Virginia Tech's Hybrid Electric Vehicle Team has won the international EcoCAR Challenge, a three-year design competition that seeks to inspire science and engineering students to build more energy-efficient “green” automobiles. 

Awards were presented in Washington, D.C., after a two-week finale completion that had teams at General Motor's Milford Proving Grounds in Milford, Mich., and then the U.S. Department of Energy’s headquarters in the nation’s capital.

In all, the team of Virginia Tech College of Engineering graduate and undergraduate students won 14 first place awards at the EcoCAR: The NeXt Challenge: Best Vehicle Testing Complete Presentation, Shortest Braking Distance, Lowest Fuel Consumption, Best Dynamic Consumer Acceptability, National Instruments Most Innovative Use of Graphical System Design Award, Best Progress Reports and Fastest Autocross ‘Fun Run’ Time. They tied for Best AVL Drive Quality, and won second place or runner up for Battery Worksmanship Award, Lowest Petroleum Energy Use, and Lowest Tailpipe Emissions.

Among individual awards, Rachel Dobroth, a graduated senior from Massanutten, Va., who double majored in communication and interdisciplinary studies won for Best Outreach Presenter, and Kat Pecinovsky, a graduated senior in mechanical engineering from Woodbridge, Va., won the Women in Engineering Rookie of the Year Award. During an autocross event, team member and College of Engineering graduate student Patrick Walsh posted the event’s best time, beating drivers from General Motors, a major co-sponsor of the event.

The team already previously stood out in the three-phase competition, winning second nationally during Phase Two in 2010. A total of 16 collegiate teams from across the United States and Canada participated in the competition, with 14 teams making it to the final day of competition in Washington, D.C. Serving as faculty adviser to the Virginia Tech team is Doug Nelson, a professor of mechanical engineering.

“This year’s 2011 Year Three team had a lot of component issues to solve from the 2010 Year Two vehicle, despite the fact that we placed second overall in 2010 in Yuma, Arizona,” said Nelson. “The team did a great job of getting things done in time to be able to do testing -- and in particular, refinement of our vehicle for efficiency, driveability, and reliability. This refinement made for a high scoring vehicle in most every category.  The students also did well in all of the presentation events.  Having plenty of data to present to the judges helps a lot.”

Based in the College of Engineering’s Joseph F. Ware Jr. Advanced Engineering Laboratory, the team’s goal was to take a standard automobile and reengineer to be more efficient, reducing greenhouse gas emissions while maintaining consumer acceptability, stock appearance and safety. In addition to cash prizes and trophies, several team members landed jobs at General Motors and other automotive companies upon graduation.

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