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The University of Waterloo Engineering Department recently held a day of exploration for local elementary students and their parents. The goal was to educate the community on the amazing projects being undertaken at the university. The University of Waterloo Alternative Fuels Team (UWAFT) was front and center for the event, holding interactive outreach presentations that displayed their engineering expertise and the opportunities of being a team in the EcoCAR Challenge.

In total more than 1,500 students and parents passed through the EcoCAR exhibit. Students were particularly interested in learning how hydrogen could be sourced as a fuel for the team’s vehicle.  Since hydrogen can be separated from water (H2O) through electrolysis, the team’s engineers demonstrated how electricity generated from clean sources like the sun could be used to create hydrogen and power a fuel cell vehicle.

UWAFT members Paul Nowosielski and Gurhari Singh explain the environmental benefits of their Hydrogen Fuel Cell Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicle

The day after the engineering department event, UWAFT was at it again, as the EcoCAR exhibit hosted 7,000 high school students and their parents for Waterloo’s annual March Break Open House.  As aspiring university students and future engineers, these youngsters discovered that much of their future learning at university could very well occur outside the classroom. UWAFT highlighted the main goals and challenges of the EcoCAR competition, as well as showcasing the team’s work with industry and government to help green the automotive industry.  Parents were eager to get their children involved in a program that offers the fantastic undergraduate opportunity to work on real-world vehicles that could make a difference for generations to come.

In order to make the wheels spin on UWAFT’s hydrogen fuel cell plug-in hybrid electric vehicle, the EcoCAR students at the University of Waterloo have successfully integrated two electric motors into the vehicle’s drivetrain – one at the front wheels and one at the rear wheels.  To effectively use the electricity of the team’s GM-donated fuel cell and A123Systems-donated battery, UWAFT needed frequent successful bench tests of its Siemens AC induction electric rear motor.

Since this motor was not originally intended to be incorporated into the stock GM sub-frame, UWAFT has designed a unique rear mounting system that retained the original suspension mounting points, while also housing the sizable motor.  Knowing that the electric motor would need to be detached from the vehicle on a regular basis for testing, UWAFT specially designed the rear sub frame to ensure that disassembly was as efficient as possible. The design was a success, effectively accommodating the electric motor while making it possible for two people to disassemble in 15 minutes. This small mechanical modification has led to an increase in productivity and overall efficiency when working on the motor.

Watch the video below to see a bench test of UWAFT’s rear electric motor in action!

We have a breaking story on the Green Garage blog today as EcoCAR has announced the winner of the “Best Website” outreach award! UVic took home first place for the contest, which judged team websites based on content, creativity, and appeal. UVic will receive a $500 prize for winning, narrowly edging out second place finisher Ohio State and third place University of Waterloo.

The UVic website features a simple, intuitive layout with up-to-date news and blog posts. The site is visually appealing, with plenty of photos of the team’s vehicle and student team members. Sponsor logos and links to social networking tools are also prominently displayed, completing the EcoCAR judges’ criteria for the award.

Please join us in congratulating UVic and wishing them the best of luck during the last few months of the competition!

As a sponsor of the EcoCAR Challenge, Woodward has generously provided three products to University of Waterloo’s Alternative Fuels Team (UWAFT) including: (1) MotoTron Electronic Control Modules (ECM), (2) MotoTools Software for testing and programming the ECMs, and (3) an interchangeable breakout board also used for testing the ECMS.

Woodward has not only supplied UWAFT with these great products, but the company has also provided UWAFT with incredible customer service. Below is a video of technical team captain, Mike Giannikouris demonstrating the rapid development and real-time control capabilities of MotoTools as he programs the vehicle’s cooling fan. This is just a single example of how Woodward technology makes it simple for engineers to program vehicle components.

The fall term of Year Three in the EcoCAR Challenge brought with it significant milestones for the University of Waterloo Alternative Fuels Team (UWAFT).  Without a doubt, the most notable milestone was the first successful start of their GM-donated fuel cell stack. Days later, GM engineers traveled to the University of Waterloo campus to assess the progress of the team. This was an exciting event for UWAFT engineers, as they were able to obtain valuable feedback from GM powertrain professionals. With the fuel cell up and running, the team members are now waiting on the installation of the DC-to-DC converter that will bring everything together and allow the vehicle to run in hybrid mode.

There were two other major achievements that occurred during the fall term. First, the complete redesign of their high-voltage battery pack using A123 donated battery modules, and second, the development of a custom-built DC-to-DC converter. With these milestones in the rearview, UWAFT looks forward to the EcoCAR Spring Workshop in March at the U.S. EPA facilities in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

For a further technical update, including footage of the first successful start of the GM- donated fuel cell stack at Waterloo, check out the video below:

For the third consecutive year, the University of Waterloo’s Alternative Fuels Team (UWAFT) talked about their EcoCAR accomplishments with youth, parents, teachers and media at the Go Eng Girl and EcoBuzz events in southwestern Ontario. Go Eng Girl is an annual event that provides an opportunity for girls (ages 11 to 14 years old) from across Ontario to visit their local university and learn about the wonderful world of engineering.  Throughout the day, the young girls and their parents got to meet some of the female engineers working on Waterloo’s EcoCAR.

UWAFT team member, Allyson Giannikouris, explains hydrogen fuel cell technology to a father and daughter at the Go Eng Girl event in Waterloo, Ontario.

At the EcoBuzz conference, UWAFT gave local high school students the opportunity to participate in an interactive EcoCAR game and learn about the benefits of hydrogen fuel cell technology.

Eric Mallia, UWAFT’s Outreach Coordinator, distributing EcoCAR literature at the EcoBuzz event in Brampton, Ontario.

UWAFT’s main objective at these two youth-oriented events was to articulate the differences between the internal combustion engine and a hydrogen fuel cell system. The video shown below was used to help educate youth about the chemistry of fuel cells, which are needed to generate electricity for the team’s EcoCAR.

As the University of Waterloo Alternative Fuels Team (UWAFT) enters Year Three of the EcoCAR Challenge, it is excited to refine the optimization strategy in its hydrogen fuel cell plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (FC-PHEV).  Although the team’s vehicle did not have enough power to run the dynamic events at the end of Year Two in Yuma, Arizona, UWAFT presented well in static events and had a strong showing in its outreach deliverables. They finished 8th overall in the final competition points for Year Two and continue to make big strides.

While in Yuma, the team took advantage of the extraordinary resources, including the equipment and expertise provided by the competition sponsors, which helped them pass safety inspection and fill their vehicle’s hydrogen tanks. Now able to fill the fuel tanks of its functioning all-electric vehicle, the team is in a good position to build a strong campaign in Year Three.

To catch a glimpse of the UWAFT vehicle running all-EV, check out the video below:

This week’s Where Are They Now post features Christopher Haliburton, a 2008 graduate of the University of Waterloo, Advanced Vehicle Technology Competition (AVTC) participant (and now supporter) and current GM validation engineer for the Chevy Volt.

While attending the University of Waterloo, Chris Haliburton participated in Challenge X, the advanced vehicle technology competition (AVTC) program preceding EcoCAR. As part of the University of Waterloo Alternative Fuels Team (UWAFT), he was able to work on mechanical integration design, systems modeling and rapid vehicle prototyping using the Powertrain Systems Analysis Toolkit developed by Argonne National Laboratory. In the final year of Challenge X, Chris became co-team leader and controls lead, helping to organize and lead a team of more than 20 students to successfully convert the Chevy Equinox into a dedicated fuel cell vehicle.

During his Challenge X experience, Chris was able to learn about General Motors’ Vehicle Design Process, which helped him obtain a job with GM upon graduation. Chris now works with GM’s Hybrid Controls and Integration department at the Milford Proving Grounds in Michigan.

Currently, Chris is a validation engineer for the Chevy Volt, where he maintains a fleet of mule vehicles from a software/hardware perspective.  He is also responsible for vehicle integration by updating software and troubleshooting issues daily as well as during initial vehicle builds.   Chris still likes to help out with EcoCAR, often participating as a judge during competition finals.

Chris has demonstrated that with a lot of hard work in the AVTC program while in school, it’s possible to land a pretty sweet job working on the next advanced vehicle technology coming into production.

The University of Waterloo Alternative Fuels Team (UWAFT) was happy to be an exhibitor at the Junior FIRST LEGO League (Jr.FLL) Expo, as part of the Youth Appreciation Week, in Livingston, New Jersey this summer

Jr. FLL is a global robotics program for children ages six to nine. This year, there were more than 40 expos hosted by local organizations from the U.S., Canada and Europe. UWAFT was one of only two university teams presenting at the event. UWAFT’s exhibit included a five minute video aimed at young children to show them how university students are finding innovative uses for alternative fuels, focusing on their EcoCAR work. 

The event attracted media attention and generated UWAFT and EcoCAR coverage – you can read the article on, here. Congratulations, UWAFT!

Check out the team’s amazing video that was on display at the Jr. FLL Expo below! The video includes several images that depict how the UWAFT EcoCAR works, one-on-one interviews with key members of the team and a sneak peek into their garage. Thanks for the inside look, UWAFT! We look forward to seeing what you have in store for Year Three.

UWAFT team members talking about hybrid technology with local shoppers

The University of Waterloo Alternative Fuels Team (UWAFT) collaborated with Canadian Tire to engage with its local community on the technological advances happening in its garage. Although the weather was muggy, it didn’t affect the event – the team benefited from the high traffic and attention during a busy shopping weekend!

The majority of the public understood that hybrid technology is playing an increasingly important role in the auto industry. As a result, many people were interested in learning about the work being done by UWAFT and to discuss the merits and problems of various alternative fuels. In addition to educating people in the community, the team also had the opportunity to speak with Waterloo business owners and plant an early seed of interest with future students of UW.

The UWAFT team is passionate about developing new green technology and was delighted to have the opportunity to host the event at Canadian Tire.

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September 2020