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Rain or shine, Earth Day events go on. Despite the gloomy forecast, Virginia Tech’s Hybrid Electric Vehicle Team (HEVT) drove more than four hours from Blacksburg to Washington D.C.’s National Mall to show off their EcoCAR at the EPA’s Earth Day events last weekend.

The EPA Earth Day tent housed “green” exhibits, including the Virginia Tech EcoCAR booth, as well as the 55 university teams competing for EPA’s P3 award. The P3—people, prosperity, and the planet—is a competition that provides funding for top collegiate sustainable design programs. Though Virginia Tech was not among the competitors this year, HEVT was honored to be exhibiting among future-forward ideas similar to the EcoCAR competition.

Saturday’s rain storm made for quite a mess, but there were still plenty of visitors at the HEVT booth. Visitors loved the team’s toy hybrid cars and were excited to talk about the vehicle and the competition. On Sunday, the skies cleared up and visitors were able to spend time with the VTREX and visit our table inside the EPA tent. It was exciting to talk to attendees of the EPA event as well as passers-by who were simply out to enjoy the sights of D.C.

Overall, the event was a huge success for HEVT since the team was able to reach not only EPA Earth Day supporters, but hundreds of other D.C. visitors and residents. Thank you to EPA for putting on such a great weekend!

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In Year Two, it took the HEVT team several days to get their VTREX vehicle through all aspects of the safety tech inspection. This year, however, the team used its experience to make the process as painless as possible. Prior to shipping the vehicle off to the Spring Workshop, HEVT ran multiple mock inspections that went through every requirement on the official inspection list. All this hard work paid off since the VTREX was the first of all sixteen teams to pass Safety Tech inspection at EPA, which allowed the car to get straight to emissions testing.

Every EcoCAR vehicle was required to pass all parts of the safety tech inspection before it could be driven in any road tests or approved for dynamometer testing. Key points of the EPA inspection include checking to make sure critical fasteners are torqued to the proper specifications, checking to ensure that wires and coolant hoses are properly secured and safe from potential damage or movement and checking the high voltage systems to ensure everything is correctly labeled and properly installed.

Check out the video below to see HEVT team member, Jesse Alley, walk through the key points of the safety tech inspection:

The past 12 months of the EcoCAR competition marked quite a turnaround for the Virginia Tech Hybrid Electric Vehicle Team (HEVT).  After falling short of expectations at the Year 1 Finals in Toronto, the team returned to the garage with a new group of engineers and placed first among teams using National Instruments systems in the Hardware-in-the-Loop (HIL) presentation at Winter Workshop in January.  How did they do it? Since the summer, mechanical engineers on the Controls subteam have spent countless hours becoming control system designers.  In the video below, “Virginia Tech Gets in the Loop for EcoCAR,” the team explains the crucial points of its HIL system, as well as the benefits of using HIL for designing controllers.   

Mechanical engineering seniors, Johnathan King and Mike Kearney, demonstrate how the team's controller Hardware-in-the-Loop works

The team points out that their success would not be possible without the gracious and patient support from National Instruments.  They company donated powerful software, like LabVIEW and VeriStand, and hardware, like CompactRIO supervisory controller and simple-to-use USB-CAN interface, making it possible for HEVT to design and implement a safe, robust, control system.  The team used their tools, in addition to the real-time vehicle model provided by GM and Argonne National Laboratory, to design its control strategy and implement it in both hardware and software.  The ultimate goal is a refined and accurate real-time vehicle model running on the National Instruments PXI HIL Chassis.  This model is important because it allows the team to test its controller against either the model or the real vehicle – and expect the same results.  HEVT  is using HIL to perfect its control code, so they can safely and simply take the controller from its HIL test stand and install it into the vehicle for further testing. 

A look at HEVT's technology from National Instruments

Safety is of utmost importance to HEVT and the safety-critical aspects of their control system is no exception. VeriStand’s “Stimulus Profile Editor” allows the team to simulate an infinite number of possible scenarios such as high temperatures, various vehicle speeds and communication errors, in order to ensure that the control code is robust and will not act unexpectedly under any circumstances.  HEVT is confident that the amount of safety-critical testing they have done will allow them to put the controller in the vehicle in the coming weeks and compare real life to simulation! The Virginia Tech HEVT Controls team would like to thank National Instruments for their ongoing support.  

Enjoy the video!  

Last week, Virginia Tech’s Hybrid Electric Vehicle Team (HEVT) sent a correspondent to the 2010 Washington D.C. International Auto Show which was in conjunction with the annual Electric Drive Transportation Association (EDTA) conference. Legislators, manufacturers, suppliers and the general public attended the show to see the latest, greatest and greenest technology in the automotive business. Electric vehicle charging stations, plug-in hybrids, clean diesels and all-electrics were among the technologies being showcased.

Patrick Walsh with the HEVT EcoCAR poster at the auto show

At the show, HEVT’s team leader, Patrick Walsh, presented a poster on the team’s EcoCAR research and educated the public about its GM-donated, student-designed plug-in hybrid.

“People were very impressed that such an important competition was taking place at the academic level,” said Patrick, who is a mechanical engineering graduate student at Virginia Tech. “Green technology is a big focus in the auto industry, so EcoCAR’s mission to reduce the environmental impact of vehicles ties in perfectly.”

In between poster presentations and plenary sessions, HEVT’s correspondent was able to take a look at a production-intent Chevrolet Volt. The Volt and other cool vehicles at the auto show served as added motivation for HEVT to build a winner for competition in Yuma!

The Volt!

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