The second year of of the EcoCAR Challenge is almost done, and we’re checking in with teams to find out how they are progressing. First up is Ohio State, whose team came in first during last year’s competition.
Last year, the sixteen participating teams designed a powertrain for a fuel efficient car. This year, the teams installed their powertrains in Saturn Vues donated by GM. In the case of the Ohio State team, that meant they had a year to turn their Vue into a range-extended electric vehicle with a 1.8 liter E85 gas engine.
“The most challenging part of geting the car ready for the competition is the short timeframe,” said John Kruckenberg, the team member in charge of hardware simulation and controls. “It’s difficult enough to acquire all the components in time to mount them in the vehicle before competition. It’s tougher still to find time for testing and calibration to make our vehicles as good as they can be.”
While the competition’s end result is a showroom-ready automobile, that doesn’t mean it will rival a prototype from a major manufacturer, said team leader Eric Schacht. “The goal here is to educate dozens of engineers on the problems and design challenges faced by the industry today. If the industry adopts a design feature that is a compliment, or means we were on the right track.”
OSU’s car relies on a custom-designed twin clutch architecture, with a Honda CNG engine retuned for E85, an 85kW traction motor up front and an EV1 transaxle in the back. Five modules of lithium-ion batteries from A123 offer 360 volts.
According to team members, the hardest part was getting all those components working together. “The effectiveness of our powertrain design depends heavily on the durability of our construction,” Kruckenberg said, “but probably the most important part of the powertrain design is the electronic control and control of failure modes that make the vehicle reliable and productive.”
If all goes well, Schacht and Kruckenberg hope to add another first place showing to their resumes. “Most team members are doing this to get a leg up on their peers and be the best engineers in the industry,” Schacht said. “Most like automotive technology, therefore, they hope to work for our sponsors such as GM in the future.”
Photo: OSU EcoCAR Team