Virginia Tech is anything but a conventional EcoCAR 2 team, and most of this uniqueness stems from their creative and goofy team leader, Eli White. As a second-year graduate student, Eli is spending his third year and final year in EcoCAR 2 as team leader. Take a glimpse into the life of the one-and-only Eli White:

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On Thursday, April 24, representatives from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and General Motors (GM) will officially launch the next Advanced Vehicle Technology Competition series, EcoCAR 3, in Washington D.C.

During the event, the selected universities for EcoCAR 3 will be announced, as well as the vehicle platform for the competition. Special appearances include:

  • Dr. Ernest Moniz, U.S. Secretary of Energy
  • Dr. David Danielson, Assistant Secretary for the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE)
  • Mark Peters, Deputy Laboratory Director for Programs, Argonne National Laboratory
  • John Calabrese, Vice President of Global Vehicle Engineering at General Motors

EcoCAR 3 teams will spend the next four years redesigning and reengineering a General Motors-donated vehicle in an effort to minimize the environmental impact and petroleum consumption while maintaining its performance, safety, and consumer appeal.

So join us LIVE as we announce EcoCAR 3 for the first time on April 24, 2014 at 7 PM ET. To watch the live video, please visit or click on the video below.


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This post was contributed by UVic EcoCAR 2 team lead John Walsh

In the stock 2013 Malibu Eco platform there is a belted alternator starter (BAS) motor that is connected to the 2.4L LUK engine at the crankshaft. In the University of Victoria (UVic) team’s vehicle, we upgraded the BAS motor to a TM4 80kW electric motor and the LUK engine to a 2.4L LE9 E85 Ecotec engine. We also replaced the pulley/belt parts to allow the TM4 motor to be connected to the crankshaft of the LE9 engine. We were relying on the stock system attachment to be strong enough to transmit the new higher shaft power from the TM4 motor. But as we found out in mid-December, it was not…

The torque component (woodruff key) was not able to handle the load and it catastrophically failed. During the failure, bits of sheared key material left a path of destruction on the crankshaft (see below). Upon further inspection, it was noted that the key was shared with the LE9 timing sprocket. We needed a better, stronger key, and we needed this fixed as quickly as possible.

Crankshaft damage

Crankshaft damage

We decided, since the key was linked to the LE9 timing sprocket, that we would cut a new key slot in the crankshaft and design the key to handle the rated TM4 motor power. Fixing the problem in a timely manner required a speedy design to identify the new key requirements, and coordination with our local sponsor and GM dealership.

We pulled the LE9 engine and sent it to our local GM dealership (Wheaton Chevrolet Buick Cadillac GMC) to be dismantled. We also sent along our LUK engine. The stock engine was worth its weight in gold as the crankshaft is the same as the one needed for the LE9 engine. The stock engine crankshaft was pulled and sent to our local team sponsor PED (Prototype Equipment Design) and a new key slot was machined. The crankshaft was turned around in an astounding 1 ½ days. The GM dealership then rebuilt the LE9 engine with the modified crankshaft (see below).

LE9 engine with the modified crankshaft

LE9 engine with the modified crankshaft

Finally, we reassembled the engine on the subframe with all the associated components/suspension and raised it back it into the engine bay (with our new TM4 motor). The total turnaround time was 3 weeks and occurred over the holidays. The total turnaround took about three weeks and the team is excited to get back to work on the vehicle.

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This post was contributed by team member Kevin Leong

While many Embry-Riddle students enjoyed Spring Break on exotic beaches, four members of the ERAU EcoEagles team went north instead – to the Transportation Research Center (TRC) in East Liberty, Ohio, where the Year Three Emissions Testing Event (ETE) took place. During the ETE, each of the 15 EcoCAR 2 teams had the rare opportunity to perform industry-grade, state-of-the-art emissions testing on the dynamometers at the TRC.

“In addition to emissions testing, the teams’ vehicles underwent tech inspections where the organizers looked at everything: things we did wrong, things that weren’t good enough, things we could improve on,” said Dr. Patrick Currier, the faculty advisor for the EcoEagles. “We talked a lot with the other teams there. Purdue University has the same diesel engine, so we shared our experience with them to help them work through their problems.”

The EcoEagles test their vehicle on the dynamometers at the Transportation Research Center in East Liberty, OH

The EcoEagles test their vehicle on the dynamometers at the Transportation Research Center in East Liberty, OH

As noted by Currier, collaboration with the organizers and the other teams is crucial in the later stage of Year Three. “A lot of teams were having issues with problems that we had come across earlier in the year and successfully resolved,” said Chris Rowe, the electrical team lead. “Everyone needs a little help; everyone knows a little more than someone else. There is always a knowledge transfer when dealing with testing.” Despite the fact that they’re officially competitors, the teams are still willing to collaborate, loan tools, and share wisdom among their peers.

The organizers, many of whom work for either Argonne National Laboratory or General Motors, provided additional insight into the many design issues the teams faced. One major issue the EcoEagles struggled with was having unburned hydrocarbon emissions in their vehicle’s exhaust. “The data that we received helped us characterize our engine’s performance,” said Derek Bonderczuk, the controls team lead. “A lot of unburned hydrocarbons indicate incomplete combustion.” Incomplete combustion usually means the engine is operating less efficiently than normal. The team collaborated on Facebook with the off-site EcoEagles members and alumni who work for General Motors. “We thought that this was caused by a clogged diesel particulate filter, but the other possibility was that the engine was not broken in yet, so everything wasn’t seated properly.” After the team subjected the engine to an extensive load for an hour, the team was in contact with General Motors engine experts from Italy to further troubleshoot the problems.

“We also noticed that our Selective Catalytic Reduction (SCR) system, an after-treatment for our exhaust, wasn’t working correctly,” Bonderczuk notes. “We were able to gather data on the SCR system despite its broken state.” Bonderczuk and Rowe, along with Yuchi Meng, the mechanical team lead, worked tirelessly during the week they were at the TRC. Many of the problems that were found were minor procedural issues, such as bolts being improperly marked or wires being routed near sharp edges. Some problems, however, caused the entire testing procedure to halt. “These couplers are supposed to be solid,” Currier tells me as he hands me a burnt piece of a soft rubber coupler. “We seem to have figured out what is causing us to lose all of these couplers and the team is already working hard on a new design.”

“Right now, we are probably in the more fun stage of the competition, where we are less concerned with getting things to work as we are with making things better,” says Bonderczuk. Rowe seems to agree with Bonderczuk, noting, “The organizers were pretty pleased with our progress. It gives us a good feeling about where we are in the competition, and how we will do at Final Competition.”

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Throughout the duration of the EcoCAR 2 competition, the Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology (RHIT) team has been extensively collaborating with Siemens PLM Software. During Year Three, RHIT created a video that showcases their collaboration efforts with Siemens.

Siemens is a competition-level sponsor of the EcoCAR 2 competition and is a world-leading provider of product lifecycle management (PLM) software and services. Siemens’ software has been utilized both in the classroom and on the RHIT team’s 2013 Chevrolet Malibu provided by General Motors.

The team uses Siemens NX 7.5 to perform virtual fitment, ensuring that all the components physically fit in the vehicle. NX is utilized during the design of the car as well as managing the process. The team uses NX CAD software to design custom powertrain mounting brackets and NASTRAN to perform FEA to make sure they meet the competition safety factors. In the classroom, RHIT advisor Dr. Zac Chambers teaches a crash course on NX and has created a tutorial on building beam FEA models of mounting brackets.

Bill Boswell, Senior Director of Partner Strategy at Siemens, said that “Siemens has made the largest in-kind software donation in RHIT history by donating $27.8 million software to the institution.” Siemens provides in-kind software grants of NX and Teamcenter to Rose-Hulman. Because of Siemens PLM Software, Rose-Hulman has been able to advance their curriculum and utilize various tools to enhance the educational experience for their students.

Learn more about the collaboration between Siemens and Rose-Hulman:

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“Being team leader of the Ohio State EcoCAR 2 team is a lot like being king,” said Matt Yard.

Matt, a graduate student at the Ohio State University focusing in mechanical engineering, has taken the throne this year as the OSU EcoCAR 2 team leader. But this is not his first time leading the team – last year he co-lead with Katherine Bovee, a master’s student on the team. This year, though, he’s ruling solo.

Matt’s not new to the competition – this is actually his sixth year being involved in an Advanced Technology Vehicle Competition. As a freshman at Ohio State, Matt participated in Year One of EcoCAR: The NeXt Challenge where he focused on electrical engineering projects. Eventually Matt worked his way up the ladder and became a sub-team leader.

He didn’t stop there. Matt became team leader during Year Two of the EcoCAR 2 competition and, since then, has been managing all aspects of the team – engineering, business and communications.

When Matt graduates, he knows he wants to go into the automotive industry – his experiences with the EcoCAR competitions have confirmed it.

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In the past weeks, the University of Waterloo Alternative Fuels Team (UWAFT) has been completely redesigning the rear subframe of their Chevy Malibu. UWAFT believes that the rear subframe is one of the best places to remove excess weight to improve overall vehicle weight and fuel efficiency. However, UWAFT must also ensure that the new design allows the vehicle to meet or exceed stress and stiffness safety factors, all while making sure that the part’s manufacturability isn’t negatively affected.

UWAFT's current rear subframe design

UWAFT’s current rear subframe design

The software used in the design and optimization of the rear subframe is Altair Hyperworks, which allows the user to create geometry, select properties, analyze the stress on the parts, and more. With some guidance from Altair, UWAFT has been constantly improving and tweaking the design.

The different sections of the new subframe must be able to pass various load case tests. The team has developed many iterations on the subframe so far and will continue to work until they’re satisfied with the design.

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UTKControls Team member Jake Hollingsworth developing code that will be used to test vehicle drive cycles and trigger faults

UTKControls Team member Jake Hollingsworth developing code that will be used to test vehicle drive cycles and trigger faults

To be prepared for work in the automotive industry, it is imperative that engineering students gain hands-on experience while in college. This experience can be obtained through internships, co-op assignments and class projects. But at The University of Tennessee, Knoxville (UTK), students have the additional opportunity to join the UTK EcoCAR 2 Team, a unique project that allows engineering students from various departments to work with top-of-the-line software and technologies. In one of the team’s latest projects, the UTK EcoCAR 2 Controls Team has been developing methods to test their vehicle’s run drive cycles and trigger faults.

In the laboratory, the controls team has an entire room dedicated to their two dynamometers. For readers that aren’t familiar with this testing device, dynamometers are used to test and validate vehicle systems by mimicking a variety of real-world driving conditions. One is specifically designed to test engine efficiency, while the other is used for chassis analysis. These types of tests are used to validate the vehicle’s performance in any terrain or environment. Jake Hollingsworth, a controls team member, says that dynamometers are “great [because of their] ability to validate and model systems in the vehicle.” Regular testing also helps the team detect errors early on in the development process, which saves time down the road.

In the coming weeks, the controls team intends to test the computer codes for drive cycles and trigger faults that they are currently developing. After the results have been obtained and analyzed, next steps will include improving upon any places where the testing fell short of expected outcomes. Testing with the dynamometer is key to ensuring that the entire vehicle system will perform at competition standards.

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The Mississippi State University EcoCAR 2 team proudly displayed their 2013 Chevrolet Malibu at the Freescale Technology Forum (FTF) in Dallas, Texas earlier this week. The team was invited to display their fully-integrated center stack design that features Freescale hardware and technology and the president and CEO of Freescale, Gregg Lowe, held a live stream introduction of the vehicle to all FTF attendees.

Mississippi State University is actually one of several teams using Freescale software and hardware to develop their center stack. Most EcoCAR 2 teams use this technology to design a user interface for the vehicle’s touch screen. This screen will allow the driver to control the radio, adjust climate control, see the vehicle’s status through the touch screen implementation, and more.

Check out what EcoCAR 2 teams are doing to incorporate Freescale’s software and hardware into their innovative center stack designs:


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The Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University (ERAU) EcoCAR 2 team is thankful for the support of the competition’s sponsors. The team extends a special thank you to Snap-on Tools, which has been a dedicated sponsor through each year of competition.

Snap-on, a manufacturer of high-end tools and equipment, is instrumental in providing the equipment and tools necessary in the design process of the vehicle. Without funding and donations from Snap-on, it would have been nearly impossible for the ERAU team to make progress on their vehicle.

Throughout the year and in past Advanced Vehicle Technology Competitions (AVTCs), Snap-on has provided generous financial and material support to both ERAU and other EcoCAR teams. In the past year, Snap-on has collaborated with Embry-Riddle and addressed any concerns the team had with the quality of the tools and their proper usage.

The video below highlights Snap-on and their continued support of EcoCAR 2 at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University. Check it out!

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