General Motors Mentor Michael Abowd Visits the University of Washington EcoCAR 2 Team

While Seattle’s winter is getting colder, members of the University of Washington (UW) EcoCAR 2 Team are heating up their game.

Michael Abowd, the General Motors mentor for UW’s EcoCAR 2 team, was on the University of Washington grounds to assist with mechanical and electrical challenges. While the team’s vehicle is currently operational, they are working on bringing all systems to full functionality.  One problem the team is addressing involves figuring out a way to reduce the knocking noises produced by their 1.7L B20 biodiesel engine.

Team leaders (from left) Trevor Fayer, Mitchelle Leoppky, and Trevor Crain with General Motors mentor, Michael Abowd

Team leaders (from left) Trevor Fayer, Mitchelle Leoppky, and Trevor Crain with General Motors mentor, Michael Abowd

“It’s an incredibly complex task to integrate a nonstandard engine and wiring harness into a modern vehicle like the Malibu,” commented Team Leader Trevor Crain. “There’s a myriad of sensors and actuators to wire in correctly, along with mechanical challenges like getting the airflow into the engine to match what the engine control module is expecting.”

Abowd is working with the team to obtain a new mass airflow sensor and airbox for the engine intake so that the amount of air coming into the engine matches what the sensor is reading. In addition, Abowd is also helping to optimize control strategies for their automatic transmission. As of now, the transmission is not designed to be run continuously with the engine off. “Without the engine running, there is no hydraulic pressure in the transmission, which creates a potential lubrication issue,” he commented.

Since the UW hybrid has a 40-50 mile all electric range, they must develop an algorithm to start the engine at appropriate times during their electric-only mode in order to keep the transmission lubricated. Abowd and other GM experts have been advising the team on the best way to keep the transmission lubricated while minimizing engine starts and overall run time. Before the final competition in June, the UW EcoCAR 2 team has several improvements to make and road blocks to overcome. Follow the team’s progress as they venture into the third and FINAL year of the EcoCAR 2 Competition!