Virginia Tech crosses finish line first in EcoCAR innovation prize

The university's design for an extended-range ethanol vehicle, based on a GM production model, has prevailed in the three-year-long competition.

Yep, these are big-time greentech bragging rights. Virginia Tech has prevailed in the three-year-long EcoCAR Challenge, a competition that challenged 16 student teams to redesign vehicles from General Motors to be more eco-friendly.

The Virginia Tech team designed an extended-ranged vehicle that runs on ethanol (E85), which is sort of ironic when you consider that the U.S. House voted to end ethanol tax credits when they expire. Throughout the competition, the team produced fuel efficiency of 81.9 miles per gallon gasoline equivalent. That is 70 percent better than the stock vehicle. positioning them above the rest. The video below features the team co-leader describing the team's approach:

The student teams just finished undergoing a set of safety, emissions and technical inspections at the GM proving ground, which is used to test its production vehicles.

Said Patrick Walsh, co-team leader for Virginia Tech: "Designing an extended-range electric vehicle using E85 was challenging, but clearly worth it in the end. The entire team has put so much time and effort into designing and refining our vehicle, and we’ve gained valuable knowledge and hands-on experience that will prepare us for our engineering careers.”

Noted Mary Barra, senior vice president, global product development for General Motors: "The automotive industry is demanding these types of engineers, especially when advanced propulsion technologies are evolving so quickly. It’s exciting to know that these students will come to the table with fresh ideas that will help us move toward a cleaner, more fuel efficient future."

The second place team, which also designed an ethanol-focused vehicle, was Ohio State University. (Ohio State actually won the first leg of the competition, which gives you an idea of how close this was.) The third-place team was the University of Waterloo (from Canada), which developed a hydrogen fuel-cell, plug-in hybrid electric vehicle.

I'll bet this is one group of students that will almost certainly get post-graduation interviews based on their impressive research while in college.

Related posts: Mississippi State drives home with two-year EcoCAR trophy