Contact: Zack Plair
STARKVILLE, Miss.—When members of the Mississippi State EcoCAR 3 team first laid eyes on their 2016 Chevrolet Camaro, it was easy for them to see it for the sleek sports car it was.
But they were far more concerned about turning it into the car it will become.
This template for the EcoCAR team’s quest to build a powerful, fuel efficient machine is vying for top honors against 15 other universities in national competition. General Motors and the Department of Energy sponsor the four-year competition, now in its third iteration, with winners crowned each year following different phases of the contest.
Dating back to 2007, when the competition was called ChallengeX, MSU teams have produced four national championship years, including consecutive ChallengeX titles and a first-place annual finish each from the EcoCAR 1 and 2 teams.
In July 2014, the EcoCAR 3 competition began with teams spending the first year building theoretical performance and design models. This year, teams are testing their models and installing them into the car. From there, MSU team project manager Stephen Hayes said the competition will turn to fine tuning the machines, and ultimately, marketing their product and getting it showroom ready.
“We’ve been waiting 18 months for our car, and now is when this gets exciting,” said Hayes, a graduate student in industrial engineering from Birmingham, Alabama. “Our architecture is very aggressive, so we hope to blow everybody away.”
The design involves converting a snowmobile engine to run on E-85 fuel. Ultimately, the team hopes to increase the Camaro’s fuel economy to 60 miles-per-gallon without sacrificing its factory-bestowed 323 horse power.
Lead faculty adviser for EcoCAR, MSU mechanical engineering associate professor Randy Follett, said the team has steadily improved.
“I believe in this team, and I expect great things from them,” Follett said.
The team’s 135 members consist of graduates and undergraduates of more than a dozen majors, Hayes said, and are divided into four subgroups – controls, mechanical, electrical and systems modeling/simulation.
Jared Oakley, the team’s engineering manager who leads six graduate students and more than 50 undergraduates in his subgroup, helped the EcoCAR 2 team win its national title in 2012. In the three years remaining in the EcoCAR 3 competition, the mechanical engineering graduate student from Kennesaw, Georgia, said he wants to see the program return to its championship roots. Since teams didn’t receive their competition cars until after the 2015 fall semester had ended, he said there is no time to lose.
“It’s work time,” Oakley said. “We have to work fast for this year because we are on a much tighter schedule. We used to have a whole year (to assemble) the car, but this time we only have a semester.”
For more information on the EcoCAR 3 team, visit http://ecocar3.org/msstate/about-us/.
MSU is Mississippi’s leading university, available online at www.msstate.edu.