Eco cars

EcoCAR: The NeXt Challenge is a three-year competition that builds on the 19-year history of U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) advanced vehicle technology competitions by giving engineering students the chance to design and build advanced vehicles that demonstrate leading-edge automotive technologies, with the goal of minimizing the environmental impact of personal transportation and illustrating pathways to a sustainable transportation future. The DOE has again joined General Motors (GM), the Government of Canada (Transport Canada, Natural Resources Canada), and other sponsors for this new competition series, named the EcoCAR Challenge. Argonne National Laboratory (ANL), a DOE research and development facility, will organize and operate the EcoCAR Challenge. Some previous types of advanced vehicle technology competitions include FutureTruck, FutureCar, and Challenge X. These type of competitions are usually supported by one or more of the Big Three American Automobile Manufacturers.

Background on EcoCAR

The DOE announced a Notice of Program Interest for North American colleges and universities with accredited engineering programs to compete for the opportunity to participate in EcoCAR: The NeXt Challenge — a new international collegiate vehicle engineering competition — through a Request for Proposal (RFP) process in 2008.

EcoCAR seeks to advance the level of vehicle technology capable of reducing petroleum consumption and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions while demonstrating the real-world performance of a range of technology options. Schools interested in receiving an RFP describing in detail the requirements for competing for one of the up to 17 available slots in EcoCAR were invited to express their interest.

Technology Development

The technologies explored in EcoCAR are identical to those being investigated by the automotive industry to meet the demands of improved energy efficiency and dramatic reductions in GHGs, as well as to address California zero-emissions vehicle (ZEV) regulations. These technologies include full-function electric, hybrid, plug-in hybrid, and fuel cell hybrid vehicles. The only fuels approved for use in EcoCAR are E10 ethanol, E85 ethanol, B20 biodiesel, compressed gaseous hydrogen, and the energy carrier electricity.

Teams selected will design and integrate advanced-technology powertrains, lightweight materials, and aerodynamic improvements into a production vehicle. Using this approach, EcoCAR will explore pathways for future vehicles while giving the student participants the knowledge and experience they need to rapidly develop critical engineering skills and become the next generation of leaders in the automotive industry.

EcoCAR is based on a real-world integrated vehicle design and development process. Teams of engineers from the selected schools will develop their vehicles following a modified GM Global Vehicle Development Process (GVDP) for each phase of the three-year competition. By the end of the competition, the sponsors expect fully developed vehicles equivalent to prototypes ready for a production decision. While applying proven methods for engineering successful prototype vehicles, students will learn real-world engineering skills that will make them highly effective in the automotive industry. At the conclusion of each of EcoCAR’s three years, a week-long competition involving all of the participating schools will take place at a GM vehicle proving ground or other appropriate location in North America.

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