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The U.S. Department Of Energy and General Motors have challenged 15 universities to transform a 2013 Chevrolet Malibu into a hybrid vehicle in the latest Advanced Vehicle Technology Competition, EcoCAR 2: Plugging In to the Future.

A vehicle that’s cutting edge, pushes the technology envelope and is … uh … built by college students? We know what you are thinking – “how can we be sure that it works?”

Well, have no fear – the Transportation Research Center (TRC) is here!

TRC, an EcoCAR 2 competition-level sponsor, is a 4,500 acre independent automotive proving ground in East Liberty, Ohio. TRC provides certification testing for vehicles and components for crash testing, emissions testing, dynamic testing and durability testing. To make sure their college-student-built vehicle is safe, Ohio State has been working with TRC to develop, prepare and test the reliability of Ohio State’s Parallel-Series Plug-In Hybrid Electric vehicle for the EcoCAR 2 competition.

But this isn’t the first time TRC and Ohio State have worked together. TRC has been collaborating with the Ohio State team for many years as a team sponsor, even before becoming a competition sponsor just this past year.

The Ohio State EcoCAR team, a multi-disciplinary group of engineering, business and communications students, is incredibly lucky to have such a collaborative relationship with TRC.

Watch the video below to see how TRC and Ohio State have worked together throughout the year to be successful at the EcoCAR 2 Year Three Competition!

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Who can answer any question about the Ohio State University EcoCAR 2 Team’s vehicle engine? Andy Garcia can!

Advanced Technology Vehicle Competition (AVTC) alumnus Andy Garcia was part of The Ohio State University team during the first two years of the EcoCAR 2 competition. Andy was the Engine Team Leader and worked on the development and calibration of the software used on the engine.

Andy now works as an Engine Calibration Verification Engineer for General Motors in Milford, Michigan. He specifically works on verifying engine calibrations for the extended range electric vehicles, like the Chevrolet Volt and Cadillac ELR. Thanks to his involvement in EcoCAR, Andy was better prepared to move into the automotive industry.

Andy (left) pictured with Pete Maloney of MathWorks (center) and OSU's Year Two Team Leader Katherine Bovee (right) at the Year Two Competition Finals

Andy (left) pictured with Pete Maloney of MathWorks (center) and OSU’s Year Two Team Leader Katherine Bovee (right) at the Year Two Competition Finals

“EcoCAR allowed me to gain hands-on experience and leadership skills that I utilize daily in my job,” said Andy. “The knowledge and contacts I obtained during EcoCAR 2 did a lot to prepare me for this position.”

Andy attended The Ohio State University for both his undergraduate and graduate degrees in mechanical engineering. In addition to the EcoCAR team, Andy was also involved with the Formula SAE team at the OSU Center for Automotive Research.

His best memory from EcoCAR 2 was the Year Two Final Competition in Yuma, Arizona.

“It was quite an experience working in the garage. The problems that the team faced were challenging, but we were all able to work together.”

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The first wave of student vehicles arrived at TRC over the weekend

The first wave of student vehicles arrived at TRC over the weekend

Over this past weekend, several EcoCAR 2 teams traveled to East Liberty, Ohio for the beginning of the March Emissions Testing Event. Held at the Transportation Research Center from March 8th to March 19th, EcoCAR 2 teams will be offered the opportunity to gather high-quality test data from their vehicles during eight hours of emissions and fuel economy testing in a controlled laboratory environment. Additional emissions and fuel economy testing will take place at Argonne National Laboratory’s Advanced Powertrain Research Facility from March 25th to March 29th.

Kevin Stutenberg, Argonne employee and former AVTC alumnus, runs baseline dyno testing on the Chevrolet Malibu

Kevin Stutenberg, Argonne employee and former AVTC alumnus, runs baseline dyno testing on the Chevrolet Malibu

During the first stage of testing, the Virginia Tech, Cal State-Los Angeles, Mississippi State University, North Carolina State University, Ohio State University and Wayne State University teams will have their shot at dynamometer testing. A chassis dynamometer offers the ability to virtually drive a vehicle under a multitude of different scenarios or ‘drive cycles,’ such as urban driving, highway driving and aggressive driving.

Before teams have a chance to participate in dynamometer testing they will be subjected to a Safety and Technical Inspection. Safety Tech includes a variety of key checks on vehicle hardware, electrical systems, safety systems and controls functionality performed by EcoCAR 2 organizers from Argonne National Laboratory, U.S. Department of Energy, General Motors and New Eagle.

Safety tech inspectors take a look at a student vehicle

Safety tech inspectors take a look at a student vehicle

Each vehicle is inspected against a rigorous 300 point checklist, covering all aspects from the powertrain integration to the interior fit and finish.

Check back on the Green Garage Blog over the next three weeks to learn more about the March Emissions Testing Event! In the meantime, check out the competition’s Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram for the latest updates.

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There’s a new kid in town on the Ohio State EcoCAR 2 team – Bryan Silverman.

Bryan is a senior in the Ohio State Fisher College of Business, majoring in Marketing and minoring in Entrepreneurship.  This is his first year on the team – and he has loved every minute of it!

Bryan grew up loving cars and has always known that he wanted to pursue a career in the automotive industry – so joining the EcoCAR 2 team was a perfect fit! Currently serving as the team’s business manager, Bryan works to oversee the team budget, maintain sponsor relationships and recruit new team member for all three teams – engineering, business and communications.

Though he has only been on the EcoCAR team for a few months, Bryan has already been hard at work. He’s attended the Year Three Fall Workshop and submitted his first deliverable – the business plan.

This summer, Bryan will be continuing to pursue his passion for the automotive industry with a marketing internship at General Motors.

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Clean Cities and the Ohio State University EcoCAR 2 Team have collaborated multiple times, including this past academic year at the Columbus Auto Show. Now, the Ohio State (OSU) EcoCAR team is teaming up with two Clean Cities Coalitions – Clean Fuels Ohio (CFO) and Earth Day Coalition (EDC) – to continue their efforts to reduce petroleum usage and emissions in Ohio!

Chevrolet Volt featured in the ‘Electric Vehicle Parade’ at the 2013 Circleville Pumpkin Show

Chevrolet Volt featured in the ‘Electric Vehicle Parade’ at the 2013 Circleville Pumpkin Show

Already, the team has participated in a number of events with CFO in Columbus and the surrounding area. During the 2013 Fall semester, Clean Fuels Ohio came to the OSU Center for Automotive Research to give new OSU EcoCAR team members some information about the latest in electric vehicles. This meeting was part of CFO’s most recent campaign, Drive Electric Ohio.

CFO and OSU also teamed up to host an Electric Vehicle Parade at Ohio’s oldest and largest festival, the Circleville Pumpkin Show. Each year, the show attracts over 400,000 visitors to a small community of only 12,000 people – however, this is the first time electric vehicles stole the show!

Vehicles lined up and ready to go for the ‘Electric Vehicle Parade’ at the 2013 Circleville Pumpkin Show

Vehicles lined up and ready to go for the ‘Electric Vehicle Parade’ at the 2013 Circleville Pumpkin Show

CFO and OSU invited local electric vehicle owners to drive their vehicles in the parade, and the response was overwhelming! The parade celebrated advanced vehicles and featured a number of electric vehicles, including two Chevrolet Volts, a Nissan Leaf, a redesigned Toyota Prius and even a Tesla Roadster!  Check out the event on the OSU team’s Flickr page.

In addition to collaborating with CFO, Ohio State is also joining forces with Earth Day Coalition in Northwest Ohio for Ohio’s largest environmental education event and the longest running Earth Day celebration in the nation, EarthFest 2014. EarthFest has been the go-to event to celebrate Earth Day for over 20 years – and this year, it will feature the finished OSU EcoCAR vehicle!

The OSU team looks forward to continuing our many years of successful collaboration with Clean Cities!

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In Year Two, the Ohio State University EcoCAR 2 Communications and Business team collaborated to find the best ways to reach government influencers at the local, state and federal level. The team tried to specifically target senators and representatives who are already interested in alternative fuels or advanced vehicle technologies. OSU reached out to a number of influencers in Year Two and is already thinking about the Year Three campaign!

Some of the highlights from the team’s influencer efforts so far include:

Congressman Johnson at OSU

Congressman Johnson at OSU

Congressman Bill Johnson visited the OSU Center for Automotive Research and learned specifically about the OSU vehicle design. Congressman Johnson serves on the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

State Senator Troy Balderson visited the OSU Center for Automotive Research to learn more about natural gas trends and related initiatives at the university, including the OSU EcoCAR team. He had the chance to tour the student garage and speak with a few team members!

The OSU EcoCAR team visited the Hilliard City Council to discuss sustainability initiatives at the university and explain why advanced technology vehicles are vital. The team also attended Hilliard’s Earth Fest celebration.

The team would like to thank all of the influencers who visited and team members are excited to continue to reach out to influencers next year!

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Ohio State’s Engine

Designing and building an advanced hybrid vehicle is no easy task; it takes multiple years and many skilled engineers to produce a consumer vehicle. The EcoCAR 2 team at Ohio State faces these challenges daily.

The team decided to use a 1.8L 4-cylinder high compression ratio engine that has been calibrated for E85 fuel. This specific type of fuel was chosen for its high octane rating, which can produce higher efficiencies leading to better overall fuel economy. Calibrating the engine to run on E85 fuel was a difficult task because it required the team to program a complete engine control algorithm from the ground up. But, with the work of many Ohio State students, including engine control systems lead Andy Garcia, the code was completed using Simulink from Mathworks. As a result of these ambitious efforts, the engine can achieve best-in-class efficiency for a spark ignition engine at 40 percent brake thermal efficiency.

In Year Three, Ohio State will try to improve on this already highly efficient engine. Some of the improvements include heated fuel injectors and active knock control. The heated fuel injectors will help improve the start-up of the vehicle in colder conditions by heating the fuel before reaching the combustion chamber. Also, the heated fuel injectors will assist in reducing tailpipe emissions. The active knock control will allow the engine to push the limits of spark advance, creating higher efficiencies.

There is a lot of work ahead to be completed, but the team is excited and ready for the challenge!

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Recently, the OSU EcoCAR 2 team and the local Clean Cities Coalition, Clean Fuels Ohio, partnered up for the 2013 Columbus Auto Show to host an “Alternative Fuel Vehicle Display.” The display featured a number of advanced fuel vehicles and the fueling systems that power them.

The Auto Show, which normally draws a crowd of over 25,000 over a four-day event, is not a stranger to the advanced vehicle display. Last year the OSU EcoCAR team and Clean Fuels Ohio partnered to host “Green and Made in Ohio.” To build upon the display using reviews from last years’ Auto Show attendees, the display for the 2013 show encompassed a diverse group of vehicles. Vehicles and charging stations on display at the show included the 2013 Chevrolet Malibu (provided by Bobby Layman Chevy), the Chevrolet Cruze Eco and EV and CNG charging stations from multiple local providers.

“It is always rewarding to collaborate with Clean Fuels Ohio,” said Sarah Vasey, the OSU EcoCAR business manager. “It was really great to talk to so many people who were genuinely interested in learning about hybrid vehicles.”

The OSU EcoCAR team would like to thank Clean Fuels Ohio, the 2013 Columbus Auto Show and all of the display providers on a great show!  To check out some of the cool vehicles that were on display at the Auto Show, be sure to check out the OSU EcoCAR’s latest video blog post, “the garage: Episode 3!”

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MathWorks is one of the leading developers of mathematical computer software and just one of the instrumental sponsors that make the EcoCAR project possible.

At The Ohio State University, EcoCAR 2 students wouldn’t know where to start in rebuilding their vehicle without the use of MathWorks software. The OSU team uses MathWorks software in a number of different areas, including engine control, vehicle performance simulation and testing to ensure safe and reliable software to operate the vehicle.

The engine that the OSU team chose to use for the EcoCAR competition was originally a compressed natural gas (CNG) engine. In order to make the engine work for the competition, the team converted the engine to run on ethanol fuel. This conversion was made possible through the use of MathWorks software such as Matlab and Simulink, which allowed the team to rewrite the entire engine control code.

Another aspect of collaboration between MathWorks and OSU has been the development of a vehicle simulator developed by the Ohio State team called EcoSIM. Without the use of MathWorks software to create this model, it would be impossible to test the Malibu controls outside of the actual vehicle. EcoSIM makes it possible for the team to develop and refine the control software to make sure the vehicle is functioning properly.

Finally, the team has been using model coverage, another valuable tool in the MathWorks software. Model coverage tools can tell the team which areas of control code have or have not been fully tested, thus improving the safety and functionality of the vehicle controls before testing them in the vehicle. However, to get this model working properly for the team, the team had to reach out to MathWorks for some additional support.

The Ohio State’s MathWorks mentor, Shaun Kalinowski, helped the OSU team work to develop and refine their model coverage system for the vehicle.

“Amanda Hyde contacted me because she wanted to take her test and verification for her model one step further. Amanda wanted to actually do further verification to ensure that her team’s model was error free. This was the first time I had seen an EcoCAR team try to take these next steps in model verification. Amanda was having some issues getting her model to run correctly. It didn’t take us very long to work together before she had Simulink verification giving model analysis results,” Shawn Kalinowski said.

Shaun, who has been an EcoCAR mentor for over four years, has enjoyed his time as a mentor. ”It has been fun and very rewarding to see student engineers take their concepts and get them functioning and working on a vehicle leveraging all the technology. This is very encouraging to me, and it should be encouraging to all of us, because these really are the next generation of engineers that are going to be designing the cars that you and I drive in.”

Without the use of MathWorks software, the Ohio State team would not be able to accomplish the entire Vehicle Development Process in the competition timeline of three years. MathWorks involvement has made it possible for the Ohio State team to safely and efficiently rebuild their 2013 Chevy Malibu!

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The Ohio State EcoCAR 2 team is approaching its first major vehicle rebuilding milestone: a running rear powertrain!

Over the past two months, the students have been hard at work assembling the rear sub frame and energy storage system (ESS) mounts, where the batteries will be held. The team has currently finished installation of the ESS and will be working hard to install the batteries.

Building and installing the ESS has been an enormous task. The project began with having sheet metal laser cut and bent to form the various non-structural pieces of the ESS enclosure. These pieces were then welded to the cooling plates to create the complex structure of the boxes. This allowed for mounting of controllers and wiring, all while maintaining an airtight enclosure around the batteries themselves. While the boxes were being built, steel support frames were welded to the frame rails in the rear of the vehicle. The battery enclosures were then lined with non-conductive material to ensure they remain electrically isolated from the rest of the vehicle. Finally, they were mounted on the steel support frames inside the vehicle.

The next step will be installation of the batteries themselves and their associated wiring harnesses for completion of the energy storage system. The team will then focus on the installation of the rear sub frame, which means it won’t be long until their rear wheels are spinning!

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