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EcoCAR Challenge Renewed
November 2, 2009

When a college student receives a new car, their first typical thought isn’t how they’ll dismantle the vehicle’s engine and re-engineer it for maximum fuel efficiency and lowest possible emissions. But that’s exactly what members of the Hybrid Electric Vehicle Team (HEVT) of Virginia Tech plan to do with a 2009 crossover SUV, donated by General Motors.

The Virginia Tech College of Engineering student team has taken delivery of the car as part of the EcoCAR Challenge, a three-year design competition sponsored chiefly by the U.S. Department of Energy and General Motors. EcoCAR seeks to inspire science and engineering students to build more energy efficient “green” automobiles, according to event organizers.

During the 2008-09 academic year, HEVT was tasked with creating a virtual model of a crossover SUV to improve fuel efficiency and reduce emissions while retaining performance and consumer appeal. The team placed sixth out of 17 competitors during the first year design and computer modeling phase.

The second phase of Eco-CAR Challenge, now underway, gives student teams the physical challenge of turning their cutting-edge design into reality. The HEVT designed Extended-Range Electric Vehicle (E-REV) is powered by an electric motor and a 4-cylinder 2.4L GM EcoTec engine, and is fueled by grid electricity and E85 (85 percent ethanol and 15 percent gasoline) fuel. The completion will lead to the cars being road-tested in May 2010.

Doug Nelson, Virginia Tech professor of mechanical engineering, is the founding adviser of HEVT. He recently won a $10,000 cash prize for research purposes from the National Science Foundation as part of the EcoCAR Challenge competition.

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