Mississippi State University (MSU) has taken top honors in the second year of the EcoCAR competition, a three-year automotive engineering competition sponsored by the Department of Energy (DOE) and General Motors Corporation (GM). Officially dubbed "EcoCAR: The NeXt Challenge," the competition invited North American university engineering students to re-engineer a GM-donated sport utility vehicle to achieve improved fuel economy and reduced emissions.
Part of the challenge facing the 16 teams is maintaining the vehicle's performance, safety, and consumer appeal. The MSU team met the challenge by building an extended-range electric vehicle (EREV), using a 21.3-kilowatt-hour battery pack from A123Systems that provided an electric range of 60 miles. That was backed up with a 1.3-liter, biodiesel-fueled, turbocharged diesel engine that powered a 75-kilowatt generator from UQM Technologies. The vehicle reached 118 miles per gallon of gasoline.
The high fuel economy helped the MSU team garner 844 out of a possible 1,000 points, earning its first-place finish. Coming in second place was the Virginia Tech University team, which built an EREV with a 40-mile electric range, also driven by a 21.3-kilowatt-hour battery pack, but with a 90-kilowatt motor. Landing in third place was Pennsylvania State University, again with an EREV, which used a 12.8-kilowatt-hour battery pack to power an 80-kilowatt motor.
The competition included a series of safety and technical tests at GM's Desert Proving Grounds in Yuma, Arizona. In the first year of the EcoCAR challenge, the teams determined the design for their vehicles, and in the second year, they had to turn those designs into reality. For the next and final year, the teams will have to refine their vehicles to near-showroom quality.
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