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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:

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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 Green Ride & Drive during EcoCAR’s Spring Workshop generated several pieces of print coverage from media members who got to take a spin in an EcoCAR vehicle at the EPA’s National Vehicle and Fuel Emissions Laboratory. The publications that covered the event included The Detroit News, Autoweek, Automotive News and Xconomy Detroit.

Now the Ride & Drive has reached multimedia audiences thanks to an excellent video by Ohio PBS Station WOSU! Check out the clip below to hear about EcoCAR from the students and faculty WOSU interviewed at the event.

The University of Victoria’s outreach coordinator Jason Mayard just returned from two very busy weeks in Ann Arbor. The Spring Workshop was a fantastic chance for Jason to meet the other outreach coordinators to get a feel for how UVic’s outreach measured up to the other teams.  More than a simple workshop, the meeting at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency was essentially an opportunity to gather people together and share experiences.

During the workshop, Jason had an interesting experience presenting to a classroom of 7th grade students because it was the first time he had served as a teacher. Jason successfully adapted his message to the younger audience and apart from coming away feeling several years older, found teaching the excited kids very rewarding.

Jason with a group of students

Presenting the sponsor success story to the competition judges with a business background was another challenge for the UVic outreach coordinator. Jason’s talk about Hardware-in-the-Loop, virtual models, and the almighty cutting-edge controllers got technical at times, but he was well-prepared to promote the team effectively. Jason became much more confident after sitting down with the engineers and learning a great deal about the technical concepts of the EcoCAR. He proved such a quick study that he has almost considered switching to engineering studies…almost.

The UVic outreach coordinator was thankful to the organizers, especially those involved in the outreach program, for making themselves available to help and support the OCs from the different teams. He will continue to lead the team’s marketing effort as they head down the home stretch of the EcoCAR competition!

EcoCAR’s 2011 Spring Workshop came to a successful close today, as all sixteen teams finished up testing at the EPA facilities. In addition to comprehensive vehicle inspections, the two week workshop included a Ride & Drive event for local media as well as learning and networking opportunities for the student team members.

Teams will now focus on what they learned at the Spring Workshop as they race to complete their vehicles for the competition finals in June!

Take a look at this video to hear what students, administrators, and media members had to say about the event:

The second wave of student teams are wrapping up safety tech inspections and dynamometer testing at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s National Fuels and Vehicle Emissions Laboratory in Ann Arbor, MI.

After an impressive week of dyno testing with Group A, Group B teams Embry-Riddle, Missouri S&T, North Carolina State, Rose-Hulman, University of Victoria, University of Wisconsin, University of Ontario Institute of Technology (UOIT), and West Virginia University had their turn.

“When coming to EPA, our team was looking forward to motor tuning testing in order to optimize performance and ensure another motor failure does not occur. We also wanted to perform a full battery depletion to determine our vehicle’s range,” said University of Ontario Institute of Technology (UOIT) team leader Gavin Clark.

UOIT was also the first vehicle in Group B to pass safety tech inspection and the first to test a vehicle on the dyno. Their vehicle was the fourth full-electric vehicle to perform dyno testing at EPA’s NFVEL facilities.

“We spent one whole day charging our vehicle and then performed a battery depletion test. The result was a total of 233 miles on a single charge. To do this we were on the dyno for nine hours using a variety of urban dyno drive schedules (UDDS), highway drive and steady state cycles,” said Clark.

Other teams, like Rose-Hulman, have utilized dyno testing to refine custom transmission shift maps in their vehicle.

“We have been using the UDDS, highway fuel efficient tests, and FU505 cycles to refine our custom automatic transmission shift maps,” said Rose Hulman’s Faculty Advisor Zac Chambers.  “Our results have been very insightful – being able to test in a controlled environment with no ‘runway’ restrictions is a tremendous opportunity.”

Before the Spring Workshop draws to a close, all remaining teams will have their shot at dyno testing. The University of Victoria, Embry-Riddle, and North Carolina State have already begun dyno testing and are excited to analyze the data.

“The dyno facility at the EPA NVFEL is mindboggling,” said Chambers. “We are still overwhelmed that we got to test our vehicle at the location where all vehicle fuel economy and emissions numbers are validated!  This was an experience our students will never forget.”

Check out the slideshow below to see photos of the Group B teams in action!

One of the benefits of Virginia Tech’s VTREX is its electric vehicle (EV) capability. To ensure the car runs as efficiently as possible in this year’s competition, the team has upgraded the rear electric traction motor and designed a custom subframe to mount it. The new motor is more powerful and more efficient, and therefore will help the team meet its target gasoline equivalence of 100 miles per gallon, while offering excellent acceleration.

Installing the rear traction electric motor and subframe took the engineers about two weeks to complete. Taking their time allowed the team to make sure everything was installed properly and would pass the EcoCAR Competition safety requirements.  HEVT is currently testing their vehicle at the Spring Workshop at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s facility in Ann Arbor, MI.

Check out the video below to see Kat from HEVT run down the team’s latest modifications, and stay tuned for more updates from the Spring Workshop!

With teams starting the second week of the Year Three Spring Workshop, a vision of what the future – or at least the competition finals – may hold for EcoCAR students is beginning to take shape.  Over the past few days the students have soaked up lessons learned from inspections, testing, and presentations by organizers and sponsors, and are feeling well-equipped to make the final adjustments to their advanced technology vehicles and outreach campaigns.

The weekend was packed full of activities for the students. In addition to getting some real-world experience with test procedures, students attended workshop presentations on specific hardware components, the upcoming competition finals, and even got some advice from competition veterans, such as Wisconsin’s faculty advisors Glenn Bower and Shawn Midlam-Mohler, who have both been part of advanced vehicle competitions for more than a decade. Teams also go to hear an exciting review of the inner workings of the Chevrolet Volt.

Team Outreach Coordinators were also busy at the Spring Workshop. Just like the vehicles, Outreach Coordinators were put to the test when they gave scored presentations of a sponsor success story, submitting a paper and a poster on a learning experience the team had received through the help of a sponsor.

But it hasn’t been all work and no play – student’s enjoyed last week’s Sponsor Social, where they had the opportunity to network with EcoCAR sponsors, who in recent years have hired many competition graduates.

Mike Carlson of Wisconsin talks to a dSPACE recruiter

“I was surprised to see so many sponsors at the sponsor social,” said University of Victoria Team Leader Jeff Waldner. “You can really tell they are interested in hiring EcoCAR students and are excited to see that so many students are interested to work in the automotive industry.”

Texas Tech team members talk with a Snap-on Representative

Several awards were given out at the Spring Workshop Sponsor Social as well. Woodward announced the first and second place teams for their MotorHawk Video Award with Ohio State University taking first place and the University of Waterloo coming in second place. Other awards included recognizing the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for all of their work with the Spring Workshop and awarding Henning Lohse-Busch, Argonne National Laboratory, and Tom Schrodt, U.S. EPA, with the EPA Outstanding Researcher Award.

EcoCAR also recognized all the hard work that the engineering GRAs and outreach coordinators have put into the competition, with two separate dinners on Saturday and Sunday nights. The dinners were a time to acknowledge the value that the students have added to the competition.

“The outreach dinner was a blast,” said UOIT Outreach Coordinator Lesley McLelland. “The opportunity to spend time with competition organizers and sponsor representatives is hugely valuable and quite a privilege. In the end, that’s what the competition is about – real-world experience and building industry connections.”

With just a few days of vehicle dyno testing left, students are already gearing up for the final competition, and are eager to get home to fine-tune their vehicles.

Two local middle schools in Michigan received a special visit last week from 15 EcoCAR Outreach Coordinators for the Spring Workshop Outreach Day.

Rose Hulman and WVU present to students at Slauson Middle School

Each Outreach Coordinator was paired with another Outreach Coordinator from a different university to present to sixth, seventh, and eighth grade students at both Fortis Academy in Ypsilanti, MI and Slauson Middle School in Ann Arbor, MI. These presentations ranged from discussing the different alternative fuels and the EcoCAR program to hands-on activities.

One presentation included a hands-on activity that encouraged students to create their own ‘car’ based on size of the vehicle, fuel selection, and architecture. They then had to come up with a name, slogan, and price for the car, and pitch it to their fellow classmates. The winning team created a mid-size hydrogen fuel cell named the ‘Aqua Mobile.’

“It’s amazing to see the kids put on their thinking caps and come up with ideas of how they could make their vehicles more environmentally friendly,” said Georgia Tech Outreach Coordinator Kary Winkler.

The students were also able to see a Chevy EcoCAR first hand and take photos with the car.

“Kids today are so much more aware of alternative energy, but it makes you think of how important it is to have outreach events at schools,” said North Carolina State Outreach Coordinator Divya Ramamurthi. “It really puts it back into perspective how much we can achieve by talking to students.”

Probably the most impressive thing during Outreach Day was the number of in-depth questions students asked the Coordinators about hybrids and alternative fuels.

“As someone who’s been with the program for more than a year, I always find it encouraging when I visit a school and the kids know more about advanced vehicles than I did in the early stages of the program,” said Lesley McLelland, Outreach Coordinator for the University of Ontario Institute of Technology (UOIT). “It really is an honor to be part of a program that allows us to teach young people about green technologies.”

MS and T, NCSU, and UOIT Present to 8th Grade Students

It has been a busy week at the EPA’s National Vehicle and Fuel Emissions Laboratory (NVFEL) in Ann Arbor, MI as five teams were able to complete several dyno testing sessions on both the 2WD dyno and 4WD dyno.

The Ohio State team was excited to use the 4WD chassis dyno at EPA because they only have 2WD dyno capabilities at their university.

“With the 4WD dyno, some of the major focuses of our testing have been tuning our electrically heated catalyst control and some engine transient testing on the EPA drive cycles,” said Ohio State controls team lead John Kruckenberg.

The Ohio State team was able to analyze their catalyst control in hopes of improving their emissions of cold starts and getting a better baseline for how their vehicle performs on the road.

The Ohio State team using the 4WD chassis dyno

“In the second four-hour drive cycle, we were able to complete the official EPA certification dyno test so we could compare our previous test cycles to that of our electric drive mode to see how the vehicle runs on a standard cycle.”

Other teams, like Mississippi State, decided to test their urea-injection system that reduces NOx emissions in diesel fuel. This type of testing helps determine the optimal amount of urea to inject into the system for emissions purposes.

Mississippi State team members testing their EcoCAR

“You must inject sufficient amounts of urea to reduce the NOx emissions to a suitable level; however, if an excessive amount of urea is injected, this will cause ammonia to accumulate in the catalyst potentially resulting in harm to the system,” said Mississippi State Faculty Advisor Marshall Molen.

The Mississippi State team conducting additional tests

The University of Waterloo was also able to complete several dyno sessions this week at EPA. Their fuel cell plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (FC-PHEV) is just one of two in this competition.

“We ran a combination of urban and highway cycles just to get a baseline for vehicle performance and to be able to data log our powertrain,” said University of Waterloo team leader Michael Giannikouris.

“We also had the opportunity to get to do custom acceleration tests that allowed us to tune certain controls parameters on the dyno.”As the Group A dyno testing came to a close, both students and advisors agreed that this workshop was really beneficial.
 
“It has been great to work with EPA personnel and equipment,” said Will Dickerson, team member for Mississippi State. “We are able to get a better understanding of the kind of testing procedures that are relevant to today’s emissions testing.”

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