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WVU Students Place Third in Hybrid Vehicle Competition

A three-year competition sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy, General Motors and Mathworks challenged students from 11 universities to convert a 2019 Chevrolet Blazer into a hybrid vehicle.

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(TNS) — A team of West Virginia University students has won third place in a multi-university competition to create an energy-efficient hybrid vehicle.

Sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy, General Motors and Mathworks, the three-year EcoCAR competition tasks 11 universities across North America to redesign the 2019 Chevrolet Blazer into a hybrid. The WVU team placed third in year three of the competition, which reaped more than $16,000 in awards.

The EcoCAR team includes WVU students who don't usually get to work together on projects. The project included students from the Statler College of Engineering and Mineral Resources and Reed College of Media. The team competes annually to show how they implement their designs, energy-efficient technologies, carsharing capabilities and communication strategies.

"We've had great success in the last few years, but it's different every year — it's a different set of students and everyone has to relearn all of the skills that they need to do well, and we've had an amazing set of graduate students and undergraduate students this year that did exactly that," said Andrew Nix, associate professor in the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering and lead faculty advisor for EcoCAR. "I'm very proud of this team — developing such a well-integrated vehicle is simply amazing."

The EcoCAR team also won awards for best energy consumption testing, best communications presentation, best communications program and the EcoCAR Collaboration Award with WVU and Georgia Institute of Technology. The team placed behind Ohio State University and the University of Alabama.

"I am proud to say one of the awards was for team collaboration," Nix said. "Our students have helped other teams in getting both the conventional and electric powertrains running, which exemplifies the spirit of this competition."

"Their integration was clean and professional, resembling what you would see out of an original equipment manufacturer prototype vehicle," said Lauren Tabolinsky, academic student programs manager at Mathworks during the awards ceremony. "We applaud them for their passion, collaboration, their desire to share their success with others, as well as their fantastic blue mountain paint job on their Blazer."

Alongside Nix, faculty co-leads consist of Professor Brian Woerner from the Lane Department of Computer Science and Electrical Engineering and Reed College of Media Professor Catherine Mezera.

"The students did an amazing job with overcoming all of the limitations that were placed on us with COVID, and they put together a vehicle that not only works but works well," Woerner said. "If you look at what that vehicle does out on the test track, it is just amazing to see that gold and blue vehicle coming down."

The goals for the final year in the EcoCAR Mobility Challenge will be to refine vehicle controls strategies to minimize energy consumption and to refine connected and automated vehicle systems to achieve a greater level of autonomy to allow the vehicle to control both steering as well as acceleration and deceleration. This will allow the vehicle to achieve adaptive cruise control and lane keep assistance. The team will also focus on refinements to the vehicle integration and consumer appeal.

©2021 the Times West Virginian (Fairmont, W. Va.). Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.