A Plug-In Partnership: Magna and the Penn State Advanced Vehicle Team

What do a busy mom and an extravagant celebrity have in common? Surprisingly, it’s in the car they drive. Whether it’s for a minivan or an Aston Martin, there is one company with the expertise to design and build components for the ever-changing auto industry: Magna. But how is this related to the EcoCAR 2 competition?

Since 1988, the Penn State Advanced Vehicle Team (PSU AVT) has been competing in competitions like EcoCAR 2. As a part of this three-year North American collegiate competition, the team is re-engineering a 2013 Chevrolet Malibu to increase fuel efficiency and decrease harmful emissions. At the same time, the team can’t compromise the vehicle’s safety or drivability.

EcoCAR 2 is a perfect example of industry, academia and government joining together to teach real-world skills to the next generation of automotive engineers. Through the competition, students learn the entire vehicle development process, including how to build innovative architectures that will help satisfy Americans’ desire for petroleum independence and a more sustainable automotive industry as a whole.

For example, the PSU AVT is converting its vehicle into a plug-in hybrid, which will be propelled down the road by an electric motor donated by Magna. This electric motor will draw energy from the battery pack and power the wheels to make the vehicle move.

Penn State’s hybrid architecture would be nearly impossible without a cutting-edge sponsor like Magna.

First founded in 1957, Magna is one of the most diverse automotive suppliers in the world and a silver-level sponsor of EcoCAR 2. Magna designs, develops, and manufactures automotive systems and components in 26 countries. It offers a wide array of products including lithium-ion cells, battery packs – and in the case of the PSU AVT – electric drive motors. Magna also donated an engine mount and three high voltage harnesses to the PSU AVT.

In addition to providing in-kind donations, the company has shared its other resource: its employees. The people at Magna happily offered support to the PSU AVT when team members requested a simple-to-understand user document for the motor. Employees created a thorough document custom to the EcoCAR 2 program and quickly provided it to the team.

Bob Storc, senior manager in advanced development at Magna, stands firmly behind the company’s decision to sponsor EcoCAR 2. Storc said he’s been impressed with Penn State’s drivability in past AVTC’s, and he’s excited to see how Magna’s e-drive will benefit the team this year.

“We’re very interested in Penn State’s execution of the hybrid with our e-drive,” Storc said. “We always see some very innovative and creative solutions.”

But according to Co-Team Leader Luke Shepley, Magna’s contribution goes well beyond just the PSU AVT.

“Magna has contributed to AVTCs and the EcoCAR 2 competition as a whole by adding variety,” Shepley said. “Their donation allows us to use a piece of powertrain that likely wouldn’t have been available otherwise.”

To learn more about Magna’s interaction with the team, please watch the Magna Sponsor Collaboration video below!