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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.

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The President of the United States visited Penn State last month and spoke to a crowd of 3,000 people on the topic of innovation in energy-efficient engineering. Secretary of Energy Steven Chu was also in attendance. In addition to his 20-minute speech, President Obama toured an Architectural Engineering Structures Laboratory with Secretary Chu.

Twenty-five Penn State EcoCAR team members, including engineers, volunteers, faculty advisors and outreach members, attended the President’s speech, and the Penn State Outreach Coordinator, Allison Lilly, had the privilege of shaking his hand!

The Team at President Obama's speech

The President’s speech focused on inspiring Penn State students to meet their potential. He emphasized the need for collegiate competition, saying, “We’re going to have to out-innovate and out-educate and out-build the rest of the world.”

The Penn State EcoCAR team is very familiar with competition and innovation, so President Obama’s speech really resonated. The President focused on clean energy, “because right now, some of the most promising innovation is happening in the area of clean energy technology — technology that is creating jobs, reducing our dependence on foreign oil, and — something that every young person here cares about — making sure our planet is a healthier place to live that we can pass on to future generations.”

Obama called upon college students to try harder, work harder, and research harder – not for the grades, but for the good of our country’s future. “We need you to seek breakthroughs and new technologies that we can’t even imagine yet,” he said.  “And especially the young people who are here, we need you to act with a sense of urgency — to study and work and create as if the fate of the country depends on you – because it does.”

President Obama ended the speech with a message of hope, saying that he believes we will be able to once again set ourselves apart from the rest of the world by harnessing the energy of Penn State students and students across the nation.

The EcoCAR team left the room a little more excited to get back to work, to face their next challenge, and to set themselves apart in this outstanding engineering competition.

Over the past 30 days, we’ve seen some important news that’s relevant to the future of clean automobiles. We thought it was worth sharing two recent announcements with our readers:

Secretary Chu Announces Nearly $300 Million in Clean Cities Grants to Support Clean Fuels, Vehicles, and Infrastructure Development — Secretary Steven Chu announced the selection of 25 cost-share projects under the Clean Cities program that will be funded with nearly $300 million from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. According to the press release, these projects will speed the transformation of the nation’s vehicle fleet, putting more than 9,000 alternative fuel and energy efficient vehicles on the road, and establishing 542 refueling locations across the country. The Department of Energy also estimates they will help displace approximately 38 million gallons of petroleum per year. READ RELEASE HERE

President Obama Announces $2.4 Billion in Grants to Accelerate the Manufacturing and Deployment of the Next Generation of U.S. Batteries and Electric Vehicles — President Obama announced 48 new advanced battery and electric-drive projects that will receive $2.4 billion in funding under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. These projects, selected through a highly competitive process by the Department of Energy, will accelerate the development of U.S. manufacturing capacity for batteries and electric drive components as well as the deployment of electric drive vehicles, helping to establish American leadership in creating the next generation of advanced vehicles. READ RELEASE HERE

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The wrapped Saturn Vue

The wrapped Saturn Vue

June is usually the time when college students shift gears for the summer, but for some engineering students, June is the time to literally get everything in gear. The students involved in the EcoCAR: The NeXt Challenge competition have spent this, their first year, designing a new and advanced architecture for a 2008 Saturn Vue to reduce petroleum use and increase fuel efficiency.

EcoCAR is a three-year competition that builds on the 20-year history of DOE advanced vehicle technology competitions by giving engineering students the chance to design and build advanced vehicles that demonstrate cutting-edge automotive technologies. This important partnership aims to inspire and support the next generation of scientists and engineers around the common goal of sustainable mobility. To prepare for the June 12 year-end EcoCAR Competition Finals, these students are preparing to dazzle GM and DOE officials with their designs – just as if they were designing the next car to roll off the production line.

As new automotive technology gets attention in the consumer market, it is also gaining political attention. President Obama recently announced $2.4 billion in funding as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act to encourage the production of next-generation plug-in hybrid electric vehicles and advanced battery components for such vehicles. The Act also includes a $7,500 incentive for buyers of these vehicles. Many of the student teams are ahead of the electric curve, having already incorporated electric components into their vehicles.

Eight of the EcoCAR teams, including Embry Riddle Aeronautical University, Mississippi State University, North Carolina State University, The Ohio State University, Pennsylvania State University, University of Wisconsin, University of Victoria and Virginia Tech chose to design extended-range electric vehicles (EREV), which, like GM’s Chevy Volt, demonstrate full performance with an electric powertrain that can extend the range of the vehicle with its onboard fuel storage. The EcoCAR Challenge teams that selected an EREV as their architecture will use either B20 biodiesel or E85 ethanol to extend the range of their electric vehicles.
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