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 EcoCAR 2: Plugging In to the Future was a three-year collegiate advanced vehicle technology engineering competition established by the United States Department of Energy and General Motors (GM), and was managed by Argonne National Laboratory.

The competition challenged 15 universities from across North America to reduce the environmental impact of the 2013 Chevrolet Malibu by improving its fuel efficiency and minimizing the vehicle’s emissions while retaining its performance and consumer appeal.

The competition was modeled after the GM’s real-world vehicle development process (VDP) and was broken down into three academic years, each focusing on a different stage in the VDP:

  • Year One: The teams selected vehicle architectures by using modeling and simulation. They used hardware-in-the loop (HIL) simulators to develop and test their control strategies.
  • Year Two: The teams turned virtual designs into functioning prototype vehicles.
  • Year Three: The teams refined their vehicles to near-showroom quality.

 

All student-designed EcoCAR 2 vehicles were plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs), which deplete an on-board battery to displace vehicle fuel. The powertrain components were configured to drive the vehicle in five unique combinations:

 

  • Split-parallel,
  • Series-parallel,
  • Parallel through the road (PTTR),
  • Series, and
  • Hydrogen fuel cell series.

 

In Year One (2011-2012) of the competition, teams designed and modified a vehicle architecture and developed their control strategy through the use of controller HIL tools. The teams also designed major subsystems, including hybrid powertrain, energy storage, thermal management and high-power electrical systems. Year One formed the foundation for the vehicle development and refinement tasks in Years Two and Three of the competition. The year-end competition was held in Los Angeles, California where teams competed in various static presentation events as well showcased a trade show display.

The teams received their GM-donated Chevrolet Malibu’s at the beginning of Year Two (2012-2013) and began integrating their powertrain components and other subsystems to develop a running ‘mule vehicle.’ During this second year of the competition, the teams competed in engineering tests similar to the tests GM conducts to determine a prototype’s readiness for production at General Motors Desert Proving Grounds in Yuma, Arizona. These dynamic vehicle testing events included a 300-point safety and technical inspection, acceleration and braking, AVL DRIVE Quality, emissions and energy consumption, and more. Teams then traveled to San Diego, California for the final stage of the Year Two competition.

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In the third and final year (2013-2014), EcoCAR2 challenged teams to refine their vehicles into near-production prototype vehicles that which would demonstrate improved fuel economy and lower greenhouse gas emissions, while also focusing on performance and consumer appeal. The Year Three Competition was held at General Motors Milford Proving Grounds in Milford, Michigan and Washington, D.C. in June 2014.