The culmination of three years of dedication, research excellence and the work of nearly 90 students across multiple disciplines has propelled the West Virginia University EcoCAR team to a successful finish in year three of the EcoCAR Mobility Challenge.

Sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy, General Motors and Mathworks, EcoCAR is a collegiate automotive engineering competition. EcoCAR Mobility Challenge tasks 11 universities across North America to redesign the 2019 Chevrolet Blazer into an energy-efficient hybrid. The WVU team placed third in year three of the competition, bringing home more than $16,000 in awards.

The EcoCAR team is a collaborative cross disciplinary project from the Statler College of Engineering and Mineral Resources and Reed College of Media. The team competes annually along with teams from other universities to show how they implement their designs, energy-efficient technologies, carsharing capabilities and communication strategies.

“We’ve had great success in the last few years, but it’s different every year – it’s a different set of students and everyone has to relearn all of the skills that they need to do well, and we’ve had an amazing set of graduate students and undergraduate students this year that did exactly that,” Andrew Nix, associate professor in the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering and lead faculty advisor for EcoCAR, said. “I’m very proud of this team – developing such a well-integrated vehicle is simply amazing.”

The EcoCAR team also brought home awards for Best Energy Consumption Testing, Best Communications Presentation, Best Communications Program and the EcoCAR Collaboration Award with WVU and Georgia Institute of Technology. The team placed behind Ohio State University and the University of Alabama.

“I am proud to say one of the awards was for team collaboration,” Nix said. “Our students have helped other teams in getting both the conventional and electric powertrains running, which exemplifies the spirit of this competition.”

“Their integration was clean and professional, resembling what you would see out of an original equipment manufacturer prototype vehicle,” Academic Student Programs Manager at Mathworks Lauren Tabolinsky said during the awards ceremony. “We applaud them for their passion, collaboration, their desire to share their success with others, as well as their fantastic blue mountain paint job on their Blazer.”

Alongside Nix, faculty co-leads consist of Professor Brian Woerner from the Lane Department of Computer Science and Electrical Engineering and Reed College of Media Professor Catherine Mezera.

“The students did an amazing job with overcoming all of the limitations that were placed on us with COVID, and they put together a vehicle that not only works but works well,” Woerner said. “If you look at what that vehicle does out on the test track, it is just amazing to see that gold and blue vehicle coming down.”

The goals for the final year in the EcoCAR Mobility Challenge will be to refine vehicle controls strategies to minimize energy consumption and to refine connected and automated vehicle systems to achieve a greater level of autonomy to allow the vehicle to control both steering as well as acceleration and deceleration. This will allow the vehicle to achieve adaptive cruise control and lane keep assistance. The team will also focus on refinements to the vehicle integration and consumer appeal.

From Paige Nesbit for WVU Today