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Purdue picked for international ‘EcoCAR’ competition

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — Purdue University has been selected as one of 16 teams to participate in EcoCAR 2: Plugging in to the Future, an international competition to develop advanced automotive technologies.

EcoCar 2 - Plugging into the FutureThe Purdue team is a multidisciplinary effort led by Vahid Motevalli, head the Department of Mechanical Engineering Technology.

The competition was established in 2009 by the U.S. Department of Energy and General Motors Corp. to speed the development of vehicles aimed at reducing petroleum consumption and greenhouse gas emissions.

“The Purdue team will create a prototype using advanced design and engineering principles, drawing on the expertise of our top faculty and students and the capabilities of our excellent laboratory facilities,” said Leah Jamieson, Purdue’s John A. Edwardson Dean of Engineering and Ransburg Distinguished Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering. “The goal is to bring the car of the future closer to reality.”

The teams have three years to convert a regular Chevrolet Malibu into an advanced-technology vehicle by using electric, hybrid, plug-in hybrid or fuel-cell hybrid power systems. The vehicles also will use renewable energy or renewable fuels to minimize their petroleum consumption.

Purdue was selected out of 75 proposals to DOE.

“Eight of the 16 current EcoCAR teams were selected for EcoCAR 2, so in effect Purdue was competing for one of the remaining eight spots,” said Dennis R. Depew, dean of Purdue’s College of Technology.

The core-faculty team includes Gregory Shaver, an assistant professor of mechanical engineering, who will oversee work in engine control and mechanical systems; Oleg Wasynczuk, a professor of electrical and computer engineering, who will oversee work in power electronics and electric motor design and control; Haiyan (Henry) H. Zhang, an assistant professor of mechanical engineering technology, who is overseeing the modeling and simulation and work on the vehicle’s transmission; Peter Meckl, a professor of mechanical engineering, overseeing work in power train controls and diagnostics; and J. Eric Dietz, an associate professor of computer and information technology, who will oversee work in batteries and computer and information systems.

Motevalli said students from across campus will be asked to apply for team membership and expects to attract interest from various disciplines.

A callout for students interested in participating will be held from 7 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. April 25 in Electrical Engineering Room 129.

“This is a fantastic opportunity for our students to work in multidisciplinary teams to address real-world and complex problems associated with system integration, combining engines, electric motors, energy storage and other automotive components into a vehicle that meets all the performance parameters consumers expect,” Motevalli said.

DOE and its research and development facility, Argonne National Laboratory, provide competition management, team evaluation, technical and logistical support.

The team’s first assignment will be due in the fall. At that time, students will have to present a simulation model of their vehicle configuration. They will use software developed by Argonne to create the model. The software is already being used in graduate coursework and research in mechanical engineering, mechanical engineering technology and chemical engineering.

Each team will receive their vehicle after the first year of the competition. At that time, the teams will work on converting, testing, integrating and optimizing their designs. At the end of each year of the project, the teams will come together for competitions. The first-year competition will be based on the design process. Competitions in the second two years will focus on the vehicles and how well they achieve the goals of the competition.

In addition to the vehicle, the teams receive $25,000 in seed money to help them start their projects. The host school is required to at least match that investment. The colleges of Technology and Engineering have committed to three years of funding for the team, Motevalli said.

More information about EcoCAR is available at and

Along with DOE and GM, EcoCAR sponsors include the Canadian government and the California Air Resources Board, or CARB.

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