Penn State gearing up for final year of EcoCAR 2 competition

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- Penn State's Advanced Vehicle Team is making preparations for the third and final year of the EcoCAR 2: Plugging In to the Future competition. The event will be held June 1-12 in Milford, Michigan, and Washington, D.C.

The three-year collegiate competition challenges teams to redesign and re-engineer a General Motors (GM)-donated 2013 Chevrolet Malibu into a hybrid that increases gas mileage, decreases emissions and maintains consumer appeal.

Throughout year one, students designed their advanced propulsion technologies to incorporate in their vehicle in years two and three. Penn State's team took home six awards at the year one competition.

Last year, Penn State beat 14 other universities to be named the overall winner. It was the only first-place finish for the team since it started competing in vehicle technology contests in 1988.

Benjamin Sattler, a junior in mechanical engineering and engineering science and co-team leader, said winning last year's competition was a huge motivator going into year three. "As we have a high turnover rate of team members each year, the bar was set pretty high. While knowing the success of last year's team added pressure, we really used that to encourage this year's team to accomplish their own achievements that could live up to the success of previous teams."

In addition to a handful of trophies, the team's first-place finish included $18,000 in prize money. Sattler noted that it went right back into this year's entry. "We used the money for everything from public outreach to raw materials and components, which will find their way into the vehicle."

This year, students have been working on refining their vehicles into near-production prototype vehicles. The 15 teams will compete in more than a dozen dynamic and static events.

Sattler, who has worked on the car for two years, said he finds the upcoming final year of the competition most exciting. "In the beginning, we had a stock vehicle and now we have a car that runs off completely new components. It is pretty incredible to see that transformation."

He added that no matter how Penn State's car performs in June, this final phase of EcoCAR 2 is not the end for the Advanced Vehicle Team. "Penn State is lucky enough to be one of the 16 schools chosen to compete in EcoCAR 3, so for the non-graduating team members, we will get a whole new project to work on come June 14."

EcoCAR 2: Plugging In to the Future is managed by the Argonne National Laboratory and sponsored by GM, the U.S. Department of Energy and 30 government and industry leaders.

Last Updated May 28, 2014