Tech team plugs into the future at ‘EcoCAR 2′ competition
BLACKSBURG — Members of the Virginia Tech Hybrid Electric Vehicle Team spent Thursday afternoon in front of the Squires Student Center showing off their latest project, a 2013 Chevrolet Malibu.
Tech’s team is part of a competition called “EcoCAR 2: Plugging In to the Future” which is a North American competition sponsored by General Motors and the U.S. Department of Energy.
The three-year collegiate engineering competition, currently in its second year, features 15 collegiate teams from North America. The only other ACC school participating is N.C. State.
Plugging In to the Future helps educate future automotive engineers through a hands-on, real-world experience. Their ultimate goal is to reduce the environmental impact of a 2013 Chevrolet Malibu, donated by General Motors, without compromising performance, safety and consumer acceptability.
Tech’s Hybrid Electric Vehicle Team Communication Manager Virginia Hyer, a senior, said the team is trying to promote sustainable energy by making a car that’s more environmentally friendly.
“This is important because it’s the future of our environment,” Hyer said. “We hope to do one small thing and hopefully more people will begin to catch on.”
For the competition, teams will select an advanced hybrid powertrain system to integrate into their Malibu. Teams did not receive their vehicle until the second year. During year one, teams used software to build a conceptual design to see what works best with their specific car, Hyer said.
Tech’s team received their Malibu this summer and moved into the second phase of the competition – the build. Hyer said the team also received other donated components along with the car, which were then to be integrated based on the team’s conceptual designs.
The goal for year two is to have a “mule” vehicle that works and runs reliably.
Finally, in the third year, the team will refine the vehicle to make it more appealing to customers. The teams can achieve “customer acceptability” by tuning the suspension to achieve a smoother ride and reducing the overall mass of the vehicle among other techniques.
Ultimately, the teams will try to reduce the Malibu’s fuel consumption, well-to-wheel greenhouse gas emissions, criteria tailpipe emissions and maintain consumer acceptability, according to www.ecocar2.org.
But for the Hybrid Electric Vehicle Team members, the competition offers much more than a project.
Hyer said the project allows the team to participate in “interdisciplinary” education. The team consists of students from communications, business and electrical, mechanical and computer science engineering.
“As a communications major, I’m working with these engineers learning the technical sides of things and being able to communicate it to the public,” Hyer said. “It’s what you’re going to see in the real world, so why not learn it now?”
On Thursday, the team worked together in another way. This time, their mission was to promote their work on campus to their classmates on National Alternative Fuel Vehicle Day Odyssey.
Tech’s Odyssey event coincided with more than 160 events happening across the United States.
Odyssey is supported in part by a funding from the U.S. Department of Energy and a grant for the Advanced Electric Drive Vehicle Education Program.
Senior Mechanical Engineering student Tyler Wallis said the event allowed the team to share their project with anyone interested on campus.
“This really is the future here,” Wallis said. “A lot of people see the car and the stickers, but they don’t really know what we do. I’m glad to get this out here and make people aware of the future.”
The team also raffled off a bike to promote other methods of transportation that can help reduce greenhouse gas emission.
“You don’t have to use an electric vehicle to be more sustainable, you can take the bus or you can ride your bike,” Hyer said. “Trying to promote that here on campus is really important to us.”
Teammate Justin Hylton, also a senior Mechanical Engineering student, sees the opportunity to participate in the competition as a great way to prepare for his own future.
“Part of what they say in the competition is that they’re not doing this for production, but it’s to train the next generation of engineers,” Hylton said. “Besides, we get to take a perfectly good car apart.”
The Roanoke Times | 381-8627
No Comments »
No comments yet.