advanced vehicle technology

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Smartphones, medical monitoring equipment, grocery store registers, personal music players, tablets and handheld video games all have one thing in common: touch screens allowing users more efficiency and usability than ever before. But how can this be applied to the EcoCAR 2 competition?

The Pennsylvania State University Advanced Vehicle Team has been participating in advanced vehicle technology competitions since 1988. In this timeframe, the team has designed and built a variety of vehicle architectures to reduce fuel consumption and greenhouse gas emissions. The team’s forward-thinking engineers have built them from the ground up with state of the art software and tools aligned with industry demands on lower petroleum usage and dependence.

The PSU AVT can use its skills and prior knowledge to help the world’s population drive sustainable cars, but how will consumers be drawn to buy these innovative automobiles? The answer lies with the national EcoCAR 2 sponsor Freescale, a global leader in embedded processing solutions and a platinum-level sponsor that has supported advanced vehicle technology competitions for the past 14 years.

This year, Freescale has provided the Penn State team with products geared toward the consumer acceptability aspect of the competition. Consumer acceptability in the areas of safety, utility and performance is one of three pillars of the competition, in addition to fuel reduction and training the next generation of automotive engineers.

Throughout Year One, the Penn State controls group is primarily in charge of modeling and simulating the new hybrid architecture of the modified 2013 Chevrolet Malibu, which will be delivered in early summer. The group has also begun the first stages of implementing a radio interface, navigation and GPS interface, and a battery interface with Freescale’s donated products.

This year, Freescale has given Penn State one i.MX 53 Quick Start Board, which functions like a miniature PC. The company also gave the team an i.MX 53 Center Stack Development Board, along with the SABRE system for Android, Linux, Windows Compact 7 platforms. This hardware supports QNX, a brand new EcoCAR 2 sponsor for the center stack development initiative. The team also received a touch screen panel to practice on and then implement into the car, which can be hooked up to the dSpace to view vehicle processes.

“We have multiple boards because this is an incremental learning process,” said co-team leader Luke Shepley. “The Quick Start board is used to teach the team how to work with LTIB and the i.MX platform, while the larger board is used to introduce the concepts of interfacing with the vehicle components through CAN and a touch screen interface.”

The Penn State controls group is currently making the SABRE Board work with Linux and Android. “After all of our trials, it felt great to successfully set up the environment variables to boot up the Linux system,” said Meng Jin, a controls group member.

One major lesson the team has learned is how to boot up the Linux system with the provided Low Voltage Differential Signaling (LVDS) display panel. The team is planning to use the two CAN channels on the i.MX53 SABRE board to utilize the infotainment system CAN communication capability.

Through the whole process, Freescale employees have stood by the team’s side, educating members about the new technology and offering troubleshooting help. Penn State engineers have had constant access to Freescale employees through an onlinecommunityboard. This forum allowed the team’s engineers to get thorough, timely answers and build relationships with industry professionals who use this technology everyday.  In addition to the community board, Freescale showed its commitment to the PSU AVT and EcoCAR 2 as a whole by opening up its facilities and mentoring students during Winter Workshop in Austin, Texas.

“The kind of experience gained in these AVTC competitions is really valuable for the industry. We have students that have the ability to solve hands on problems, to solve problems on time and on a budget,” said John Cotner, field applications engineer at Freescale Semiconductor. “EcoCAR is really a great example of this.”

Cotner explained the need for students who have experience working with complex embedded systems, software, modern operating systems, and advanced graphics. “Students who have the ability to work with these kinds of technologies will be in real demand in the future in the automotive electronics industry,” he said.

That is one of the reasons Freescale is partnering with the PSU AVT at the Freescale Cup in Happy Valley on Saturday, April 21. The Freescale Cup is a competition in which university students build an autonomous model race car and compete for the fastest time. The Freescale Cup is a chance to learn about electrical engineering (circuitry, interfacing and software design) and mechanical engineering (control theory) as well as sharpen communication and teamwork skills, again showing Freescale’s dedication to training the next generation of innovators and builders.

Thanks to Freescale’s involvement in the Freescale Cup and EcoCAR 2, students can take what they learn in class and apply it to real world situations. The freescale center stack project covers  a lot of popular computer science and engineering topics, such as operation system, custom toolchain compiler and real time controls. Many students wouldn’t have access to this technology without the company’s assistance.

Through the rest of Year One, the team plans to finalize their initial prototype of their Center Stack design and test it utilizing their dSpace hardware-in-the-loop device. In Year Two, the team will integrate the 10 inch touch screen panel and i.MX53 board into the Center Stack and test it in Malibu’s CAN BUS. In Year Three, the team will ensure the panel and software are running at their optimal level that provide an enjoyable and dependable drive experience.

“We’re off to a running start with our Freescale Center Stack initiative thanks to Freescale’s great support and products available to us student engineers,” said Shepley. “This competition is fast-paced, but the most rewarding project I can imagine being a part of. I can’t wait to see our progress in the future.”


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This week, the DOE announced a partnership that will speed the development of advanced energy-efficient technologies for cars and light trucks. The program, called US DRIVE for “Driving Research and Innovation for Vehicle efficiency and Energy sustainability,” partners DOE with members of the Auto, Electric Utility, and Fuels industries.

US Drive is an evolution of government-industry collaboration on advanced automotive research and development that has existed for over a decade. Previous alliances  included Partnership for a New Generation of Vehicles and Freedomcar. US Drive will build on these partnerships to accelerate the development of advanced vehicle technologies through discussion and combination of resources.

Partners in US DRIVE include EcoCAR sponsors General Motors and the Electric Power Research Institute, and like EcoCAR, US Drive is helping to pave the way toward a cleaner, energy independent future!

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University of Waterloo’s Alternative Fuels Team (UWAFT) unveiled its student-built EcoCAR to over 150 attendees at its annual EcoCAR Educational Luncheon in April. Team members highlighted how the hydrogen fuel cell plug-in hybrid electric vehicle has zero tailpipe emissions and can perform on the level of the original stock vehicle donated by General Motors.

During the event, the team also hosted a panel discussion with elected representatives from all three levels of government in Canada:

Peter Braid, a member of Parliament
Elizabeth Witmer, a member of Ontario’s Provincial Parliament
Brenda Halloran, the Mayor of Waterloo

    Following a 30 minute presentation by UWAFT’s Outreach Coordinator, Eric Mallia, the three guest panelists shared their take on the role of government in developing advanced vehicle technologies in Waterloo and throughout Canada. Topics discussed included investments in research and development, government incentive programs and strategies to help ‘green’ industry fleet vehicles.

    Local media outlets were also on hand to cover the event. Click here to read the Kitchener-Waterloo Record’s article!


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    Yesterday marked the biggest outreach event that the UW Hybrid Team had ever experienced! The American Le Mans Series, the world’s leading sports car series focused on being a global trendsetter in “green” racing, visited the University of Wisconsin, Madison at the Capitol square. The event was presented by Tequila Patrón and was designed to promote the technologies and alternative fuels necessary to enable competitive motorsports to improve fuel efficiency and reduce emissions in race vehicles. These exciting technologies are being researched by universities across the country and then put to the test in grueling race competitions by the American Le Mans Series manufacturers and teams. Examples of these next-generation race cars, including Drayson Racing’s Lola B09/60 Judd and the Green Earth Team Gunnar’s ORECA-FLM 09 prototype, were on display.

    The presentation was open to the public and included the following invited guests: Governor Jim Doyle, Representative Steve Kestell and Senator Joseph Leibham. The event also featured Series drivers, Gunnar Jeannette, Joey Hand and Rahal Letterman. Last but certainly not least, UW’s EcoCAR team leader, Stacey Ley, and advisor, Glenn Bower, both presented about the EcoCAR competition and advanced vehicle technologies.

    What a great experience, congratulations UW!

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    Now that the Year Two Finals are over, the Missouri S&T EcoCAR team is spending the summer making improvements to its vehicle. The team is focused on repackaging the Electrical Storage System, relocating the HVAC system to the rear of the vehicle, calibration of hydrogen detectors and finishing the installation of new fire suppression system in the EcoCAR garage.

    The S&T Outreach team has also been busy! In May, the team attended the St. Louis Regional Clean Cities event in St. Louis, Missouri. During the EV Workshop, they learned about the development of electric vehicles and charging infrastructure in the St. Louis Metropolitan area. In early June, the EcoCAR team also participated in the Rolla Summerfest in Downtown Rolla. At the event, the team got an opportunity to showcase their advanced vehicle technology research and spread awareness about the competition.

    This week, the team is running an exciting EcoCAR Summer Camp! The pre-college camp will give high school students an idea of what it’s like to work with hydrogen FC-PHEV. The highlights of the week will be working on Unigraphics NX, conducting fuel cell vehicle simulations, performing total fuel cycle well-to-wheel modeling and a visit to the EcoCAR garage.

    The S&T team is excited for what is in store in Year Three of the competition! The next big event for the team is Homecoming 2010 on October 1 in the EcoCAR garage. The day is being organized by Angela Rolufs, director of the Missouri Transportation Institute and MS&T can’t wait to participate!

    Clockwise from L to R: S&T at the Year Two Finals, Rolla Summerfest, EcoCAR Summer Camp 2010 and St. Louis Regional Clean Cities workshop

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    In late March, the University of Victoria EcoCAR team welcomed local Cub Scouts to their garage to talk about the EcoCAR competition, advanced vehicle technologies, and to show off their EcoCAR.

    During the day, the UVic outreach team divided the Cubs into three groups and assigned a member of the engineering team to lead each group. The program included a presentation on current environmental issues, alternative fuels and advanced vehicle technologies. The UVic team also taught the Cubs how to build pop can cars from recycled materials.

    At the end of the visit, the Cubs had the opportunity to race their pop can cars – take a look for yourself!

    The cubs with their pop can cars

    Race time!

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