It’s very early morning; so early that the sun hasn’t risen, the birds aren’t awake, and the first pot of coffee hasn’t been brewed. It’s far earlier than most people are awake, but this morning one group of students are up and in high gear, checking their vehicles for any last-minute needed changes.
This morning several teams will run emissions tests on their vehicles, and it’s best done early in the morning, before the desert sun comes out and makes the air too warm. At 3:30 am engineers from General Motors, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Argonne National Laboratory instrument the EcoCAR vehicles with SEMTECH mobile emissions analyzers from Sensors, Inc. And by 4:00 AM the Penn State team arrive to watch the GM driver take their vehicle for the 100 mile test drive around a circle track. Marty Lechner, Derek Bailey, and Ben Koch are team members from Penn State who arrive early along with the team from Virginia Tech to watch their vehicles from the side of the track as they compete in the event. Marty, a PSU mechanical engineering major, yawns; but he admits that the excitement of seeing his vehicle participate in the event, and a little caffeine, helped wake him up.
Today’s testing went well. The Penn State vehicle ran on all electric for the first 30 miles before switching to the engine and they expect to see good results. As the last teams participate in emissions, others are packing up and getting ready for the drive to San Diego, where the spotlight will be off the vehicles on onto the students as they present their static presentations for the judges.