SAN DIEGO - Students from Mississippi State University placed first in the 2010 EcoCAR: The Next Challenge finals in San Diego on May 27, after designing and building a biodiesel extended-range electric vehicle (EREV). 

Virginia Tech earned second place with an ethanol-powered EREV design, and Penn State came in third building a biodiesel EREV vehicle. 

Mississippi State beat out 15 other universities to win first place in Year Two Finals of the three-year competition sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy and General Motors. The competition challenges university engineering students from across North America to re-engineer a GM-donated vehicle to minimize the vehicle's fuel consumption and emissions, while maintaining its utility, safety and performance. The winning teams will answer questions about their work and vehicles during an online chat on Friday, June 4, at 3 p.m. EDT. 

During the second year of the EcoCAR competition, the teams utilized cutting-edge automotive engineering processes, such as Hardware in the Loop (HIL) simulation, to move their designs into the physical vehicles. Once the vehicles were built and rolled out of their respective green garages -- or design and construction shops -- they went through a series of safety and technical tests at GM's Desert Proving Grounds in Yuma, Ariz., similar to those conducted on production vehicles. Each of the cars was evaluated based on the ability to decrease fuel consumption and greenhouse gas emissions, and maintain consumer acceptability in the areas of performance, utility and safety. 

The Mississippi State EcoCAR team chose to design an EREV hybrid with a 21.3 kWh A123Systems battery pack, which provides an electric range of 60 miles. It's also equipped with a 1.3 L GM turbodiesel engine and 75 kW UQM generator in a series plug-in configuration. During testing, the vehicle's fuel economy stood out, achieving 118 miles per gallon gas equivalent (combined city/highway cycle). In addition to the overall winner's award, Mississippi State won nine additional awards, including performance events in auto-cross and acceleration. 

"This was our most challenging year and stakes were high to have our vehicle ready for inspections. To finish a year of hard work and long hours in first place is an incredible honor for me and my teammates," said Matt Doude from Mississippi State. "We look forward to the next chapter of the competition -- with so much talent among the schools it will not be an easy road to another victory. But it's this rigorous, hands-on process that gives us the valuable experience we'll need in the workplace."  

"During the last 12 months, these teams faced a difficult challenge -- to build an innovative vehicle and continually refine and improve its operation," said Pat Davis, program manager of DOE's Vehicle Technologies Program.

The Virginia Tech EcoCAR team designed an EREV vehicle with a 40-mile electric range using a 90kW Ballard electric motor, 16 kW belted alternator starter and 21.3 kWh battery pack in a split parallel architecture. The team chose to build the vehicle with a 2.4 L Ethanol engine and use 78 percent less petroleum compared to the baseline vehicle. 

Penn State's EcoCAR vehicle is also an EREV design, which includes a 12.8 kWh battery pack coupled with a GM 110 kW Electric Traction Motor and 75 kW UQM generator. It includes a 4-cylinder 1.3 L biodiesel engine and achieved more than double the fuel economy of the baseline vehicle, or 57 miles per gallon gas equivalent.