Dr. Thomas Bradley, faculty adviser for EcoCAR projects, and a group of more than 100 dedicated students, over the course of eight semesters, just completed the EcoCAR 2 competition in the summer of 2014. Now, it’s on to the next competition – EcoCAR 3!
Just as in past EcoCAR competitions, students have been given the task of reducing environmental impact while maintaining performance, safety, and consumer acceptability of the vehicle. For this competition, primary commercial sponsor General Motors donated a 2016 Chevrolet Camaro to each team. GM will also provide vehicle components, seed money, technical mentoring, and operational support to each team. The competition is managed by Argonne National Laboratory who provides competition management, team evaluation, and logistical support. EcoCAR 3 is the latest U.S. Department of Energy’s Advanced Vehicle Technology Competition series and it is North America’s premier collegiate automotive engineering competition.
Colorado State University has been competing in EcoCAR competitions since 1988, and this year, we are one of hundreds of applicants that have been selected to participate once again. Sixteen total North American universities will compete.
Dr. Bradley has been the faculty adviser for EcoCAR since 2011 and was recently awarded the National Science Foundation Outstanding Incoming Faculty Adviser Award for EcoCAR 2. “CSU’s EcoCAR program is a great example of the type of research that College of Engineering undergraduate and graduate students can get involved in. It is innovative, multidisciplinary, industrially relevant, and high impact. This article recognizes the great work that over 100 CSU students put in to design and demonstrates our vision of the car of the future.”
The EcoCAR 3 team started the design process in the fall of 2014 and will be judged at different phases throughout the competition until a winner is selected in the summer of 2018. The group just returned from Seattle, WA where they competed in the first leg of the competition and earned two project management awards. The winning team receives cash prizes and international recognition. Students are split into groups based on their interests, each group being responsible for a different portion of the vehicle: mechanical, emissions, controls, batteries, or powertrain. At any given time, approximately 30 students are working on the vehicle, and these students will pass the baton to incoming seniors at the end of each school year.
Between 100 and 125 students will have had the opportunity to work on the vehicle over the course of the four-year competition. This year, the group is broken down into about four graduate students and 25 undergraduate students. Graduate student involvement is imperative as they provide guidance and stability when considering the high turnover rate of undergraduate students.
Clinton Knackstedt was an EcoCAR 2 team member as an undergrad and is now working on EcoCAR 3 as a grad student. “We meet and receive training from industry experts from across the U.S., get involved in innovative research in the automotive industry, and overall, the opportunities are endless. There is so much to learn, and it is an amazing experience.”
EcoCAR benefits students in a multitude of ways by encouraging hands-on engineering experience, exposure to world-class organizations, and knowledge-sharing in a competitive, team-oriented environment. Students will learn to incorporate innovative ideas, solve complex engineering challenges, and apply the latest cutting-edge technologies. Inspired EcoCAR students pursue careers in the automotive industry and other advanced technology sectors. Last fall, two students interviewed with GM and were offered positions at the Milford Proving Grounds in Michigan.
EcoCAR 2 student Kenny Inthiraj, was recently hired by GM. “By joining EcoCAR and gaining immediate hands on experience and full design freedom working with vehicles, gaining access to the automotive industry was a natural step forward. Specifically, the EcoCAR project blends my propensity toward energy engineering and love of cars, and was directly involved in landing my first undergraduate career with General Motors.”
This year, competition organizers are ramping up the challenge by adding cost constraints and automotive innovation as additional judging criteria. We are so proud of our talented EcoCAR 3 students – keep up the great work and good luck!