Sponsor Spotlight: CSU Team Utilizes MathWorks Software for EcoCAR Vehicle Developments

MathWorks’ sponsorship of the EcoCAR 3 competition has provided the CSU Vehicle Innovation Team with essential software packages and in-depth training for design programs, MATLAB and Simulink. To kick off each competition year, MathWorks hosted the 16 EcoCAR 3 teams for a week of training at their headquarters in Natick, MA.  CSU’s MathWorks mentor, Scott Furry, also visited the team multiple times each year to provide one-on-one guidance to the students, allowing them to use the software to its full potential.

MATLAB and Simulink has been a crucial part of all stages of the vehicle design process, beginning in Year One with modeling of various powertrain configurations during the architecture selection process. The Year Two and Year Three controls teams created the initial vehicle model and established basic component functionality leading to the development of basic vehicle control strategies.

In Year Four the CSU EcoCAR 3 team placed even more emphasis on utilizing MathWorks tools, with two dedicated sub-teams: the Systems Modeling and Simulation Team (SMS) and In-Vehicle Testing Team (IVT), optimizing the vehicle’s controls strategy to improve performance and reduce energy consumption. The SMS team focused on refining existing controls logic and improving the accuracy of the vehicle’s Simulink model, which allowed them to alter various operating conditions and quickly test controls changes. The SMS team is also worked on developing an electric only mode and determining the ideal torque split strategy between the Camaro’s combustion engine and electric motor, leading to higher fuel economy, a challenge that would be nearly impossible without MathWorks tools.

The In-Vehicle Testing Team worked alongside the SMS team in testing controls changes once they are implemented on the vehicle and collecting data to further improve the Simulink model and overall vehicle performance. They created automated data collection and post-processing MATLAB scripts that quickly construct plots of any relevant vehicle information to verify simulation results and validate vehicle technical specifications. They also installed data collection equipment in the vehicle to create an energy tracking tool in Matlab, capable of determining where every joule of electrical energy is being consumed. This allowed the the SMS team to better characterize low voltage energy consumption in the Simulink model, and use that information to make controls changes that optimize energy consumption, increasing fuel economy and electric-only range while reducing tailpipe emissions.

The industry standard Model-Based design tools MATLAB and Simulink have extend far beyond the automotive industry, including in aerospace, energy production, energy distribution, communications, manufacturing, and national defense. Thus, engineers with experience using these tools are highly sought after in a number of fields.
Colorado State VIT graduates have received valuable experience from the support of MathWorks and staff that they would not have received in the traditional undergraduate curriculum. MathWorks’ sponsorship of EcoCAR 3 will undoubtedly have an impact on the future of the automotive industry, but the support and training is more importantly developing the next generation of engineers ready to enter the workforce and tackle tomorrow’s challenges in a number of other industries.