Purdue one of 15 universities in EcoCAR2 contest

March 19, 2012

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — A group of Purdue engineering and technology students will soon begin work on a 2013 Chevrolet Malibu as part of an international competition designed to reduce the environmental impact of passenger vehicles.

The effort is part of EcoCAR2, a program established by the U.S. Department of Energy and General Motors, which allows students to achieve the contest's mission by designing and implementing hybrid-electric power train technology on a 2013 Chevrolet Malibu.

Purdue is scheduled to receive its vehicle this summer, as participating schools in EcoCAR2 will receive the first 15 automobiles off the assembly line.

"Students get a perspective on what it takes to build a real-life car," said Peter Meckl, professor of mechanical engineering who oversees work in power train controls and diagnostics. "Often times in academia we're forced to the bare bones minimum. This has all of the complexities of real-life design. They're going to be able to see their accomplishments."

Purdue's EcoCAR2 team will use Parallel through the Road (PTTR) architecture with its vehicle, which utilizes electrical energy to power an electric motor on one axle, while an engine drives another axle.

The PTTR architecture is a Plug-In Hybrid Electric Vehicle, which uses an on-board battery to reduce fuel use and can be recharged using a standard wall outlet. Once the plug-in range of the battery is depleted, the vehicle can still operate as a regular hybrid. Purdue will use B20 fuel, which is a blend of 20 percent biodiesel and 80 percent petroleum diesel, to extend the range of the vehicles.

"We are looking at an approach that is unique because of components selected and the integration of them," said Haley Moore, a graduate student in mechanical engineering technology who serves as project manager. "Some things have been done and some tools have been used, but the way all the components work together is different than what has been seen before."

EcoCAR2 is nearing completion of the first year of competition, which culminates with all teams attending a trade show in Hollywood, Calif. in May. Each team will create a booth, which must include a driving simulator, powered by a control box that has been developed over the past year.

"The simulator is realistic in the sense that we're programming a control box that will go into a vehicle," said Vahid Motevalli, professor of mechanical engineering technology and the team's lead adviser. "You don't have to take the risks of actually driving a test car. You're not driving a car. You're driving a simulator. Once all of the bugs are out you can take the control box and put it into the car."

The competition has changed over the past 24 years to make it more like vehicle development, Motevalli said.

"We have to follow GM's vehicle development program," he said. "When you're producing a real vehicle there may be a lot of interesting ways and innovations you can approach, but you have to complete them in a timely, safe and secure fashion. We have a very contained framework, but within that framework we have to figure out ways to make our vehicle function well."

Purdue will keep its vehicle in Herrick Laboratories. The lab area will be inspected by EcoCAR2 officials later this month.

The Purdue team has more than 50 students, ranging from doctoral to freshman level. The program has benefited participants greatly, Meckl said.

"It's been demonstrated that people who have worked on the EcoCAR projects have 100 percent job placement," he said. "Putting this on their resume not only gives the students more confidence, but they can demonstrate that they've been involved with an actual car and use the exact protocols used at GM to put a car together."

Other participants include the universities of Tennessee (Knoxville), Victoria, Washington and Waterloo; along with California State (Los Angeles), Colorado State, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical, Mississippi State, North Carolina State, Ohio State, Pennsylvania State and Wayne State universities; Virginia Tech and Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology.

Sponsors to EcoCAR2 include the Department of Energy, General Motors, Natural Resources Canada, Math Works, California Air Resources Board, Clean Cities, dSPACE, Inc., A123 Systems Inc., Freescale, AVL Powertrain Engineering, Inc., National Science Foundation, ETAS, Snap-On Tools, Magna E-Car Systems, Magna Powertrain, Robert Bosch, LLC, FleetCarma, Siemens NX, CD-adapco, VentorCANtech, Inc., Woodward, Caterpillar.
Writer: Brian Peloza, 765-494-2081, bpeloza@purdue.edu

Sources: Vahid Motevalli, 765-494-9652, motevalli@purdue.edu

                  Peter Meckl, (765) 494-5686, meckl@purdue.edu

Related Web site:
Purdue EcoCAR2 Facebook page

Related news release:
Purdue University EcoCar2 announces plug-in hybrid architecture