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The Ethanol Vehicle Challenge was developed to demonstrate the potential of ethanol to significantly lower emissions, improve performance, increase fuel efficiency, and improve cold starting of vehicles. During the three years of this Advanced Vehicle Technology Competition, the platform changed from a 5-passenger Chevrolet Malibu to a full-size Chevrolet Silverado to reflect consumer demands for larger vehicles and more power.

Ethanol Vehicle Challenge

During the 1997-1998 year-end competition, the student-modified Malibus were tested for five days at General Motors’ Proving Grounds in Milford, Michigan. Vehicles were tested and scored on exhaust emissions, fuel economy, acceleration, driveability, handling, range, and cold-start performance. They then embarked on a two day, 600-mile caravan that ended at the U.S. Department of Energy headquarters in Washington, D.C.

Students switched gears in 1998 and1999 when they received Chevrolet Silverados as the competition vehicle platform. Dynamic events were added to be more aligned with the Silverado platform, including off-road and handling, hill climb, and trailer tow. While teams tested their vehicles again at General Motors’ Proving Grounds in Milford, they embarked on a different route for the finale road rally. The road rally, which ultimately ended in Springfield, Illinois, went primarily through the Midwest: including Lansing, Michigan; Ft. Wayne, Indiana; Indianapolis, Indiana; and Pekin, Illinois.

For the third and final year of Ethanol Vehicle Challenge, marked the first time in AVTC history where the end of the year competition was held entirely in Canada. Also notably, two new teams joined the previous 14 universities for the final year. The end of the year competition began in Ottawa, Ontario with Safety/Tech inspections at Natural Resources Canada and emissions testing at Environment Canada. Teams then enjoyed a historical event with a vehicle display and Opening Ceremony on Parliament Hill. Teams then moved to General Motors’ Canada headquarters in Oshawa, Ontario where teams competed in both vehicle dynamic events as well as static presentations. Then teams embarked on a journey across Canada, stopping for an offroad event at Gopher Dunes in Tillonsburg, Canada. The journey concluded with an Awards Ceremony and finale in Windsor, Canada and concluded in Windsor.


Inovations & Hightlights

The Ethanol Vehicle Challenge provided up to 16 universities in North America the opportunity to convert both Chevrolet Malibus and full-size pickup trucks to run on E85 (85% corn-based ethanol + 15% gasoline). The results from the three-year competition showed that ethanol could perform as well, or even better, than gasoline vehicles. Over the years, students had the opportunity to recalibrate the stock powertrain control module and integrated other components to improve emissions control, air induction, and catalytic conversion.

Over the course of five years, engines were modified to run on bio-based fuels like ethanol and biodiesel, as well as homogeneous-charge compression ignition engines and hydrogen fuel cells. Teams combined these advanced power units with emerging exhaust gas after-treatment technologies to reduce emission and greenhouse gas production. Other systems, such as selective catalytic reduction, to control oxides of nitrogen emissions, were used with high efficiency diesel engines. Advanced electric drive systems enabled hybrid features such as regenerative braking, high load assist, and transient smoothing to improve vehicle-level efficiency.

  • University of Texas at Austin and University of California, Riverside developed onboard distillation of cold-start fuel in 1998. The University of Texas at Austin cold start system led to a joint patent with Ford Motor Company.
  • Idaho State University developed a glow-plug-ignited alcohol engine for their Chevrolet Malibu.
  • In 1998, 10 of the 13 converted Malibu’s outperformed the stock vehicle in city/highway fuel economy.
  • During the hill climb event, Minnesota State University,Mankato beat the stock Chevrolet Silverado by almost 10 seconds – competing the event in 36.2 seconds.
  • The University of Waterloo used a liquid-heated fuel injector rail in their Chevrolet Malibu.
  • Cedarville College used an electric supercharger and intake-port glow plugs in their vehicle in 1998.
  • Three teams, University of Illinois at Chicago, University of Texas at El Paso, and Wayne State University, met CARB Low Emission Vehicle (LEV) standards in 2000.
  • During the 1999 competition, 11 of 13 vehicles outperformed the stock Silverado on a miles per gallon gasoline equivalent.
  • Cedarville College achieved a 0-60 MPH acceleration time of 15.29 seconds, beating the stock vehicle by 1.5 seconds.
  • Ethanol Vehicle Challenge marked the first time in AVTCs that teams were allowed to reconfigure and alter the vehicle’s powertrain control modules.

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 tactics. These static and dynamic events are judged by industry sponsors and professionals, both throughout the year and in-person at the year-end competition.

Ethanol Vehicle Challenge Media Coverage

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