Penn State Advanced Vehicle Team wins first place at EcoCAR 2 competition

SAN DIEGO – The Penn State Advanced Vehicle Team took top honors among 15 North American universities in Year Two of the competition known as EcoCAR 2: Plugging In to the Future, which took place during the week of May 20 in Yuma, Ariz., and San Diego.

Final results were announced late Thursday night in San Diego, following six days of rigorous vehicle testing at the General Motors Desert Proving Ground in Yuma, and a second round of judging by automotive industry experts in San Diego. The Penn State team also returns home with several individual event trophies as recognition for outstanding performance.

“I’m proud of the job our team did with our vehicle over this past year,” said team co-leader Chris Golecki. “And I’d be just as proud of the work we did if we were 15th place.”

EcoCAR 2 is a three-year collegiate competition managed by Argonne National Laboratory and sponsored by General Motors and the U.S. Department of Energy. Student engineers must redesign and re-engineer a GM-donated 2013 Chevrolet Malibu into a unique hybrid that increases gas mileage, decreases emissions and maintains consumer acceptability.

The Penn State team impressed inspectors and other judges representing various EcoCAR 2 sponsors with its ethanol (E85) plug-in hybrid electric vehicle. The team was the first to pass safety and technical inspections, on-road safety evaluation and several of the competition dynamic events.

Penn State also posted top honors in several individual events, including fastest autocross time, best communications plan, best media report, best acceleration (zero to 60, and 50 to 70 mph), best braking (from 60 to zero mph), best dynamic consumer acceptability, and best AVL drive quality, a measure of how nice the car feels based on microphones and other sensors.

Penn State was runner-up for the engineering fabrication and workmanship award, and third place in the Clean Cities Collaboration Award for its work with Executive Director of Pittsburgh Region Clean Cities Rick Price.

The team also tied for third place for the dSPACE Embedded Success award, which recognizes the most effective use of dSPACE hardware-in-the-loop equipment for controls/diagnostics development, validation and vehicle integration.

The Penn State team logged more than 60 person-hours daily during the last two weeks leading up to the competition. The team’s vehicle work takes place at the Thomas D. Larson Pennsylvania Transportation Institute’s Hybrid and Hydrogen Vehicle Research Laboratory, on the University Park campus.

The Penn State team also brings home nearly $18,000 in prize money, which will go toward next year’s competition.

During Year One of the competition, the Penn State team designed three vehicle architectures concepts and then chose the best to implement in the Malibu. In Year Two, Penn State team members received the vehicle, removed stock parts and implemented the advanced propulsion technology components into the vehicle.

For the Year Two competition, vehicles were expected to meet or exceed a 65 percent standard for consumer acceptability, said Golecki, and pursue a 99 percent level for the third and final year of EcoCAR 2.

Golecki will return as a team co-leader in August, when the 15 university teams will take up the task of perfecting their designs for Year Three of EcoCAR 2, and the competition finals that will take place in Washington, D.C., in May 2014.

In the meantime, Golecki will keep busy with a summer internship at Boeing beginning next week.

The 2013 team’s other co-leader, Luke Shepley, has graduated and accepted an employment offer from GM.

The second place team in this year’s competition, Cal State Los Angeles, excelled with an ethanol-fueled vehicle. Ohio State took third place overall with a series-parallel hybrid electric vehicle.

Penn State’s Advanced Vehicle Team has been competing in advanced vehicle technology competitions since 1988.

The following team members traveled to this year’s competition:

Tony Burt (class of 2013, mechanical engineering) of Hagerstown, Md.; Casey Dietrich (class of 2013, mechanical engineering) of Fleetwood, Pa.; Sam Foran (class of 2013, electrical engineering) of Minersville, Pa.; Mike Frey (class of 2013, mechanical engineering) of Macungie, Pa.; Chris Golecki, mechanical engineering graduate student of Scranton, Pa.; Jacob Hauptman, business student of Los Angeles; Taylor Kidd (class of 2013, communications / business) of Mechanicsburg, Pa.; Alex Kirsch (class of 2013, mechanical engineering) of Ebensburg, Pa.; Gary Neal, faculty adviser; Cheyenne Sexton, public relations student of Elizabethtown, Pa.; Luke Shepley (class of 2013, electrical engineering) of Shillington Pa.; Eric Skibba (class of 2013, mechanical engineering) of Mill Hall, Pa.; and Ryan Smith, engineering student of Newport News, Va.

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Last Updated September 10, 2013