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Georgia Tech’s EcoCAR team had a great Spring Workshop, but the runup to the event was no picnic. For weeks leading up to the EPA testing, team members lost sleep getting the car back to life after two major issues threatened to sideline the vehicle.

First, electrical group members moved the Engine Control Module (ECM) into the new location where it would have less vibration, less wire clutter and less abrasion on the wiring conduit. The work seemed innocuous initially, but when they plugged the connectors back into the ECM and powered up the 12V disconnect, a fused popped, causing the vehicle to lose internal network communications and accessory power.

The team suspected the cause of the issue was wiring, so they spent two weeks stripping the conduits off the wiring harness, inspecting every wire going into the ECM, checking continuity in every pinout of the ECM connectors and reviewing the specification to see if any feature in ECM which would trigger this. They also shipped the ECM to General Motors for an inspection, but GM mentors informed the team that the component had no issues.

At a regular electrical group meeting only a few weeks prior to the Spring Workshop, the group was inspecting the new connectors GM had shipped when team member Carlos Cubero-Ponce ran in holding his laptop. He pointed at the schematic picture and revealed to the team’s shock that there was a simple answer to their electrical issue. The J1 connector was plugged in the wrong direction! Behind the pile of engineering documentations, the team had taken for granted that the connectors cannot be plugged in upside down.

Just days after resolving the ECM issue, Georgia Tech encountered another problem when an input shaft snapped off their 2-Mode transmission during testing. This required the team to replace the entire transmission, but luckily one arrived from GM without a day to spare. The team was able to make the proper adjustments to their vehicle and ship it off to the Spring Workshop just in the nick of time!

The Georgia Tech team has done a lot of exciting work on their EcoCAR’s control system lately. The vehicle has been drivable for several months now and the drive quality was recently improved by updating accelerator pedal mapping in accordance with AVL recommendations.

The group has held multiple conference calls with General Motors and other 2Mode teams to share ideas and help resolve issues they’ve encountered as they attempt to get the maximum capabilities out of their transmission. Currently Georgia Tech is in the progress of test-driving in EVT2, the second hybrid mode available in their transmission, and they hope to resolve the issue of keeping the engine off for electric-only operation within the next couple of weeks.

The team also expects to add more refinements to their control strategy in order to boost performance for the Spring Workshop.

Stay tuned to read about how the team fares in Ann Arbor!

Recently, Kary Winkler and Jesse Richuso, members of the Georgia Tech EcoCAR outreach team, visited Creekside Middle School in Georgia.

GT OCs Kary Winkler and Jesse Richuso

GT OCs Kary Winkler and Jesse Richuso

Kary and Jesse were very excited to be greeted by the happy faces of 8th grade life sciences students. The two GT outreach team members taught the middle schoolers about alternative fuels and advanced technology vehicles.

The highlight of the visit for the middle schoolers was the competitive activity that Kary and Jesse planned for them after the presentation. The Outreach Coordinators (OCs) challenged the class to develop an alternative fuel or advanced technology vehicle and come up with a corresponding magazine advertisement for a consumer campaign. The student teams had to choose between E85, gas/electric hybrid, full electric and hydrogen fuel cell energy sources and were also able to pick the car type, size and interior features. As an additional challenge, the students were tasked with keeping both price and consumer appeal in mind. The teams were given 25 minutes to draw a magazine ad and two minutes to present their ad and car to the class.

Eighth graders hard at work during the competitive activity
Eighth graders hard at work during the competitive activity

The team that received the most votes for their ad won the opportunity to visit the EcoCAR Garage on the Georgia Tech campus. Kary and Jesse were absolutely drained by the end of the school day, but they were encouraged by the students’ enthusiasm. The OCs believe they helped fuel a new generation of green-consumers!

In early January, Georgia Tech’s EcoCAR team displayed its vehicle at the National Science Foundation (NSF) Conference held in Atlanta’s Cobb Galleria Center. Even in the midst of finals, the team was very busy preparing for the big event and finalizing its control strategy!

At the conference, the Georgia Tech team met up with EcoCAR students from Penn State, Virginia Tech, Missouri S&T, and Ohio State to promote the competition. On the second day of the NSF conference, a swarm of high school students came by to see what was happening. The team recalls one student who asked a ton of questions about the 2-Mode EVT, which was very surprising for a high school student! “We think that student should apply to Georgia Tech – we have some work for him!”

Georgia Tech displays their EcoCAR at the NSF Conference

Georgia Tech displays their EcoCAR at the NSF Conference

The Georgia Tech team had a lot of fun at the conference. They found it very enlightening to listen to ideas and perspectives from researchers all around the country.

The EcoCAR is now back in the Georgia Tech garage and the team is hard at work improving their control strategy!

As a university student, interacting with someone already in your chosen field is a rewarding experience, and last week, some EcoCAR students did just that.

Five EcoCAR teams spent the week at the National Science Foundation (NSF) Division of Civil, Mechanical and Manufacturing Innovation (CMMI) Research & Innovation Conference in Atlanta – the division of the NSF that has been a long-time sponsor of the DOE Advanced Vehicle Technology Competitions, such as EcoCAR.

Virginia Tech, Georgia Tech, Ohio State, Penn State, and Missouri Science & Technology were at the conference to demonstrate the wealth of knowledge they have obtained through their experiences in EcoCAR and to display vehicles and educational exhibits to the 1,300 attendees in fields ranging from academia to industry and government. Two of the teams, Virginia Tech and Georgia Tech, also showcased their EcoCARs at the conference.

Georgia Tech EcoCAR team members talking to guests at the NSF Conference

Georgia Tech EcoCAR team members talking to guests at the NSF Conference

“The NSF supports EcoCAR because it gives young engineers an opportunity to get some hands-on, real-world  experience in moving a vehicle from a stock vehicle to something far more advanced,” said Dr. Donald Senich, senior advisor of the Innovation and Industrial Partnership at NSF.

“The opportunity at the universities for a diverse group of students to build teams is extremely important in their education. NSF supports the program because it gives students such a unique and practical experience. ”

The NSF conference’s theme this year was Engineering for Sustainability and Prosperity,” and emphasized the role civil, mechanical, industrial, and manufacturing engineers play in addressing the world’s growing challenges of using energy and natural resources in a sustainable manner.

Teams utilized the opportunity to reach out to leaders in innovation and sustainability to talk about how they are addressing those same issues through the EcoCAR competition.

“Our team spent a lot of time over the winter break working on the vehicle so that it would be ready to show at this conference,” said Rachel Dobroth, outreach coordinator for Virginia Tech.  “It’s so rewarding to be able to show the vehicle to engineers and researchers in this field.”

The team leader of the Missouri S&T team, Kevin Martin, believed the NSF conference provided his team with a great opportunity to expand its outreach beyond our campus and Midwest.

“To get the opportunity to see what’s going on in the industry related to sustainability effects and see how vehicles can tie into that is great,” said Martin.

After a successful week at the NSF conference, the five teams feel proud of their accomplishments thus far, and about their experiences interacting and networking with industry leaders.

“I just enjoyed the interaction with the young people, with the individuals from General Motors and the U.S. Department of Energy,” Dr. Senich said. “I think they’ve put together outstanding teams from the organizers’ side and the student side. And I feel like a member of the team.”

EcoCAR Team members at the NSF Conference

EcoCAR Team members at the NSF Conference

This week’s Team Spotlight Video highlights the Georgia Tech EcoCAR team!

Check out the video below to find out a little about GT’s two-mode hybrid EcoCAR and to hear a few of the many convincing reasons to get involved in the EcoCAR Challenge. A reason provided by the GM mentor for the Georgia Tech EcoCAR team, Bill Venner – the skills students obtain through EcoCAR “will allow them to pick whatever job they want in the hybrid industry.”

The Georgia Tech team is very excited about their Year Three progress. The vehicle is coming along great and they’re enjoying every step as they complete their design! Georgia Tech has been making serious strides under the hood as well as inside its vehicle. As the team’s controls leader, Carlos Cubero, explains in the first video below, they have made improvements to increase safety, pedal response and overall driving experience.

In the second video below, mechanical leader, John Arata, explains the benefits of the vehicle’s touchscreen display on the center console.

Keep up the great work Georgia Tech!

Progress report from Carlos Cubero

John Arata talks touchscreens:

To continue this week’s coverage of Odyssey Day, we invite you to imagine how much fuel metro Atlanta could save if all the motorists and business fleets in the region used high-efficiency, alternative-fuel vehicles. Now, imagine what would happen if the same thing happened in cities all over the U.S.

Georgia Tech’s EcoCAR Team and Clean Cities Atlanta, a government-industry partnership sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy, offered a preview of that vision at its National Alternative Fuel Vehicles Day Odyssey on October 15 at Georgia Tech’s Kessler Campanile.

The Odyssey was part of a nationwide effort to reduce America’s consumption of foreign oil. According to Don Francis, executive director of Clean Cities Atlanta, “Far too many people are unaware of recent advances, and business owners will be surprised by how much a switch to alternative fuel can save over time in their operations budget. The Odyssey included a wealth of good ideas, innovation and food for thought.”

The Georgia Tech team is working to double its car’s city mileage and increase its highway efficiency by 40 percent by replacing the 2.4 liter engine with a 1.6 liter ethanol engine. They will also add a hybrid transmission, electric motor and gearing and a lithium ion battery pack. “We were happy to show how the Georgia Tech community can help solve the environmental and national security issues facing the country,” said Ryan Melsert, Georgia Tech’s EcoCAR team leader.

Watch a quick video recap of Georgia Tech’s Odyssey Day:

Stay tuned for all of the Real Time BuzZ action: we will be tweeting (GTEcoCAR) and facebooking (become a fan: GT EcoCAR Team) during Year Three!

The Georgia Tech EcoCAR team is back on campus and back on the road. Since their vehicle’s SOC (state of charge) was at 66.5%, they recently decided to move away from testing engine starts and tried driving EV-only on Mode 1. Team members had to play around with the axle torque command as they needed about 170 Nm to get their vehicle moving on the ground. The team is thrilled because for the first time since they took their powertrain apart several months ago, they had their vehicle moving under its own power! Unfortunately, the team ran into some issues if they pushed too far on the pedal or the requested torque got too high. They were able to drive slowly for a bit around the lot in their garage and going in reverse worked fine.

The Georgia Tech team members collaborated with their GM mentors and addressed the engine difficulties in time for its first GT Interest Meeting of the year. The team was able to mark this occasion by driving the EcoCAR on campus for the first time since last year.

There are many more adjustments left to make, but GT is looking forward to every second of it. They’re gearing up to shock everyone during Year Three, which is going to be the best year yet!

Follow the Georgia Tech team’s every move on Twitter @GTEcoCAR and Facebook.

The Georgia Tech EcoCAR team just ended their third week at the General Motors Milford Proving Grounds. During the first week, the team overcame several issues that got them to the point where they could try to start the EcoCAR’s engine. However after turning it over, the team noticed that it was not producing torque. It had been broken and they had to replace it. On Georgia Tech’s second trip, team members had to replace the engine, which involved taking out all the components in the whole front end of the car. By the end of the second trip, they still had to resolve some mechanical issues before trying to run the engine. On the most recent trip to the Proving Grounds, the team fixed the mechanical issues and were able to spin the EcoCAR’s wheels using only electrical motors for the first time after reinstalling the whole front end of the car. On the final day, GM helped Georgia Tech turn on its engine and watch the state of charge go up,  showing that the battery pack was charged with the engine. 

With GM’s analysis of the team’s vehicle data, they hope to discover what adjustments need to be made so they can reliably control when the engine turns on and to finally start driving the vehicle. Georgia Tech is very appreciative of the invaluable assistance and education that GM has provided to them; not only during their time in Milford, but throughout the entire competition. They look forward to getting the car back to Atlanta and gearing up for Year Three of the competition!

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