Students Roll Out New 'EcoCAR'

Associated Press + More

DENNIS SEID,
Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal

STARKVILLE, Miss.—A future hybrid vehicle may have technology developed by Mississippi State University.

MSU's student automotive design team rolled out its entry this past week for the international EcoCAR competition, which is sponsored by General Motors and the U.S. Department of Energy.

It is the second advanced vehicle technology engineering competition established by GM and DOE.

MSU is one of 17 universities from the U.S. and Canada who are competing to design and build a plug-in hybrid, range-extending vehicle in the EcoCAR competition.

The base vehicle is a Saturn Vue sport utility vehicle that the team will rebuild internally with its own drivetrain and power components.

"We're basically taking out the guts of the vehicle," said team project leader Matthew Doude, a graduate student in mechanical engineering.

The teams will have their vehicles judged in May. Last year, MSU finished third overall in the first year of the EcoCAR challenge. It also finished first in the mechanical presentations category and second in outstanding research.

Having won the ChallengeX competition two years ago, students and faculty hope for similar results in May with their EcoCAR entry.

"We have about 130 student involved from several colleges and schools across campus," Doude said. "And I think we have the best team."

The MSU team hopes to have its vehicle ready by the end of the year in order to test it before the May judging.

"That will give us time to work on the details and fix any kinks that turn up," Doude said.

The hybrid system is similar to GM's system being developed for the Chevrolet Volt. An all-electric motor will allow the vehicle to travel up to 40 miles. After that, a gas engine takes over. For the MSU car, it will be a diesel engine.

"You'll be able to plug it into your wall outlet at home and it will recharge overnight," said Michael Barr, another mechanical engineering graduate student who is the powertrain leader.

Lori Bruce, associate dean for research and graduate studies at MSU's Bagley College of Engineering, said the students' work allows them to develop their technical, business management, budgeting and people skills.

"The students gain, the university gains, the state gains from their efforts," she said. "This is a student-driven project."

And the team hopes that in May, they're driven to success once again.

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Information from: Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal, http://nems360.com/