Close this search box.


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.


EcoCAR 2


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.

Inovations & Hightlights

Over the course of three years, EcoCAR 2 teams reduced the environmental impact of a Chevrolet Malibu by minimizing the vehicle’s fuel consumption and reducing its emissions while retaining the vehicle’s performance, safety and consumer appeal.

Teams had to meet the competition’s technical goals which were to design and integrate vehicle powertrains that, when compared to the production gasoline vehicle (1) reduce petroleum energy consumption on the basis of a total-fuel-cycle well-to-wheel (WTW) analysis, (2) increase vehicle energy efficiency, (3) reduce WTW greenhouse gas (GHG) and criteria emissions; and (4) maintain consumer acceptability in the areas of performance, utility and safety.

  • In the fall of Year One, teams used numerical modeling software to evaluate different powertrains, including CAD for component packaging and Autonomie or other powertrain systems modeling software for energy use modeling
  • Colorado State University demonstrated 0-60 MPH acceleration time of 11.2 seconds in Year Two Competition – the best time of the year
  • EcoCAR 2 implemented a more real-world, 4-cycle drive cycle for the emissions and energy consumption event to reflect current test methods at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
  • Teams refined aerodynamics ESS cooling design through CFD analysis
  • Virginia Tech, Mississippi State, and other EcoCAR 2 teams implemented electronic touch-screen center stack systems with intuitive user interface capabilities into their vehicles
  • The competition added upstream criteria (CO, NOx, THC) emission testing into the scored deliverables to account for the well-to-pump impact of vehicle fuels on urban air quality
  • The competition measured and scored electric energy consumption for vehicles in addition to fuel consumption – a first for AVTCs
  • In Year Two, 11 out of 15 teams attempted the 100+ mile emissions and energy consumption event
  • Ohio State University developed a vehicle powertrain model that could simulate wheel slip and traction control simulation
  • Teams were able to seamlessly transition the development cycle of model in the loop to hardware and software-in-the-loop to vehicle testing
  • The University of Washington developed a tactile shape changing touch screen using overlay technology
  • Teams like the University of Waterloo and Colorado State University utilized 3D printing for vehicle development
  • Mississippi State University and Colorado State University developed carbon fiber energy storage system enclosures
  • Teams like Ohio State University and Virginia Tech worked with suppliers to design custom electric motors
  • Colorado State University designed and built their own fuel cell stacks for their hydrogen vehicle

Universities Involved

Winners & Awards

Each year, university teams compete in a variety of static and dynamic events that range from oral presentations to on-road vehicle testing to communications and business execution. These static and dynamic events are judged by industry sponsors and professionals, both throughout the year and in-person at the year-end competition.

EcoCAR 2 Media Coverage

Take a look back at the competition by reading previous press coverage, program materials and documents, publications, videos, and photos in the news and media section!

Open Dropdown

Select a tab above to view content