In 2008, the United States Department of Energy (DOE) and General Motors Co. (GM) challenged college students to spend the next three years re-engineering a car to use less fuel and reduce emissions, while retaining its performance, safety and consumer appeal.
This summer, students from Missouri University of Science and Technology will test their completed product in the 2011 EcoCAR: The NeXt Challenge Competition Finals, scheduled for June 5-12 in Milford, Mich., and June 12-16 in Washington, D.C.
Teams from 16 universities are wrapping up this three-year-long collegiate advanced vehicle technology engineering competition. GM supplied the vehicles, vehicle components, seed money, technical mentoring and operational support. The DOE and its research and development facility, Argonne National Laboratory, provided competition management, team evaluation, technical and logistical support.
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 are the only hydrogen cars,” says Michelle Y. Taylor, a graduate student from Rolla who is working on her MBA at Missouri S&T. She earned her bachelor’s degree in business and management systems from the university in 2009.
Taylor is a member of the EcoCAR Outreach Team. “A large part of our role is spreading the word about hydrogen power,” she says. “We spend a lot of time educating youth and the general public.”
Taylor will present to a panel of judges in D.C. on Monday, June 13. Another member of the team, David A. Lecko, a senior in electrical engineering from St. Louis, will soon join her at the competition.
“I’ve been on the team since I was a freshman in August 2008,” says Lecko. “Right away I appreciated the relevance of the project to our economy and the invaluable experience for students preparing for a career.”
Later in the week the pair hopes legislators will join them for the EcoCAR Ride and Drive Event on Capitol Hill. “We invited them to experience how an advanced vehicle can use less petroleum and run more efficiently than standard vehicles, while driving exactly like the gasoline cars,” says Lecko.
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.