University competition cars visit Argonne for testing

By Justin H.S. BreauxMarch 24, 2014

ARGONNE, Ill. – Three university teams competing to win the EcoCAR 2 challenge will visit the U.S. Department of Energy's Argonne National Laboratory this week. The national contest offers students a unique hands-on experience to select and implement advanced technologies that increase vehicle fuel efficiency.

Students teams from Colorado State University (CSU), the University of Washington (UW) in Seattle and the University of Victoria (UVic) in Canada will converge on Argonne's Advanced Powertrain Research Facility March 25-28 to test their reengineered 2013 Chevy Malibu vehicles, which were donated by General Motors, an EcoCAR 2 partner.

EcoCAR 2 is a three-year collegiate competition that gives the next generation of automotive engineers experience in the design and integration of more fuel-efficient technologies into vehicle systems. The students’ goals are to reduce fuel consumption, and greenhouse gas and tailpipe emissions, without sacrificing performance, safety or utility.

The testing is the last chance for teams to gather data in order to make final tweaks to their vehicles before a winner is selected this June in Washington, D.C., during the competition's final phase. The three teams will be competing with 12 others whose vehicles are being test elsewhere. The cars are put on a dynamometer, which simulates urban, highway and aggressive driving conditions for eight hours. Each car will be tested for emissions and fuel economy. This test is required by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for all vehicle models driven in the United States.

During the first year of the competition, teams designed major subsystems including hybrid powertrain and high-power electrical systems.  In the second year, students integrated their customized powertrain systems and subsystems into their respective Malibu. The students followed GM’s Vehicle Design Process, which provides an outline of how to produce their prototype vehicles. 

The UW team's car has an electric traction motor in the back to drive the rear wheels, and in the vehicle's front, the team placed a biodiesel diesel engine to power the car when the battery is fully drained. 

CSU is the only team in the EcoCAR 2 competition to use hydrogen fuel cell technology. The team picked a hydrogen fuel cell series plug-in hybrid to power their car because it enables fast refueling while maintaining zero tailpipe emissions in all modes of operation.

The UVic team is using a series-parallel plug-in hybrid electric vehicle architecture powered by a high-capacity lithium-ion battery pack, which will also store energy from the grid.

EcoCAR 2 is a competition from the Energy Department’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy that promotes the power of public/private partnerships to provide experience and training to students entering the North American job market. 

Argonne National Laboratory seeks solutions to pressing national problems in science and technology. The nation's first national laboratory, Argonne conducts leading-edge basic and applied scientific research in virtually every scientific discipline. Argonne researchers work closely with researchers from hundreds of companies, universities, and federal, state and municipal agencies to help them solve their specific problems, advance America's scientific leadership and prepare the nation for a better future. With employees from more than 60 nations, Argonne is managed by UChicago Argonne, LLC for the U.S. Department of Energy's Office of Science. For more information, visit www.anl.gov.