Engineering students from Mississippi State University were victorious at the end of the second year of the EcoCAR challenge, a green-tech design competition co-sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy and General Motors.
The university teams are being evaluated on their ability to create a vehicle that decreased fuel consumption and greenhouse gas emissions, while retaining certain levels of consumer acceptance. GM donated the vehicles used by the 16 teams for the competition. The point of the competition is for these students to redesign an existing vehicle to meet improved fuel efficiency and environmental standards. Personally, I like the fact that the teams are using suburban utility vehicles because, as my friend with five kids will tell you, some families just don't find itty-bitty electric cars practical.
The EcoCAR designs fall into four different categories: extended-range electric, plug-in hybrid electric, fuel cell plug-in hybrid electric and full-function electric. The cross-over SUVs were tested at the GM Desert Proving Ground in Yuma, Ariz. They have been designed over the course of the past two years, and this was the first proof point of those designs.
The Mississippi team's car was an extended-range electric vehicle running off a 21.3 kilowatts-hour A123Systems battery package, a 1.3L GM turbodiesel engine and a 75-kilowatt UQM generator. During the tests, their entry managed to get 118 miles per gallon, for a combined city/highway cycle. The team also won separate tests for auto cross and acceleration.
So here's the challenge for the next year: To refine and improve on the vehicles.