The Mathworks Kicks Off EcoCAR Competition

By Jason Lomberg, Technical Editor

Jason Pic 150On August 14th, 2008, The Mathworks held the kick-off to “EcoCAR,” a collegiate advanced technology vehicle competition (ATVC). EcoCAR’s subtitle (“The NeXt Challenge”) says it all- this is the spiritual successor to “Challenge X,” a similarly-themed ATVC contest that, last year, ended with Mississippi State University taking home the gold. In speaking with personnel from the DOE, The Mathworks, and GM (all event sponsors), I concluded that the biggest obstacle to ATV’s greater viability is a lack of young, qualified engineers. EcoCAR is important 08Jul14__3RF0776-792pxSmallernot just for its design potential, but for the opportunity to field the next generation of engineers.

Year one of EcoCAR consists of design and theory. Teams will use math-based design tools, such as Matlab and Simulink, to plan their vehicle model. On the 18th, teams received on-site training at Mathworks, emphasizing familiarity with training software and hands-on mentoring. In year two, students will install their selected powertrain components and controllers into their vehicle (donated by GM), resulting in a workable prototype. The focus of year three is refining the efficiency of their respective ATV’s using the tools developed in year one.

080814_3RF1507-792px400I had the opportunity to chat with three student representatives, including Kevin Martin from Missouri University of Science and Technology, Bob Warden from Rose Hulman University, and Robert Cooley from Ohio State University. We spoke on a wide array of topics, and their insight was illuminating. Martin believed that, as an energy solution, drilling in ANWAR is misguided at best. It could take up to 10 years to see the fruits of our labors. Among the three, the general consensus was that pure electric vehicles are not viable because, at present, the infrastructure isn’t in place to recharge at your destination (the average for pure electric and hybrid vehicles is 40 miles per charge).

Stay tuned for regular EcoCAR updates. We, at ECN, wish all the students good luck. The whole industry stands to benefit.