(Left to right) Student Abraham Vargas, outreach coordinator for Cal State L.A.’s EcoCAR 2 team, Professor Chris Reid, team leader, and student Justin Bower, electrical team co-lead.

(Left to right) Student Abraham Vargas, outreach coordinator for Cal State L.A.’s EcoCAR 2 team, Professor Chris Reid, team leader, and student Justin Bower, electrical team co-lead.

LOS ANGELES – After a year of hard work in the three-year competition, Cal State L.A.’s (CSULA) EcoCAR 2 team of engineering students has received their 2013 Chevrolet Malibu, and will start work to convert it into a plug-in hybrid vehicle.

EcoCAR 2: Plugging into the Future, sponsored by General Motors (GM) and the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), challenges 15 teams of engineering students in North America to design and build advanced vehicles that demonstrate cutting-edge automotive technologies.

CSULA’s team is enrolled in the University’s College of Engineering, Computer Science, and Technology (ECST) and the College of Business and Economics (CBE). It is working to reduce the environmental impact of the already fuel-efficient Malibu through an integration platform it developed that is designed to not compromise its performance, safety or consumer acceptability.

“We are excited. We have been waiting a long time for this moment,” said Abraham Vargas, outreach coordinator for Cal State L.A.’s team. “Modifying the car is the central part of the competition, but the first step is testing the vehicle and setting benchmarks so we can compare how our modified vehicle performs against what the stock vehicle can already deliver.”

CSULA will modify its vehicle into a “parallel-through-the-road hybrid,” which uses an electrical drive system to power the rear axle, while the engine drives the front axle. The goal is to enable the car to drive up to 40 miles in all-electric mode.

Since the fall of 2011, the students have been using modeling and simulation to virtually test their vehicle’s architecture. All EcoCAR teams have been utilizing dSPACE Simulators to perform hardware-in-the-loop simulation in developing hybrid control strategies, which include designing major vehicle subsystems, hybrid powertrains, and energy storage and high-voltage electrical systems.

Along with the Malibu, GM also provided vehicle components, seed money, technical mentoring and operational support to the teams. The DOE and its research and development facility, Argonne National Laboratory, provide competition management, team evaluation and logistical support.

 “The competition is a great opportunity to gain real-world experience from manufacturing giants, and it helps position Cal State L.A. students competitively for work in sustainable energy fields, while helping to ensure a more environmentally-conscious future,” said Vargas. “Cal State L.A. is new to the competition this year, so we are also working on building the local and regional infrastructure to compete with schools that have taken part in Advanced-Vehicle Technology Competitions multiple times.”

The first year culminated last month at the Year One Design and Simulation Competition in Hollywood where each team presented designs and simulations of how different components will interact in their hybrid vehicles.

Going beyond the competition, CSULA’s team recently launched a “cooperation” with the Southern California Clean Cities Coalition. The team will work with the coalition to coordinate and promote clean energy and advanced automotive technologies both locally and regionally.

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