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EcoCAR revs up for another win

Daniel Zaas / Lantern Photographer

The Ohio State EcoCAR team accepted a $25,000 check from General Motors Thursday afternoon to begin work on their newest eco-friendly vehicle for the EcoCAR 2 Challenge.

The check was presented to the team on behalf of GM by Kevin Storch, a GM engineer, but it won’t be the only support the team will receive for their latest endeavor.

The OSU EcoCAR team and 14 other collegiate teams will receive engineering and design software, tools and car batteries, among other things from various sponsors of the event, Tyler Joswick, co-outreach coordinator for OSU’s EcoCAR team and former Lantern photo editor, said in an email.

OSU’s EcoCAR team announced in June that it won second place overall in a three-year competition, EcoCAR: The Next Challenge, for designing a more eco-friendly vehicle.

The EcoCAR 2: Plugging Into the Future challenge is this year’s competition. It is part of Advanced Vehicle Technology Competitions, established by the Department of Energy and General Motors 23 years ago, according to the EcoCAR 2 website.

This year’s competition lasts for three-years and includes 15 colleges in the U.S. and Canada. The challenge is to redesign a vehicle so it has better fuel economy and less harmful emissions, while maintaining the vehicle’s original safety standards, according to Katherine Bovee, a second-year graduate student in mechanical engineering and OSU’s EcoCAR engineering team leader.

Some of the team members, like Bovee, are returning from the last challenge. But after three years, some faces have changed.

“We’ve been training a lot of the undergrad team members to take on a lot of leadership roles of someone who has previously graduated. They learned a lot from last competition and are hoping to really get into it this time and refine those skills that they learned from last time,” Bovee said.

The teams will model their design after the vehicle development process used by GM engineers.

One of the main differences between this competition and previous year’s, is that the teams will be given a smaller vehicle to work with, a four-door sedan instead of a sport utility vehicle.

For the next three years, OSU’s EcoCAR team will be working on a 2013 Chevrolet Malibu.

“Historically these competitions have been on SUVs and stuff like that. Stuff with a lot of cargo space, places where you can put things. But the Chevy Malibu, its trunk is massive, so I think we have enough room,” Bovee said.

Amanda Hyde, a first-year graduate student in mechanical engineering, agreed.

“It’s like Tetris … there’s all these extra components that we’re having to shove into a normal car,” Hyde said.

Hyde attended Oklahoma State University for her undergraduate degree in mechanical engineering, but decided to come to Ohio State for graduate school upon seeing the success of programs like EcoCAR.

The OSU team placed second overall in the previous EcoCAR challenge for its work on a Chevrolet crossover utility vehicle.

Like the previous competition, the EcoCAR 2 challenge will be divided into three phases, one per year. During the first year, the OSU team will propose a design plan for its vehicle. In the second year, the team will receive its vehicle and start physically implementing the design. By the third year, the team will work on preparing the vehicle for a showroom, according to a press release from OSU’s College of Engineering.

Also like the previous competition, the OSU team will have a mentor from GM to oversee the project.

Storch, who was involved in last year’s competition, will be the team’s mentor for the EcoCAR 2 challenge.

Storch said GM had hired around 30 students from the last competition as full-time employees.

Bovee said the students do the majority of the work.

“The students do all the designs, not on our own, we get a lot of help from our adviser and from Kevin (Storch), our GM mentor, but the ideas originate with us,” Bovee said.

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