The SUV re-engineered by a group of Missouri S&T students may not have won the top honor at the EcoCAR: The NeXt Challenge Competition Finals, but it did live up to its name. The S&T entry was judged as one of the event’s most eco-friendly vehicles.
The Missouri S&T EcoCAR Team finished fifth out of 16 teams in EcoCAR: The NeXt Challenge, a three-year vehicle engineering competition that required student teams to make stock General Motors autos more environmentally friendly. In addition to their top-five showing, the S&T students were named most improved team in the competition and recognized for their efforts to minimize the environmental impact of their entry. They took top honors for lowest tailpipe emissions and lowest petroleum energy usage, and finished second for lowest well-to-wheel greenhouse emissions.
The EcoCAR competition was sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy and General Motors Co. The 16 teams from U.S. and Canadian schools spent the past three years re-engineering a car to use less fuel and reduce emissions, while retaining its performance, safety and consumer appeal. The finals were held in June in Milford, Mich., and Washington, D.C.
Missouri S&T’s EcoCAR, a re-engineered 2009 Chevrolet SUV, is powered by hydrogen fuel cell and lithium ion batteries. “Our car and one other team’s were the only hydrogen cars” in the competition, says Michelle Y. Taylor, Bus’09, an MBA student and member of the EcoCAR Outreach Team.
A team from Virginia Tech won the competition by designing an extended-range electric vehicle using E85 (ethanol). For Missouri S&T students, however, the big win came from the opportunity EcoCAR provided to showcase hydrogen power as an alternative energy source.
“A large part of our role is spreading the word about hydrogen power,” Taylor says. “We spend a lot of time educating youth and the general public.”
Missouri S&T has had significant success with several of its hydrogen-powered projects. A team of S&T students recently finished fourth in the 2011 Hydrogen Student Design Contest with its design of a residential hydrogen fueling system. Missouri S&T teams won the competition in 2010 and 2008.