Penn State takes seventh in EcoCAR contest

Students from Penn State earned high honors at the 2009 finals of the EcoCAR: The NeXt Challenge competition in Toronto, Canada, for their design of a plug-in extended range electric vehicle (EREV) than runs on B20 biodiesel.

Penn State placed seventh out of the 17 North American universities that competed in the first major milestone of this three year competition.

Sponsored by General Motors and the U.S. Department of Energy, the competition challenges university engineering students across North America to re-engineer a 2009 Saturn VUE, with the goal of improving the vehicle's fuel efficiency and reducing its emissions while retaining performance and consumer appeal.

''My teammates and I are excited to have placed in the competition,'' said Derek Bailey, co-team leader from the AVT team. ''We worked countless hours in the lab and garage to design an EREV vehicle that can reach 20 miles on electric. Although we have worked on advanced vehicle competitions before, this is the first time we've designed an EREV vehicle.''

For this first year of competition, students were tasked with creating innovative concepts for their vehicle design and given the opportunity to use advanced software and computer modeling tools which allowed for testing and refinement under the simulation of real-world conditions. 

The Penn State vehicle design includes a plug-in series architecture with an estimated electric range of 20 miles due to an energy-dense, liquid-cooled lithium-ironphosphate battery pack. The vehicle will use a 1.3 liter General Motors diesel engine to drive a 75 kW electric generator that produces electricity to power the vehicle. Finally, a 120 kW electronic traction system will be used to propel the vehicle.

In addition to placing seventh overall, the team also placed third in overall outreach. Throughout the year, the AVT team hosted outreach events throughout Centre County and the surrounding region. The team hopes to influence the next generation of automobile users by introducing them to new efficient, economical and environmental technologies.

The AVT team also won the Best Social Networking Award and the Donald Streit Sportsmanship Award. The Sportsmanship Award was presented to the team that offered the highest level of assistance and support to other teams and is named for he late Donald Streit, who was a former faculty adviser for Penn State's advanced vehicle team.

Ohio State University took top honors with their design of an EREV 1.8 liter engine fueled by E85 ethanol. The second place vehicle design, engineered by students at the University of Victoria, is also an EREV that runs on E85 ethanol. Mississippi State University was awarded third place for its EREV, which runs on B20 biodiesel.

For more information about the Penn State Advanced Vehicle Team and EcoCAR Challenge, visit

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Last Updated June 30, 2009