Bright Futures for Car Design: EcoCar 3 Challenge

Today’s Technology Center, Booth W-20, showcases how the latest advancements in manufacturing technology are being implemented by businesses, featuring technology from the aerospace, automotive, medical and energy sectors.

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Today’s Technology Center, Booth W-20, showcases how the latest advancements in manufacturing technology are being implemented by businesses, featuring technology from the aerospace, automotive, medical and energy sectors. One highlight is the winner of stage two of the EcoCar 3 Challenge: a 2016 Chevrolet Camaro that students from Ohio State University redesigned into a plug-in hybrid vehicle with lightweight materials and advanced computer controls.

EcoCar 3 is a four-year collegiate student competition hosted by the U.S. Department of Energy and General Motors Co. in which 16 university teams are challenged with transforming a Camaro into a hybrid electric vehicle that will reduce environmental impact while maintaining powerful performance. This is the third consecutive year that the team from Ohio State placed first in the competition, having won the final year of EcoCar 2 and the first and second stages of EcoCar 3, which culminates in 2018. In the first year, the emphasis was on design and simulation. This year, prototypes were tested for safety and performance under various conditions.

The Ohio State car delivers 300 horsepower and can reach a top speed of 85 mph and, boasting a lithium-iron-phosphate battery that allows it to travel as far as 45 miles on electric power alone. The car received top marks in all aspects of the car design challenge, placing in the top five in 30 out of 36 categories. It was deemed not only fast and efficient, but also exceptionally safe. In fact, it was the only one in the competition to pass all safety checks, boosted by the lithium-iron-phosphate battery rather than a lithium-ion battery—the kind often seen in hover boards—which can overheat and catch fire.

One of the hallmarks of the winning team’s design plan was automating a manual transmission in-house so it could take advantage of its lighter weight while still realizing the benefits of an automatic transmission. The use of lighter materials also means the car needs less energy to perform and is therefore more efficient. Use of ethanol fuel also reduces environmental impact because of its abundancy and the fact that it burns cleaner than gasoline.  

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