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…the Chevrolet Malibu!

Today, Karl Stracke, CEO of Opel/Vauxhall at General Motors and the general chairman of SAE 2011 World Congress, announced the vehicle choice during the conference keynote address. The 16 EcoCAR 2 teams will utilize the Chevrolet Malibu as the integration platform for their advanced vehicle design throughout the EcoCAR 2: Plugging in to the Future competition. For the next three years, student engineers at select schools will use hybrid electric powertrains, adaptive control systems and advanced battery technologies to reduce the vehicles’ environmental impact without compromising performance, safety and consumer acceptability.

The vehicle EcoCAR 2 teams will get to reengineer: a Chevy Malibu

Tomorrow, David Sandalow, Assistant Secretary for Policy & International Affairs at DOE, will be announce the elite teams selected to participate in the EcoCAR 2 program, so be sure to check back for the full list of schools!

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!

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

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

Where Are They Now this week highlights Mel Corrigan (previously Mel Fox), a Penn State and Advanced Vehicle Technology Competition (AVTC) alum who has spent her impressive academic career focused on Fuel Science research which ultimately led to her current position working on one of the most exciting innovations in vehicle technology.

Mel Corrigan began her undergraduate studies in chemical engineering at Penn State-Altoona.  Throughout her time at Altoona, she participated in the Society for Automotive Engineering Mini Baja competition.  During her junior year, she moved to the Penn State-University Park campus, where she became involved in undergraduate research studies focusing on diesel exhaust aftertreatment.

While studying at Penn State, Mel interned at Toyota Motor Mfg. in Georgetown, Kentucky in their Facilities Controls Engineering department where she compiled weekly utility consumption reports for the nine plants at the facility.  At that time, Mel also took part in the Energy Team, examining methods of improving energy consumption for vehicle manufacturing processes.

In 2002, Mel obtained her Bachelor of Science degree in chemical engineering at Wayne State University where she worked in an engine lab studying diesel combustion, She also participated in a National Science Foundation (NSF) project to create safety-related exercises for chemical engineering textbooks.

Mel entered graduate school at Penn State in 2003, starting with a Master’s of Science in Fuel Science.  Her research focused on performing three-dimensional computational fluid dynamics of combustion in a coal-fired boiler.

After completing her Master’s degree, Mel decided to continue her studies and obtain her Ph. D. in Fuel Science.  She shifted gears in her research, moving from modeling to experiments and then began studying the effects of intake-induced turbulence on the combustion characteristics of hydrogen assisted natural gas combustion in a spark-ignition engine.

Mel (Fox) Corrigan

Mel became involved with the Penn State Advanced Vehicle Technologies team during Challenge X. During her graduate studies, Mel received a two-year fellowship that required her to do weekly science outreach in K-12 classrooms.  This program, GREATT (Graduate Research and Education in Advanced Transportation Technologies), soon lead her to become the controls team leader for Penn State team in Year Two and the overall team leader during Year Three.

After completing a twelve-week internship in the Powertrain Systems Research group at General Motors during which she lead a project sampling and characterizing particulate matter from diesel combustion, Mel landed her first job with GM.

Mel now works as a Battery System Integration Engineer for the Chevy Volt.  She continues to support advanced vehicle technology competitions and acts as a judge for EcoCAR at workshops and competitions.  EcoCAR is not only thrilled to utilize Mel’s professional expertise, but also grateful to have her perspective as a former competitor as EcoCAR ushers in Year Three.

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!

This week’s Mentor Monday post features Dale Klein, a GM mentor, who explains that his strategy for success in the workplace is all about making predictions.  As an energy and drive quality engineer at GM, Dale uses computer models to predict fuel economy and performance in the early stages of vehicle production.  In his first mentorship during the Challenge X competition, he passed this notion on to the students at University of Akron.  And currently, the EcoCAR team at Ohio State University has benefited from Dale’s approach. 
“I’ve helped teach the students to think things through ahead of time and anticipate if their vehicle will meet the competition requirements,” said Dale. “That way, the students can respond to the judges’ questions even before they ask them. There are no surprises.” 
In Year Two, the Ohio State EcoCAR team worked on completing their very complex hybrid powertrain system.  “I have a ton of respect for the students.  They chose a system that’s definitely not easy to build,” said Dale.

Dale Klein with the OSU EcoCAR team

Despite their challenging vehicle, the OSU team was able to run their car in electric-only mode and complete most of the events at the Year Two test drives in Yuma, AZ.  In San Diego, they were awarded fifth place in the overall competition and scored well in the judges’ reports.
In Year Three of the EcoCAR challenge, Dale will continue to help his students focus on predictions, especially in terms of consumer criticisms.  The students will spend most of their time debugging issues that they ran out of time for in Year Two: rewiring the inverter connections and engine harness, improving fuel economy, and refining consumer drive-ability. 
“I’m confident that the students will make the vehicle live up to 110 percent of its potential,” said Dale.

To help them do this, he is planning to travel to Columbus at least once in the fall and again in early spring to advise the team in these final stages before the EcoCAR closing ceremonies next year in Washington, D.C.
“EcoCAR is great for the students because they get to work directly with big name companies like GM.  And it’s really great for the companies, too, because we can put the best students to work immediately after graduation,” said Dale.  “I wish I had something like this when I was in school!”

President Spanier

The Penn State EcoCAR team is proud to share that the Penn State University president, Dr. Graham Spanier, spoke about the team and its efforts at the school’s most recent Board of Trustees meeting. President Spanier spoke highly of the EcoCAR team’s third place finish at the Year Two competition during his informational report. In his remarks, President Spanier said:

“Let me now highlight several initiatives where research meets education. Recently, a car designed by a Penn State student team won third place overall in the 2010 EcoCAR competition sponsored by General Motors and the U.S. Department of Energy. The competition challenged university engineering students to re-engineer a GM-donated vehicle, with goals to improve fuel efficiency and reduce emissions while retaining the vehicle’s performance and consumer appeal. Sixteen teams competed and Penn State’s EcoCAR brought home 10 trophies, including best social media, best AVL driver quality and best technical report.”

President Spanier also spoke about the EcoCAR team at the State of the University Address last September. The Penn State team is thrilled to be recognized so highly by the president of its university. They hope to continue to make Dr. Spanier and the rest of our university proud in Year Three!

The PSU EcoCAR team at the Year Two Finals

This week’s “Where Are They Now” post features Stephen Gurski, a safety engineer in the Powertrain Division at General Motors (GM). At GM, Stephen is working on the launch of the Chevrolet Volt Extended Range Electric Vehicle. In addition to his full-time job, Stephen is serving as the GM Powertrain Lead for Year Three of the current Advanced Vehicle Technology Competition (AVTC) series, EcoCAR: The NeXt Challenge.

Stephen received a tribute for his years of AVTC service

Accepting the award

Stephen’s interest in engineering started in 1997 when his roommate invited him to attend a student club meeting. The club was the Hybrid Electric Vehicle Team of Virginia Tech and their task was to convert the 1997 Chevrolet Lumina into a hydrogen fuel cell powered vehicle for the FutureCar Challenge. Stephen enjoyed working on cars and agreed to help the team obtain a set of axles for the vehicle, a small but important task. Little did he know that this decision would save his academic hardships and redefine his professional career.

For the next five years, Stephen dedicated his time to building advanced vehicles for the Virginia Tech team. Eventually, Stephen was selected as team lead during his last two years with the team. During those five years at Virginia Tech, Stephen finished his bachelor’s degree and continued on to complete a master’s degree in mechanical engineering.

After graduate school, Stephen landed a job as a technical coordinator and safety engineer for the AVTC program at Argonne National Laboratory in Chicago. Stephen served as both a member and lead technical coordinator for the Argonne team for the finale of FutureTruck and majority of the Challenge X program. In 2007, he transitioned jobs internally at Argonne, becoming a vehicle dynamometer test cell and emissions engineer, which allowed him to evaluate the state of advanced vehicle technology in passenger and medium duty vehicles. Furthermore, Stephen contributed in researching the new EPA window sticker fuel economy labeling standards needed for plug-in hybrid electric vehicles.

Stephen concluded his employment at Argonne in the summer of 2008, where he transitioned into his current position at GM.

“Had I not chosen to participate in AVTCs as a student, I would not have finished either of my engineering degrees,” he said. “As a result, I’ve helped hundreds of students become world class automotive engineers, and now I’m redefining the future of personal transportation.”

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