A team of students from Virginia Tech University won EcoCAR: The NeXt Challenge after designing and building an extended-range electric vehicle (EREV) using E85 (ethanol). Virginia Tech competed against 15 other universities to take home the top prize of the three-year competition.
The EcoCAR competition, sponsored by the Department of Energy and General Motors, challenges engineering students from across North America to re-engineer a GM-donated vehicle to minimize the vehicle's fuel consumption and emissions, while maintaining its utility, safety, and performance. Students design and build advanced propulsion solutions that are based on vehicle categories from the California Air Resources Board (CARB) zero emissions vehicle (ZEV) regulations. They explore a variety of cutting-edge clean vehicle solutions, including full-function electric, range-extended electric, hybrid, plug-in hybrid, and fuel cell technologies. Students also incorporate lightweight materials into the vehicles, improve aerodynamics, and utilize alternative fuels such as ethanol, biodiesel, and hydrogen.
Throughout the competition, the Virginia Tech team hit incremental goals that helped the vehicle achieve the equivalent of nearly 82 miles per gallon - a 70 percent improvement in fuel efficiency over the stock vehicle.
Taking second place, also with an E85 EREV, was The Ohio State University. The team was well-balanced in all aspects of consumer acceptability, fuel economy, and acceleration categories. The University of Waterloo took third place with a hydrogen fuel cell plug-in hybrid electric vehicle. The team was the first in the history of advanced vehicle technology competitions to run a fuel cell vehicle in all the dynamic events during finals.