The EcoCar Challenge, sponsored in part by both General Motors and the U.S. Department of Energy, gives collegiate engineering students a chance to think about the future of the automobile. Now in its second year, students design and build their own alternative powertrain vehicle, which is evaluated by GM engineers. The second year evaluation/ competition kicked off this morning at GM’s proving grounds in Yuma, Arizona.
Engineering teams from 16 universities across North America entered the competition and have spent nearly two years designing alternative powertrain vehicles. Designs include extended-range electric vehicles, plug-in hybrids, fuel cell plug-in hybrid vehicles, and pure electric vehicles. Although every vehicle’s powertrain is different, the goal is to minimize fuel consumption, petroleum use, and emissions. Every vehicle must also meet commercial standards for utility, safety, and performance.
“The students spent two years designing and building these innovative vehicles and its thrilling to see them come to life here at our desert proving ground,” said John Haraf, director of hybrid vehicle integration and controls at GM. “We couldn’t imagine a more appropriate place to conclude year two of the EcoCAR competition — these young engineers must pass the toughest inspections and undergo the same tests we perform on our own prototypes. This challenging process gives them invaluable experience and preparation for careers in the industry.”
The competition puts each and every vehicle through a battery (no pun intended) of industry tests. The cars will be cycled through engineering tests each day, although teams will be allowed to work on their designs and refine/repair them between sessions. Tests include everything from braking performance to ride quality, and everything in between. The harsh desert climate at GM’s Yuma facility will only make the competition even more difficult.
Once testing and judging is completed in Arizona, the teams will move on to San Diego, California, where the victors will be announced on Thursday, May 27.