Year 2 of the EcoCar challenge

Automotive technology is evolving at a dizzying pace, and training the next generation of car engineers is no longer confined to traditional classrooms and textbooks. Real-world, hands-on experience is crucial and that’s why collegiate engineering competitions like the EcoCar Challenge are more important than ever before. The 2010 finals have just ended and [Motorweek] we were proud to take part in the judging, so let’s tally up the results.

EcoCar is a three-year competition in which 16 North American college teams were challenged to improve the emissions and fuel economy of a compact GM crossover vehicle while retaining all of its utility, safety and performance.

Teams were allowed to design their own drivetrain architectures, and chosen technologies included full-electrics, plug-in hybrids, fuel cells, and extended range electric vehicles…

After a year of modeling and simulation, teams were given their vehicles for year two, and have worked ever since on implementing their designs. But the students also had to think real-world in terms of packaging their components, fit and finish, drivability and consumer acceptance…

All these kids are top-notch engineers already, even before they’ve graduated. But what we’re doing is giving them experience with the latest tools and techniques, plus a very long-term disciplined process that we give to them and their schools so that they can have a three-year experience doing something really big…

After a grueling week of testing, Mississippi State University claimed top honors for 2010. Their Biodiesel extended-range electric vehicle achieved fuel economy equivalent to 118 miles per gallon while also achieving the fastest acceleration and autocross times and the cleanest tailpipe emissions. Congratulations also go to Virginia Tech for 2nd place, and Penn State in 3rd position.

But the EcoCar Challenge doesn’t end here. Year Three of the competition is when teams must show full component integration in a near-production-ready vehicle.

Bravo! To the students and sponsors together and separately. This kind of hands-on experience is invaluable. And, frankly, the competition seems to be turning out some interesting drive trains.

One thought on “Year 2 of the EcoCar challenge

  1. moss says:

    Finally, after dicking around forever, GM made several attractive models of the Saturn. Just in time to shut it down because there’s no buyer who could float the paper for a purchase of the division.

    Too bad. The Vue ain’t bad at all.

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