June 2011

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The Ohio State University EcoCAR team spent the second week of June hard at work at General Motors’ proving grounds in Milford, Michigan to help their car finish Year 3 testing strong. The team worked all hours of the day, and the next week in Washington, DC they were rewarded with a second place finish out of the 16 teams in the competition. Here’s a play by play of how the week went down from the perspective of OSU EcoCAR faculty advisor Dr. Shawn Midlam-Mohler.

Day 1: Monday 6/6/11

Monday was the first day of the EcoCAR competition finals. The OSU team started on a high note by winning the Best Technical Paper award for their 20 page report covering all technical aspects of the vehicle.  It was also announced that, going into the competition, OSU had the highest point tally from pre-competition report submissions.  OSU had a few relatively minor issues to deal with from the safety tech inspection, and after some quick software modifications and some wrench work, the team was able to pass the static safety tech inspection.  The team is scheduled to begin dynamic events this morning, which will include On-Road Safety, Braking, Acceleration, and likely begin part of the three-event Emissions and Fuel Economy test.

Day 2: Tuesday 6/7/11

In day two, OSU successfully passed the On-Road Safety event (ORSE) with no major issues.  The only “problem” was that the vehicle’s charge port door made a bit of a racket during the turn maneuvers – a little duct tape and the vehicle was back in action. Immediately after ORSE, the team went through the acceleration and braking event and performed as we had expected, which should put us in the middle of the pack for that event.  (Virginia Tech had a smoking 0-60 time of 6.3 seconds…)  After the vehicle came back, the team immediately got the vehicle on a charger to get our PHEV pack up to 100% SOC so we could start the events our vehicle is truly designed to excel at – the Emissions and Energy Consumption (E&EC) event.

The E&EC event consists of three on-road drive cycles of 20, 40, and 100 miles with the 100 mile section requiring emissions measurements.  Each cycle needs to start full charged, which makes strategic charging a must.  On Tuesday, the team managed to charge up to 100%, run the 20 mile cycle, and then get charged up again for another run in the morning.  As I write this, the OSU EcoCAR is about 1/3 through the 100 mile test and looking good.

Day 3: Wednesday 6/8/11

On Day 3 the OSU EcoCAR was the first team to successfully complete the 100 mile on-road portion of the Emissions and Energy Event (E&EC) – although Penn State was a close second place.  The team started at 6:30 am (thanks to the General Motors and Argonne National Lab staff coming in early!) to avoid the anticipated near-record high temperatures predicted for today.  The vehicle ran as expected, traveling nearly 40 miles in all-electric mode before switching on the high-efficiency E85 engine for range extension.  The vehicle’s advanced emissions system was online and we expect to have excellent tailpipe emissions.

After completion of the event, the vehicle spent an hour in the air conditioned pit area before having its fuel tank weighed and being moved outside for recharge on metered stations.  In this event, all fuel energy and electrical energy put into the vehicle is carefully measured to allow an accurate assessment of the well-to-wheels energy consumption of the vehicle.  We anticipate the vehicle will complete charging by 6:00 pm this evening and we plan on rolling back into the air conditioned shop to soak until morning.  Tomorrow, in the cool of early morning, we plan on running the final portion of the E&EC event which is 40 miles of mixed city and highway driving.  This will complete the testing required for the high-point value events.

Day 4: Thursday 6/9/11

Day 4 of the EcoCAR Competition Finals was another early morning for the team  at GM’s Milford Proving grounds.  After arriving at 6 am, the team was scheduled to run the third and final leg of the 160 mile Emissions and Fuel Economy (E&EC) of the competition, which is the most critical event.  Ohio State’s vehicle completed 38 miles out of 40 without burning a single drop of fuel, after which it transitioned as planned to operate on the high-efficiency ethanol engine.  Over the 40 mile trip, the vehicle burned only a fraction of a gallon of fuel.  After returning to the pits, the vehicle had its fuel tank weighed and was moved to the charging area where it was plugged in to gain back its full electric range.  The OSU team was the first team to complete this event in its entirety.

With a full battery charge and plenty of fuel, the team successfully notched up another two events, the Dynamic Consumer Acceptability Event and AVL Drive Quality Event.  The first event measures exterior noise, interior noise, and vibration, and though the full results weren’t available, we know the team scored full points on the exterior noise portion of the event.  The second event evaluates the “smoothness” of the vehicle during acceleration and braking maneuvers.  Results weren’t available for this event either, but the team’s unique design and control system should put the team in a competitive position with other teams.

Day 5: Friday 6/10/11

In Day 5 of the EcoCAR competition, the team checked off the next to last event, which was an autocross course.  A GM driver took each team’s vehicle through the course three  times with the best time used for scoring.  OSU held the lead during the first round, but Waterloo and Mississippi State pulled off a few spectacular runs which knocked OSU down to the middle of the pack.  The team also had time to rerun the acceleration event, improving their 0-60 time from 13.99 to a still-unofficial 11.1 seconds.  This puts the team a little closer to middle of the pack, but still not within striking distance of Virginia Tech and Mississippi State which posted about 6-second 0-60 times.

Day 6: Saturday 6/11/11

This morning, OSU is on deck for the towing event.  In the afternoon, the team has both of their presentation events around the vehicle.  The first is the Vehicle Testing Complete presentation, which is given in front of a panel of expert judges from industry and government.  The purpose is to demonstrate the vehicle’s near-production status as demonstrated by testing.  OSU should have a strong case to make, as they have conducted a number of tests at OSU-CAR, the EPA facility in Ann Arbor, GM’s Desert Proving Grounds, and Transportation Research Center.  The second presentation is the Static Consumer Acceptability event, in which the students describe the customer features of their vehicle.

Following the six days of dynamic events explained above, Ohio State went on to Washington, DC where they competed in several static engineering presentations. Together they earned a total of 691 points (out of 1,000) and took home the Second Place Award, demonstrating a tremendous amount of hard work and commitment over three years! We salute the Ohio State EcoCAR team for their tremendous effort and look forward to seeing them in EcoCAR 2!

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By the University of Wisconsin’s Kaylan Bailey

I started working on the Mechanical Team for the hybrid vehicle this Spring semester. I opted to join Wisconsin EcoCar because it’s a hands-on experience and I wanted to learn more about cars, particularly hybrid vehicles. In a very short span of time, I’ve been able to learn a lot about the hybrid vehicle and the shop. I learned how the UQM motor, drive shaft and catalytic converter function in the vehicle, and I can now identify the difference between a motor and an engine, as well as the engine bay, engine harness and thermocouples.

UW's Kaylan Bailey

Other members of the hybrid team were instrumental in teaching me these apparatuses and their different functions. One thing I’ve learned and will never forget is to always wear gloves and long sleeves when wrapping fiberglass – otherwise you will be very itchy later! The projects I’ve worked on have included making mounts for different objects in the vehicle, putting in coolant hoses, resetting the carpet and seats in the vehicle and helping with installing the rear brake cables and front wheels. I’m happy I was able to help out and gain experience and knowledge of the hybrid EcoCar through all the friendly team members at Wisconsin. Thanks everyone!

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By Missouri S&T Faculty Advisor Dr. John Sheffield

Dr. John Sheffield

Starting in January 2008, at the suggestion of Kevin Martin, a team of students at Missouri S&T drafted a proposal for the EcoCAR: The Next Challenge.  Our Vice Provost for Research Dr. Krishnamurthy and I attended the start of the EcoCAR competition in May 2008.  Upon our return, we started the construction of the E-Cubed Commons, home of the Missouri S&T EcoCAR team.  In 2008 Missouri S&T Chancellor Carney initiated the “E3=C” challenge, i.e. Energy, Environment and Education equals Civilization. Chancellor Carney noted that Missouri S&T is well qualified to tackle the critical technological problems facing US and the World: Energy, Environment, and Education and is the only university in the United States that has over 90% of its student body majoring in engineering, the sciences, mathematics, or business.

Since 2008, it has been my honor to advise the Missouri S&T Hydrogen Teams, known as the “H2 Design Solutions Team”.  We have twice won the international Grand Prize for the Hydrogen Student Design Contest in 2008 and 2010 along with a Best Paper Award at the 3rd World Congress of Young Scientists on Hydrogen Energy Systems “HYSYDAYS 2009”  held in Torino, Italy in 2009. In addition, our S&T students had five hydrogen EcoCAR presentations at HYSYDAYS 2009 and I made a keynote lecture as well.

For me, it has been an experience of a lifetime working with our amazing Missouri S&T students to help make the hydrogen-powered society of the future a reality. We are evaluating the entire process of hydrogen production, compression, storage, dispensing and consumption in stationary and mobile applications such as the EcoCAR and we will continue to research on-board reformed logistic fuel to power our next hydrogen powertrain vehicle.

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As the lightning danced around the nation’s capital on the night of June 16, 2011 – perhaps a result of the residual electricity in the air generated by all the hybrid electrical vehicles that had been in operation earlier in the day at L’Enfant Promenade – the top performers in the final year of the 3 year EcoCAR competition were recognized for their outstanding engineering efforts.

With the close of the finals activities, from Milford, MI to Washington D.C., we bid farewell to one of the most challenging and rewarding university level competitions in the world.  The student engineers invested mind, heart, and soul – not to mention sweat and tears! – in their efforts to adapt advanced green powertrains into an existing GM platform with really amazing results.  The teams’ accomplishments are staggering.  To cite just a few:

  • The overall winner – Virginia Tech was able to increase fuel economy over 70% above the stock vehicle to an incredible 81.9 mpgge (miles per gallon of gasoline equivalent)!
  • Two hydrogen fuel cell vehicles placed in the top 6 overall (University of Waterloo and Missouri S&T).
  • The Ohio State University built powertrain controllers from the ground up in an impressive and industrial grade display of Model-Based Design with automatic code generation.

Paul Smith presenting the MathWorks Modeling Award to the University of Victoria at the EcoCAR Awards Ceremony

The MathWorks Modeling Award was captured by University of Victoria, narrowly edging out Ohio State University, with some very advanced usage of MATLAB, Simulink, SimDriveline, Neural Network Toolbox and many others.  The judging was particularly difficult this year with so many teams demonstrating mastery of some advanced tooling features.

Though the curtain has dropped on EcoCAR, MathWorks is already in the planning stages for the fall workshops for EcoCAR 2 – Plugging into the Future.  As you might expect, the competition will see some changes while some things will stay the same.  One big and exciting change for MathWorks is its increase in sponsorship level from Platinum to Diamond level.  This is the competition that sets the standard for engineering education as a real-worldproject-based learning platform, and the company is thrilled to be part of EcoCAR 2 and to support the teams involved.  The bar has been set high in EcoCAR.  EcoCAR 2 will surely rise to meet and exceed it.  MathWorks is honored to continue to be a part of the competition.

Getting to the starting line this year took an incredible level of dedication, perseverance and technical expertise.  Congratulations to all the teams that participated!

-Contributed by Paul Smith, director of consulting services at MathWorks and lead EcoCAR 2 mentor.

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EcoCAR has never looked so slick! Check out this video (produced by the Department of Energy) to see footage of EcoCAR’s Finish Line event in Washington, DC last week. Hear from Georgia Tech, Penn State and The Ohio State students as they discuss their career plans and vehicle designs with US Secretary of Energy Steven Chu. Micky Bly, Executive Director for Global Electrical Systems, Infotainment & Electrification at General Motors is also featured in the video talking about the importance of the competition while taking the Georgia Tech EcoCAR for a spin!

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By Brian Harries of the Embry-Riddle EcoEagles Team

I originally joined the EcoCAR project as a Senior Design option for Mechanical Engineering, and got involved on the mechanical team where I gained valuable experience doing mechanical design. There’s really no substitute for hands on experience: the ability to do things such as design, fabricate, and refine designs was incredible.

Brian (left, kneeling) and the EcoEagles at GM's Milford Proving Ground

Eventually I got very involved in the Controls Team and became the Controls Team Lead. With this position, I was able to attend competitions at General Motors’ Yuma Proving Grounds and give technical presentations in San Diego. I was also given the opportunity to go to GM’s Milford Proving Grounds and work in the Hybrid Development garage for two weeks. There I was able to work with several other teams along with GM engineers to debug the control system for our vehicle’s two-mode transmission.

Through my involvement in the EcoCAR competition I had the opportunity to enhance my knowledge in this area and gain more expertise.  This experience became one of the main reasons that I decided to enroll in the masters program at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University. It has been a very exciting and rewarding time to be working with advanced technologies that are utilized in the automotive industry.

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This month’s Year Three Finals were a resounding success, but it’s important to remember that none of the last three years of competition could have happened without the help of our fantastic sponsors. Check out the video below to hear how some sponsors helped teams design and build their vehicles, and why sponsor relationships are proving valuable for students beyond the EcoCAR competition:

All in all, more than 25 organizations teamed up with General Motors and the Department of Energy to sponsor EcoCAR:


  • General Motors Company
  • U.S. Department of Energy


  • Government of Canada
    • Transport Canada
    • Natural Resources Canada


  • U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
  • California Air Resources Board
  • A123 Systems, Inc.
  • dSPACE, Inc.
  • National Instruments
  • MathWorks
  • Freescale Semiconductor
  • AVL Powertrain Engineering, Inc.


  • Clean Cities
  • National Science Foundation
  • Woodward
  • Robert Bosch, LLC
  • Sensors, Inc.


  • Snap-On Tools
  • Magna International/Magna Powertrain
  • Vector CANtech, Inc.


  • Protec Fuel
  • Siemens PLM Software
  • Electric Power Research Institute
  • Delphi Foundation
  • EcoMotors
  • Women in the Winner’s Circle Foundation
  • igus
  • CarSim
  • XM Radio
  • OnStar

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By Jamie Kleinendorst – MTU Outreach Coordinator

Late in August of 2010 I was approached by the leaders of Michigan Tech’s EcoCAR team who inquired about my interest in becoming the Outreach Coordinator. I have known for a long time that green energy is the future and I was very interested in getting involved with hybrid vehicle technology. I attended an information session and before I knew it, I was signed up!

At first, the EcoCAR competition was very overwhelming as I joined the team in Year Three of a three year competition. My first months were spent trying to catch up on logistics and rules to ensure I would strategically choose which areas to focus on. The largest emphasis was placed on designing a creative event to host in the community to strengthen our consumer and influencer campaigns. The First Annual EcoCAR Bundle-Up Challenge was held January 22nd, 2011. This event would have to be my favorite memory of this competition. I really enjoyed interacting with my team and seeing all my planning efforts pay off so successfully.

Jamie Kleinendorst (left) with the Michigan Tech team at EcoCAR's Spring Workshop

EcoCAR workshops are some of the most fun and important aspects of the competition. Not only do these events allow competitors to interact with and learn from other top academic institutions across the country, they are also a chance build personal relations with the sponsors of the competition.  There is no other competition that offers the career building opportunities of EcoCAR. Students have priceless opportunities to hand out resumes, obtain internships and co-ops, and build their professional skills among friends.

EcoCAR team members also have the opportunity to supply their resumes include their resumes on a team CD. These CDs are then sent to all competition sponsors. Simply by including my resume on the CD I was called for a phone interview with General Motors. After an additional phone interview I was asked to interview in person during the Spring Workshop in Ann Arbor, Michigan in March. The interview led to a wonderful offer to work as a Powertrain NVH Development Engineer at the Milford Proving Grounds! Any opportunity to tour a facility as technologically advanced as MPG is amazing and it wouldn’t have been possible without my association with EcoCAR.  In the end I accepted a second offer for a job in Minnesota (which is closer to my family), but the experience of interviewing with and being involved with GM was life changing.

I really enjoyed my involvement with EcoCAR: The NeXt Challenge. The technical and public relation skills I have acquired will continue to help me develop my career as an engineer for years to come. I hope to stay involved with the competition in any way I can in the years to come.

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Patrick Walsh Introduces Secretary Chu

The morning before Virginia Tech was announced as EcoCAR’s Year Three Winner last Thursday, EcoCAR hosted a finish line event at Department of Energy Headquarters in Washington, DC. The highlight of the event was US Secretary of Energy Steven Chu, who spoke about the importance of the EcoCAR competition and interacted with team members and the media.

Introducing Secretary Chu at the event was Patrick Walsh, co-team leader of the winning Virginia Tech Team. We are pleased to announce that with EcoCAR coming to a close, Patrick will be one of two EcoCAR students moving on to Argonne National Labs, where he has accepted a position as an Advanced Vehicle Testing & Controls Engineer. Brian Benoy, Controls Team Leader from Mississippi State University, will also be joining Argonne.

Members of the media were out in full force to meet the Secretary and see the incredible vehicles the EcoCAR teams have built over the last three years. Attendees included:

The Georgia Tech EcoCAR Team with Secretary of the Smithsonian Gerald Wayne Clough (front) and General Motors' Micky Bly (back right)

Jim Motavalli, Freelance
Jerry James Stone, Treehugger
David Leeds, Greentech Media
Tom Doggett, Reuters
Jason Plautz, Greenwire/E&E News
Jaqueline Corba, Planetforward.org
Alvin Jones, Planet Vehicle
Dave Scrivener, MotorWeek
Bill Williams, IEEE

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By now we’ve all heard that Virginia Tech was selected as the Year Three EcoCAR winner, but there were many other awards presented during last night’s Competition Finale Awards Ceremony at the Library of Congress! Congratulations to all the winners:

Teams gathered at the historic Library of Congress

MathWorks Modeling Award
1st - University of Victoria
2ndOhio State University
3rdMississippi State University

National Instruments Most Innovative Use of Graphical System Design
1stVirginia Tech
3rdEmbry Riddle

dSPACE Embedded Success Awards
1stUniversity of Victoria
2ndOhio State University
3rdTexas Tech University

Dr. Don Streit Sportsmanship Award – Mississippi State University
Most Improved Team – Missouri University of Science and Technology
Ron Stence Spirit of the Challenge Award – Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University
Editor’s Pick Award – Penn State University
Best Lange Change – West Virginia University
Shortest 60-0 MPH Braking Distance – Virginia Tech
Fastest High Speed Passby Maneuver –Mississippi State University
Best Autocross Time – Penn State University
Best Autocross “Fun Run” Time – Virginia Tech & Patrick Walsh
Fastest Acceleration 0-60 MPH – University of Victoria
Fastest Acceleration 50-70 MPH – University of Victoria
Best AVL Drive Quality – TIE: Penn State and Virginia Tech
Best Static Consumer Acceptability  – Mississippi State University
Best Vehicle Testing Complete Presentation –  Virginia Tech
Best Dynamic Consumer Acceptability – Virginia Tech
Best Technical Presentation – Mississippi State University
Best Controls Presentation – The Ohio State University
Best Fuel Consumption Runner Up – Penn State
Best Fuel Consumption – Virginia Tech
Best Petroleum Energy Use Runner Up – Virginia Tech
Best Petroleum Energy Use – Missouri University of Science and Technology
Well to Wheel Greenhouse Gas Emissions Runner Up – Missouri University of Science and Technology
Best Well to Wheel Greenhouse Gas Emissions – Penn State
Tailpipe Emissions Runner Up – Virginia Tech

The Virginia Tech team wins the competition!

Best Tailpipe Emissions – Missouri University of Science and Technology
National Science Foundation Outstanding Incoming Faculty Advisor – Shawn Midlam-Mohler, The Ohio State University
National Science Foundation Outstanding Long Term Faculty Advisor – Marshall Molen, Mississippi State University

6th Place Overall – Mississippi State University
5th Place Overall –Missouri University of Science and Technology
4th Place Overall – Penn State University
3rd Place Overall – University of Waterloo
2nd Place Overall – The Ohio State University
1st Place Overall – Virginia Tech

Special Recognition – Jim Tulpa

Special Recognition – Frank Falcone

Lifetime Achievement Award – Phil Patterson of the U.S. Department of Energy

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