Ohio State Wins EcoCAR3 Challenge

The US Department of Energy started EcoCAR3, a four year competition designed to challenge American engineering students, in 2014. The goal is to convert a standard Chevrolet Camaro into a hybrid vehicle that maintains the performance of a stock Camaro while introducing the environmental benefits of a hybrid car.

Ohio State EcoCAR3 challenger

Ohio State engineering students are on a roll. They won the final year of the EcoCAR2 competition in 2014, the first year of the EcoCAR3 competition in 2015, and were winners again in this year’s contest.

In the first year of EcoCAR3, the emphasis was on design and simulation. This year, prototypes were tested for safety and performance under various conditions. Team leader Andrew Huster shared details about his team’s entry with Engineering.com.

The OSU entry uses two powertrains. The car can run on electric power alone for up to 45 miles. Since the average American only drives 30 miles or less each day, that means the Camaro could meet the daily needs of most drivers without using the internal combustion engine. Using both at the same time, the car has a total of more than 300 horsepower and a top speed of 85 mph.

The team chose a Parker Hannifin GVM210-150 electric motor to power the car. It is a variable frequency AC motor that’s capable of providing 150 hp and 250 Nm of peak torque. It weighs only 100 pounds.

The engine is a 2.0 liter 4 cylinder engine with direct fuel injection. The team chose to run the engine on E85 ethanol. It weighs 225 pounds. Even though ethanol has less energy per unit of mass as compared to gasoline, Huster says the team “conducted a number of simulations for each permitted fuel type (E10, E85, and B20) and determined that E85’s benefits, such as a higher octane rating that allows use of engines with greater compression efficiency, and reduced well-to-wheel greenhouse gas emissions, outweighed the reduced energy content of the fuel relative to conventional gasoline.”

The motor and engine are connected to the rear wheels via a Tremec T5 five speed automated manual transmission. It has the performance and fuel economy of a standard transmission with some of the convenience of an automatic. At 75 pounds, the transmission brings the total weight of the powertrain up to 400 pounds.

That takes us to the battery. It is an 18.9 kWh lithium ion phosphate battery pack sourced from A123 Systems. It weighs more than the motor, engine, and transmission at 450 pounds. Its battery chemistry eliminates the risk of fire if the battery gets too hot, a problem that sometimes afflicts conventional lithium ion batteries.

In year three of the EcoCAR3 competition, the teams will refine their entries. Year four will concentrate on marketing strategies. Ohio State is looking forward to winning all four years of the contest.

Photo credit: US DOE

Steve Hanley

Closely following the transition from internal combustion to electricity. Whether it's cars, trucks, ships, or airplanes, sustainability is the key. Please follow me on Google + and Twitter.