, so it was an ideal time for Dale’s visit.  But when Dale arrived, he unfortunately couldn’t hop right in and take the smooth riding beast for a spin. Instead he found the team looking at what used to be the electric motor inverter’s capacitors.  As Dale and the team examined the capacitors, a smell known to electrical engineers as “magic smoke” began to fill the air, signaling a malfunctioning circuit. To deal with this setback, Dale helped the team lay out a plan to completely replace the now gutted electric motor inverter with a more efficient model, and pair it with a new motor.

As the team looked up replacement parts, Dale had the opportunity to really take a look at the vehicle. He searched for concerns that technical inspectors would find at the pre-inspection, which might include things as small as a zip-tie or as important as high voltage fusing and routing. Dale pointed out any issues to the team and discussed the planning required to resolve them.

Following Dale’s visit, the team had a very clear list of details to touch up and Dale left excited about the various projects the team was working on. The OSU team appreciates the advice from Dale and General Motors and carried the support through to the Spring Workshop!

With teams starting the second week of the Year Three Spring Workshop, a vision of what the future – or at least the competition finals – may hold for EcoCAR students is beginning to take shape.  Over the past few days the students have soaked up lessons learned from inspections, testing, and presentations by organizers and sponsors, and are feeling well-equipped to make the final adjustments to their advanced technology vehicles and outreach campaigns.

The weekend was packed full of activities for the students. In addition to getting some real-world experience with test procedures, students attended workshop presentations on specific hardware components, the upcoming competition finals, and even got some advice from competition veterans, such as Wisconsin’s faculty advisors Glenn Bower and Shawn Midlam-Mohler, who have both been part of advanced vehicle competitions for more than a decade. Teams also go to hear an exciting review of the inner workings of the Chevrolet Volt.

Team Outreach Coordinators were also busy at the Spring Workshop. Just like the vehicles, Outreach Coordinators were put to the test when they gave scored presentations of a sponsor success story, submitting a paper and a poster on a learning experience the team had received through the help of a sponsor.

But it hasn’t been all work and no play – student’s enjoyed last week’s Sponsor Social, where they had the opportunity to network with EcoCAR sponsors, who in recent years have hired many competition graduates.

Mike Carlson of Wisconsin talks to a dSPACE recruiter

“I was surprised to see so many sponsors at the sponsor social,” said University of Victoria Team Leader Jeff Waldner. “You can really tell they are interested in hiring EcoCAR students and are excited to see that so many students are interested to work in the automotive industry.”

Texas Tech team members talk with a Snap-on Representative

Several awards were given out at the Spring Workshop Sponsor Social as well. Woodward announced the first and second place teams for their MotorHawk Video Award with Ohio State University taking first place and the University of Waterloo coming in second place. Other awards included recognizing the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for all of their work with the Spring Workshop and awarding Henning Lohse-Busch, Argonne National Laboratory, and Tom Schrodt, U.S. EPA, with the EPA Outstanding Researcher Award.

EcoCAR also recognized all the hard work that the engineering GRAs and outreach coordinators have put into the competition, with two separate dinners on Saturday and Sunday nights. The dinners were a time to acknowledge the value that the students have added to the competition.

“The outreach dinner was a blast,” said UOIT Outreach Coordinator Lesley McLelland. “The opportunity to spend time with competition organizers and sponsor representatives is hugely valuable and quite a privilege. In the end, that’s what the competition is about – real-world experience and building industry connections.”

With just a few days of vehicle dyno testing left, students are already gearing up for the final competition, and are eager to get home to fine-tune their vehicles.

As expected, it didn’t take long for Chevrolet’s Volt to turn the heads of car-enthusiasts everywhere.  Within a month of its release, GM’s newest hybrid car has won several awards, including 2011 Motor Trend Car of the Year and Green Car Journal’s Green Car of the Year.  With sales anticipated to skyrocket, Chevrolet has already announced that they plan to double manufacturing, releasing over 100,000 units nationwide by 2012.

Considered the stepping stone to an automobile revolution, the electric car’s release was met with enormous buzz and expectations.  The list of features is impressive – automatic seat warmers, a Bose Energy Efficient Series sound system, and a seven-inch LCD-screen panel that presents driving feedback and estimated electric and gas ranges – but the most appealing aspect of the car is probably its multi-faceted engine.  A lithium-ion battery pack allows the Volt to travel up to 40 miles on pure electricity while a gasoline reserve powers the electric motors and fuels an internal generator.  As expected with a green car, the Volt’s energy ratings are impressive.  The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has estimated the car’s overall fuel economy rating to be 60 mpg, the highest in its segment (the car’s all-electric mode is 93 mpg and all-gas mode is 37 mpg).

Chevy Volt

Chevrolet Volt (Image courtesy of Chevrolet.com)

Some experts believe that plug-in cars will catch fire in a similar fashion to other recent technological innovations such as smartphones and flat-screen TVs.  It may be a slow start – the number of available refueling stations initially limited the release of the Volt to select states – but the combination of environmental friendliness and financial benefits will soon propel these vehicles up the ladder.  Buckle your seatbelts; the roads are about to change!

The Green Garage is excited to report that Argonne National Laboratory has signed a licensing agreement with General Motors for the automaker to test its patented composite cathode material that could improve lithium-ion battery life and energy storage density! The material could allow batteries to hold their charge longer, have a longer total life and charge at higher voltages. GM’s interest in the material could help to improve the efficiency of its next-generation of electric vehicles.

The New York Times recently interviewed GM spokesperson, Rob Peterson, who explained that a few years ago GM “started down the path of trying to understand batteries as well as [it] possibly could.” He went on to say that understanding new developments in battery technology will determine “who becomes the leader in electric vehicles.”  GM has the largest battery test lab facility in the industry and views battery leadership as a core competency of the company.

Being the first American car company to license use of Argonne’s technology puts GM in a very good position to potentially improve the performance of future electric models.

We are thrilled that Argonne and GM have a strong EcoCAR presence because both companies, like all those involved in the competition, are on the cutting edge of advanced vehicle technologies!

Argonne battery researcher perfecting the novel material

The experts have voted and the 2011 North American Car of the Year is… General Motors’ Chevy Volt! Vehicles were judged by a group of 49 auto journalists who considered innovation, performance design and safety among other factors. The winner was announced today at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit. Although this is an amazing accomplishment, the Chevy Volt is not new to the spotlight.  It was named car of the year by Automobile Magazine and Motor Trend and was also recognized as the Green Car of the Year at the Los Angeles Auto Show in November!

Image courtesy of GM

“It’s a great honor to be recognized as the North American Car of the Year,” said GM CEO Dan Akerson. “Since development began, we believed the Volt had the potential to transform the automotive industry. Today, the Volt is the first electric vehicle to win the prestigious North American Car of the Year award, and the first vehicle ever to receive the industry’s highest automotive, technology, and environmental recognitions.”

Many believe the Volt is setting the pace for the future, what do you think? Share your comments below!

Learn lots more about the Volt by checking out: 10 Facts about the Volt on GreenCar.com.

Last month, the Ohio State EcoCAR team had the opportunity to rub elbows with automotive industry execs at Ohio State’s Center for Automotive Research external advisory board meeting. General Motors, Honda and Ford were just a few of the major players in attendance. At the event, OSU team leader, Eric Schacht, gave a presentation to the board about the team’s progress in Year Three of the competition. During lunch, the outreach team had the chance to interview representatives from EcoCAR’s headline sponsor, General Motors.

The OSU team also had the opportunity to meet with representatives from its team sponsor, LuK USA, which donated a dual clutch transmission for their EcoCAR. In the video below, you can watch Jeff Hemphill, vice president of product development and regional director of technical product development at LuK, describe the benefits of the EcoCAR Challenge.

Jeff Hemphill, LuK USA

They also found time to talk to OSU alum Kent Helfrich, the executive director of electronic controls and software at General Motors and the executive lead of the EcoCAR Challenge, about his role in the competition and the how he thinks EcoCAR Challenge could impact the automotive industry.

Kent Helfrich, GM

Before the external advisory board went back into meetings, Kent Helfrich from GM generously offered to take board members for a ride in the new Chevy Volt. OSU Outreach Coordinator, Abbey Underwood was lucky enough to join executives from GM and Ford for a ride. Abbey discussed the challenges involved in marketing and communicating advanced technology vehicles with the executives and got to hear their expertise on the vehicles.

Check back soon to see more Sponsor Series videos from OSU!

This week’s Where Are They Now post features Christopher Haliburton, a 2008 graduate of the University of Waterloo, Advanced Vehicle Technology Competition (AVTC) participant (and now supporter) and current GM validation engineer for the Chevy Volt.

While attending the University of Waterloo, Chris Haliburton participated in Challenge X, the advanced vehicle technology competition (AVTC) program preceding EcoCAR. As part of the University of Waterloo Alternative Fuels Team (UWAFT), he was able to work on mechanical integration design, systems modeling and rapid vehicle prototyping using the Powertrain Systems Analysis Toolkit developed by Argonne National Laboratory. In the final year of Challenge X, Chris became co-team leader and controls lead, helping to organize and lead a team of more than 20 students to successfully convert the Chevy Equinox into a dedicated fuel cell vehicle.

During his Challenge X experience, Chris was able to learn about General Motors’ Vehicle Design Process, which helped him obtain a job with GM upon graduation. Chris now works with GM’s Hybrid Controls and Integration department at the Milford Proving Grounds in Michigan.

Currently, Chris is a validation engineer for the Chevy Volt, where he maintains a fleet of mule vehicles from a software/hardware perspective.  He is also responsible for vehicle integration by updating software and troubleshooting issues daily as well as during initial vehicle builds.   Chris still likes to help out with EcoCAR, often participating as a judge during competition finals.

Chris has demonstrated that with a lot of hard work in the AVTC program while in school, it’s possible to land a pretty sweet job working on the next advanced vehicle technology coming into production.

In 1987, The U.S. Department of Energy began sponsoring Advanced Vehicle Technology Competitions (AVTC).  More than 16,000 students from more than 600 institutions in North America have participated in one of  these hands-on learning opportunities.  To date, there have been more than 45 different competitions.   Take a moment to reflect back on some of the competitions over the years and look how far we’ve come!

Let us know which logo you like the best. The polls are now open!

This year, Virginia Tech awarded over 300 students with a Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering.  While most chose to work in defense in the Washington, D.C. area, many chose another career path.  This year, over a third of the students who worked on the Hybrid Electric Vehicle Team of Virginia Tech as a senior design project for EcoCAR Year Two have secured various automotive jobs with Liebherr Mining Equipment, Altec Industries, General Motors and Ford Motor Company.  Five students on the team chose to work at General Motors, a headline sponsor of the EcoCAR Challenge, along with the Department of Energy.  These students chose to work for GM because of the information learned in creating an extended range electric vehicle that uses stored grid electricity and E85 fuel for propulsion.  While the EcoCAR students have only been working for a few weeks, they are already deep into their new assignments. Of the five students at GM, HEVT placed two in full-time positions.

Brian Fiore is currently working full-time with General Motors in the Powertrain department at the Milford Proving Grounds.  His official title is “6-Speed Algorithm Design Development Engineer”, which means that he works on the design and calibration of 6-speed transmissions.  This work involves writing code in C and then testing the code changes on a transmission controller in a physical vehicle.

Michael Kearney is working in Hybrid Vehicle Integration.  In Human Interface Displays and Gauges, he will be helping develop and test the algorithms being implemented in the hybrid driver displays for the Chevy Volt (such as EV range, efficiency, and charging) and upcoming PHEV and BAS+ (Belted Alternator Starter) platforms.

Four students are working as summer interns before returning to graduate school at VT.

Jesse Alley is working in the new state-of-the-art Battery Systems Lab in Warren, MI testing the air-cooled battery pack for the Chevrolet Volt. The goal of his work is to characterize the thermal management system at the pack level. Because the pack is the first of its kind and more are sure to follow, a secondary goal is to develop a methodology for characterizing the thermal system of a liquid-cooled battery pack.

Jonathan King is developing and testing a new optimization strategy for the BAS+ mild hybrid system. He will work on adapting the code developed for two and four mode transmissions to the BAS+ system. This will involve expanding the code to work with six gears and handle torque converter dynamics. The goal of the project is to determine whether fuel efficiency can be improved through the use of this system.

Lynn Gantt is working on Hardware-in-the-Loop validation for ABS (Antilock Brakes) and stability control validation for vehicles that are completely in math.  With this philosophy, GM can build a few test vehicle variations and validate the remaining combinations (several hundred) using lab tests.  His role as Team Leader prepared him for the global scope of his work with Korea on the Chevy Spark and Aveo.

Patrick Walsh has worked in the automotive industry before but this summer chose to spend it at Argonne National Laboratory as a research aide.  He is working on comparing the new, third generation (2010) Toyota Prius drive train to that of a second generation (2004) Prius. The end goal of the research is to determine where improvements or differences in performance or efficiency were achieved in the new model. The majority of Patrick’s time is spent in the Advanced Powertrain Research Facility, which includes a state-of-the-art 4WD chassis dynamometer capable of simulating vehicle road loads.

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