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Yesterday, President Obama announced in a speech at Georgetown University that by the year 2015, every new car and truck purchased by the federal government would be a hybrid, electric or alternative-fuel vehicle. His talk covered a broad range of U.S. Energy Policy issues, but the President called special attention to innovation in the automotive industry as a key component to America’s goal of energy independence.

Obama’s policy highlights how crucial new thinking – the same type of thinking our EcoCAR teams strive toward – has become for our nation. Given our focus on clean vehicle innovation, it is likely that the vehicles the federal government purchases in 2015 will have similar designs and architectures as our very own EcoCARs!

Check out President Obama’s full speech in the video below.

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!

With the start of 2011, comes the announcement of the North American Car and Truck of the Year (NACOTY). Each January, a group of automotive journalists from an array of publications come together to select the most outstanding vehicles of the year. The votes are now in and for the first time in the award’s eighteen-year history, all of the finalists in the car category – the Chevy Volt, the Hyundai Sonata and the Nissan Leaf, are at least part electric. The Chevy Volt is a plug-in hybrid, the Hyundai Sonata is a hybrid and the Leaf is 100% electric.

The Chevy Volt

The NACOTY award goes to a vehicle that is either new or has been substantially changed from its prior model. The panel of judges assesses the vehicles based on innovation, performance, safety and driver satisfaction. Another key requirement is that the vehicle has projected annual sales of at least 5,000 units in North America.

This year’s finalists demonstrate that the future of eco-friendly cars is bright and that hybrids continue to gain acceptance. The winners of the North American Car and Truck of the Year will be announced at the North American International Auto Show on January 10th.


Dr. Mehdi Ferdowsi (left) and Andrew Meintz are leading the effort to prepare Missouri S&T's engineering students to design the electric and hybrid cars of the future. Photo: B.A. Rupert/Missouri S&T Communications.


When Dr. Mehdi Ferdowsi and Ph.D. student Andrew Meintz offered the inaugural class on electric and hybrid vehicles last January at Missouri University of Science and Technology, they made an instant connection with students from a variety of engineering disciplines.

Seventeen students enrolled in the course, even though it was hastily put together and not widely advertised.

“They obviously see this as a new field that is going to grow and ultimately become a new career path,” says Ferdowsi, assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering at Missouri S&T.

That’s one of the hopes of Ferdowsi, Meintz and the federal government. Fueled by $5 million in stimulus funding from the U.S. Department of Energy as part of American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, Missouri S&T is developing a new undergraduate minor in advanced automotive technology to better prepare students for the plug-in economy.

Last semester’s introductory course, taught by Meintz, a Ph.D. student in electrical engineering, was S&T’s entry into the world of plug-in electric vehicles. Meintz makes a great instructor because he can draw upon his own experience with EcoCAR as S&T’s Electrical Team leader. “I used skills learned through the EcoCAR Challenge to tie course material with industry practice.  Not only did the course present material from a classroom lecture point of view but also used hands-on Model Based Design techniques to allow students to model hybrid electric vehicles.”

The introductory course was what Ferdowsi calls “a gateway class” designed “to familiarize students with the concepts of plug-in electric and hybrid vehicles.” Students from electrical engineering, computer engineering, mechanical engineering and engineering management enrolled in the course to learn about the different fuel, powertrain and energy storage systems of electric and hybrid vehicles.

This semester, S&T has ramped up the course offerings for plug-in and hybrid automotive technology. The curriculum, which is funded through stimulus dollars, includes half a dozen undergraduate and graduate courses designed by Ferdowsi, an expert in power electronics.

The ambitious initiative of converting the auto industry from gasoline to electricity requires far-reaching efforts. Thus, S&T is also integrating coursework into existing classes and developing graduate certificate programs to help practicing engineers move into the emerging field of plug-in technology. Ferdowsi and his colleagues at S&T are also working with two other Missouri schools – the University of Central Missouri and Linn State Technical College – to provide additional work force training. In addition, Missouri S&T is helping the St. Louis Science Center educate the public about the importance of electric vehicles.

“Developing new course material is hard, especially when you’re talking about a new car that hasn’t even been developed yet,” says Ferdowsi. But creating a new course of study will ultimately have a significant impact on the nation’s economy. “We will have a pipeline of students prepared for this industry.”

Drivers and support teams for the American Le Mans Racing Series visited Madison, Wisconsin on August 18 to promote “green racing” and show their support for the University of Wisconsin EcoCAR team’s research in alternative fuels and technologies that enhance fuel economy.

Several of the American Le Mans race cars and the UW EcoCAR were displayed at the State Capitol, where the team helped inform hundreds of event attendees about emerging hybrid technology and how to minimize tailpipe emissions and fuel consumption without sacrificing performance.

The UW Hybrid Team’s converted SUV appears at the Wisconsin State Capital to promote green vehicle technology as part of the American Le Mans Series promotion

Following the joint promotion at the State Capitol, the University of Wisconsin Hybrid Team traveled to Road America in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin on August 22 to see the American Le Mans Series cars in action.

Several classes of race cars swept through the road course at over 150mph, showing that alternative fuels are effective in even the most challenging of automotive applications.

Paul Drayson and co-driver Jonny Cocker of Drayson Racing won the Michelin Green X Challenge and the overall American Le Mans Series race at Road America, driving the E85-fueled Lola-Judd to secure Drayson Racing’s first ever overall triumph.

Drayson’s victory was also the first overall race win for cellulosic E85 ethanol fuel in the 116-race history of the American Le Mans Series, demonstrating the progress being made in alternative fuel performance.

In the GT category, Falken Porsche was the winner of the Michelin Green X Challenge.  The victory means that in the first seven races of 2010, five different teams and six different cars have won GT awards, with 10 out of the overall 12 competitors using E85.

UW Hybrid Team members Matt Michalak, Andrea Sotirin and Adam Richards attend the American Le Mans Series race at Road America

Congratulations to all the American Le Mans Series winners. The University of Wisconsin EcoCAR team was proud to be part of this year’s important event and looks forward to future collaborations!

Yesterday marked the biggest outreach event that the UW Hybrid Team had ever experienced! The American Le Mans Series, the world’s leading sports car series focused on being a global trendsetter in “green” racing, visited the University of Wisconsin, Madison at the Capitol square. The event was presented by Tequila Patrón and was designed to promote the technologies and alternative fuels necessary to enable competitive motorsports to improve fuel efficiency and reduce emissions in race vehicles. These exciting technologies are being researched by universities across the country and then put to the test in grueling race competitions by the American Le Mans Series manufacturers and teams. Examples of these next-generation race cars, including Drayson Racing’s Lola B09/60 Judd and the Green Earth Team Gunnar’s ORECA-FLM 09 prototype, were on display.

The presentation was open to the public and included the following invited guests: Governor Jim Doyle, Representative Steve Kestell and Senator Joseph Leibham. The event also featured Series drivers, Gunnar Jeannette, Joey Hand and Rahal Letterman. Last but certainly not least, UW’s EcoCAR team leader, Stacey Ley, and advisor, Glenn Bower, both presented about the EcoCAR competition and advanced vehicle technologies.

What a great experience, congratulations UW!

With seven E85, six B20 biodiesel, two H2 fuel cell, and one full-electric vehicle at the Year Two Finals, the contest was fierce as each team showcased their unique vehicle architecture and competed for the first place trophy.

In the end, Mississippi State University took top honors with their plug-in series hybrid. The team won more than 15 awards during the Year Two Competition Finals, including 1st place in Energy Storage Design, 1st place in Outreach, 1st place in every Emissions and Energy Consumption event, and had the Best Controls, Mechanical, and Vehicle Design Review presentations.

In Year Two, the Mississippi team integrated a variety of components into their vehicle to decrease emissions and maintain consumer acceptability. The team’s plug-in range-extended hybrid included a well designed, translucent energy storage system cover with an inventive liquid cooling system. They had an innovative high-voltage wire routing, urea injection system, and maintained stock cargo space. They even bettered the baseline vehicle by more than two seconds in the Autocross Event.

MSU's EcoCAR on the road!

MSU also won every dynamic event in the Emission and Energy Consumption category. For the first time in Advanced Vehicle Technology Competition history, the Mississippi team received the highest fuel consumption score. The team utilized more than 90 percent of their 21 kWh battery pack and finished both the 22 mile and 44 mile schedule without using any biodiesel. The team was also able to significantly reduce their petroleum use by charge depleting for 60 miles and bettered the baseline vehicle’s greenhouse gas score by more than 30 percent in the Well-to-Wheel Greenhouse Gases event. In the end, Mississippi State achieved Tier 2, Bin 7 emissions over the EcoCAR drive schedule and averaged less than 2 Lge/100km in fuel consumption.

Taking home second place at the Year Two Finals, Virginia Tech won a combined eight trophies including Best Electrical Presentation and Best Braking, and was the runner up in Best Petroleum Energy Usage and Best Tailpipe Emissions. The team’s E85 engine with a 15 kilowatt belted alternator and 80 kilowatt rear traction drive successfully completed every dynamic event.  Virginia Tech’s vehicle stopped within mere seconds during the Braking event and won Best Static Consumer Acceptability with a clean engine compartment, five passenger seating, and a fully functional touch screen.

The Virginia Tech EcoCAR during emissions testing

Penn State University placed third overall with a 1.3L, B20 biodiesel series hybrid. At the Year Two Finals, the team took home eight awards, including Best AVL Drive Quality, Best Social Media, 2nd in A123 Battery Design, 3rd in Outreach, and was the runner up in Best Fuel Consumption and Best Tailpipe Emissions. The team’s fuel consumption averaged around 4.1 Lge/100 km and the EcoCAR displayed impressive acceleration linearity and quick throttle response during the Drive Quality dynamic tests. In addition, the team was able to host more than 50 outreach events and increase media relations by more than 400 percent in the outreach program.

The PSU team working under hood

Although Mississippi State, Virginia Tech and Penn State were the top three teams in Year Two, there was a variety of other awards given out during Finals. You can find the complete list of winners, here.

With only one year left, the EcoCAR competition will get fierce as all 16 EcoCAR teams fight for the number one spot in Year Three. Who will it be? Check back to the Inside the Green Garage blog throughout Year Three for team and competition updates!

MSU recently had the pleasure of hosting Mississippi Senator Alan Nunnelee on its campus.  The senator lead a candid discussion with political science and business students, as well as members of the EcoCAR team. Nunnelee spoke about the benefits of hybrids, MSU’s participation in the EcoCAR program, and political attitudes toward hybrid adoption.

Regarding political attitudes toward hybrids, the senator talked about the benefits of hybrids in relation to the economy and environment.  He also touched on some of the ramifications for the state’s budget.  A current example of those ramifications is the state tax on every gas purchase that goes to the building and repair of roads in the state; if hybrids became widely adopted in the area, cars would still wear on the roads, but purchase significantly less gas.  This would compel the state government to find new ways to make up for the shortage of gas revenues.

It was inspiring to hear the influential viewpoint of Senator Nunnelee and his enthusiasm about the EcoCAR program!

This week’s Mentor Monday post features Kerry Grand, an engineer working in the consulting services group at MathWorks‘ Michigan office. 

Before joining MathWorks and getting involved with EcoCAR, Kerry held various engineering positions at Ford and General Motors. During that time he focused on and gained extensive knowledge of hybrids and electric vehicles – experiences he brings to his EcoCAR teams. 

Kerry joined MathWorks in 2006, and soon after, was drawn to the student competitions. He was intrigued by EcoCAR’s green mission and the chance to help students become engineers. During his undergraduate studies, Kerry participated in an SAE electric vehicle challenge supporting his senior project; this competition was successful because of strong support from both advisors and sponsors. 

As an EcoCAR mentor, he is impressed by the professional growth of the students throughout the three years. Students are using industry standard processes to design their vehicles and he sees firsthand how much the teams develop their skills during the competition. “Questions they ask today are very different than the questions they asked in Year One. The students are really into learning about modeling with MathWorks’ Simulink technology. They now understand Simulink and are diving deeper into the complexities of their designs to focus on optimized control, rapid prototyping, and deployment.”

Kerry Grand with fellow MathWorks mentor, Pete Maloney, at the Year Two EcoCAR Fall Workshop hosted at MathWorks' headquarters in Natick, MA

Dr. James Truchard, president and CEO of National Instruments (NI), visited the Virginia Tech Hybrid Electric Vehicle Team (HEVT) project bay, a few months back.  Dr. Truchard visited the Virginia Tech campus to see how HEVT is using NI equipment and software to design their EcoCAR.  HEVT demonstrated their vehicle controller interface on the computer using NI products. The HEVT members also had the opportunity to talk to Dr. Truchard about his work experiences and life story.

Since NI equipment and technology has played an intrical role in HEVT’s hybrid vehicle development, the team was thrilled to meet the brains behind the company.

HEVT team members posing with Dr. Truchard from National Instruments

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