A team of Ohio State’s environmentally conscious students look to take home a third consecutive win in the United States Department of Energy’s EcoCAR3 competition beginning Saturday going through May 25.

The competition challenges 16 teams from universities across the country, said Brianna Antinoro, a third-year in strategic communications, and co-communications manager of the OSU EcoCAR team. Teams have four years to create an energy-efficient, high-performance vehicle, according to the EcoCAR3 website.

Antinoro said the first half of the competition is held in Milford, Michigan, and the second half is held in the District of Columbia. During this time, each team will present their vehicles and each car is judged in a number of tests based on environmental impact and performance.

“(2018) is the final year of the competition. It is really all about showing off the car and increasing our outreach to the community, college students and youth … There will be a high level of focus on the car itself and what it can do, how we enhance it,” Antinoro said.  

Students stand with their designed vehicle which will be entered in the 2018 EcoCar competition. Credit: Courtesy OSU Center for Automotive Research

The EcoCAR3 competition began in 2015, and OSU’s team took first place that year and in 2016. Each team will present its final-product vehicle in 2018. The winning team this year will get money that can be used to fund the next round of the competition.

OSU’s team hopes to come back to Columbus with another win.

Our team has been meticulously refining and testing the vehicle throughout the current build year. We plan to arrive at the competition confident that we have developed a safe, reliable and innovative vehicle,” said Andrew Huster, a graduate student in electrical and computer science engineering who is also the team’s leader.

In addition to OSU, California State University at Los Angeles, Colorado State University, Georgia Tech, McMaster University, Penn State, University of Tennessee, University of Washington, Virginia Tech and Wayne State University send teams to the competition.

Each year the team sets goals they hope to meet during the next build year. “The team’s goals for this year were to complete the powertrain integration of the car, and thoroughly test and refine the vehicle’s operation,” Huster said.

OSU’s team works in the Center for Automotive Research, which is located on West Campus. The team is made up of around 40 to 50 students of all ages and majors. According to the Ohio State EcoCAR website, the most common major represented is mechanical engineering,  but there are also students majoring in computer science engineering, finance, industrial design, logistics management, welding engineering, and data analytics.

In addition to the variety of majors represented, the age range varies as well. This year, there are eight first-years, 12 second-years, 14 third-years, seven fourth-years, seven Master’s students, and one PhD student. Currently, there are 36 males and 13 females, said Antinoro.

Antinoro said that more students should care about — and get involved in — the EcoCAR project.

“Our team is incredibly successful and will hopefully be bringing home another win with the competition this May,” she said. “The project is innovative and allows students to work with new and improved technologies in order to create an interesting and productive solution,”

Students on the OSU EcoCar team work with their vehicle in hopes of winning the final competition in 2018. Credit: Courtesy of OSU EcoCar.

Antinoro said the EcoCAR team accepts new members in August. Students who are interested do not need to have prior experience and can attend an informational session to select which department they would like to work with.

According to the website, creating environmentally friendly cars is one of the top priorities of EcoCAR. The center is focused on alternative fuels for reduced fuel consumption and emissions, a growing trend in the automotive business.

Antinoro said that the EcoCAR competition is a great way for undergrads to get hands-on experience because students are exposed to different aspects of the vehicle-building process. She said working on the project also increases awareness of the environmental impact cars have and gives students the chance to think about how they can contribute to creating eco-friendly vehicles.