Looking Back at Milford: A Diary by 2nd Place Finisher OSU

The Ohio State University EcoCAR team spent the second week of June hard at work at General Motors’ proving grounds in Milford, Michigan to help their car finish Year 3 testing strong. The team worked all hours of the day, and the next week in Washington, DC they were rewarded with a second place finish out of the 16 teams in the competition. Here’s a play by play of how the week went down from the perspective of OSU EcoCAR faculty advisor Dr. Shawn Midlam-Mohler.

Day 1: Monday 6/6/11

Monday was the first day of the EcoCAR competition finals. The OSU team started on a high note by winning the Best Technical Paper award for their 20 page report covering all technical aspects of the vehicle.  It was also announced that, going into the competition, OSU had the highest point tally from pre-competition report submissions.  OSU had a few relatively minor issues to deal with from the safety tech inspection, and after some quick software modifications and some wrench work, the team was able to pass the static safety tech inspection.  The team is scheduled to begin dynamic events this morning, which will include On-Road Safety, Braking, Acceleration, and likely begin part of the three-event Emissions and Fuel Economy test.

Day 2: Tuesday 6/7/11

In day two, OSU successfully passed the On-Road Safety event (ORSE) with no major issues.  The only “problem” was that the vehicle’s charge port door made a bit of a racket during the turn maneuvers – a little duct tape and the vehicle was back in action. Immediately after ORSE, the team went through the acceleration and braking event and performed as we had expected, which should put us in the middle of the pack for that event.  (Virginia Tech had a smoking 0-60 time of 6.3 seconds…)  After the vehicle came back, the team immediately got the vehicle on a charger to get our PHEV pack up to 100% SOC so we could start the events our vehicle is truly designed to excel at – the Emissions and Energy Consumption (E&EC) event.

The E&EC event consists of three on-road drive cycles of 20, 40, and 100 miles with the 100 mile section requiring emissions measurements.  Each cycle needs to start full charged, which makes strategic charging a must.  On Tuesday, the team managed to charge up to 100%, run the 20 mile cycle, and then get charged up again for another run in the morning.  As I write this, the OSU EcoCAR is about 1/3 through the 100 mile test and looking good.

Day 3: Wednesday 6/8/11

On Day 3 the OSU EcoCAR was the first team to successfully complete the 100 mile on-road portion of the Emissions and Energy Event (E&EC) – although Penn State was a close second place.  The team started at 6:30 am (thanks to the General Motors and Argonne National Lab staff coming in early!) to avoid the anticipated near-record high temperatures predicted for today.  The vehicle ran as expected, traveling nearly 40 miles in all-electric mode before switching on the high-efficiency E85 engine for range extension.  The vehicle’s advanced emissions system was online and we expect to have excellent tailpipe emissions.

After completion of the event, the vehicle spent an hour in the air conditioned pit area before having its fuel tank weighed and being moved outside for recharge on metered stations.  In this event, all fuel energy and electrical energy put into the vehicle is carefully measured to allow an accurate assessment of the well-to-wheels energy consumption of the vehicle.  We anticipate the vehicle will complete charging by 6:00 pm this evening and we plan on rolling back into the air conditioned shop to soak until morning.  Tomorrow, in the cool of early morning, we plan on running the final portion of the E&EC event which is 40 miles of mixed city and highway driving.  This will complete the testing required for the high-point value events.

Day 4: Thursday 6/9/11

Day 4 of the EcoCAR Competition Finals was another early morning for the team  at GM’s Milford Proving grounds.  After arriving at 6 am, the team was scheduled to run the third and final leg of the 160 mile Emissions and Fuel Economy (E&EC) of the competition, which is the most critical event.  Ohio State’s vehicle completed 38 miles out of 40 without burning a single drop of fuel, after which it transitioned as planned to operate on the high-efficiency ethanol engine.  Over the 40 mile trip, the vehicle burned only a fraction of a gallon of fuel.  After returning to the pits, the vehicle had its fuel tank weighed and was moved to the charging area where it was plugged in to gain back its full electric range.  The OSU team was the first team to complete this event in its entirety.

With a full battery charge and plenty of fuel, the team successfully notched up another two events, the Dynamic Consumer Acceptability Event and AVL Drive Quality Event.  The first event measures exterior noise, interior noise, and vibration, and though the full results weren’t available, we know the team scored full points on the exterior noise portion of the event.  The second event evaluates the “smoothness” of the vehicle during acceleration and braking maneuvers.  Results weren’t available for this event either, but the team’s unique design and control system should put the team in a competitive position with other teams.

Day 5: Friday 6/10/11

In Day 5 of the EcoCAR competition, the team checked off the next to last event, which was an autocross course.  A GM driver took each team’s vehicle through the course three  times with the best time used for scoring.  OSU held the lead during the first round, but Waterloo and Mississippi State pulled off a few spectacular runs which knocked OSU down to the middle of the pack.  The team also had time to rerun the acceleration event, improving their 0-60 time from 13.99 to a still-unofficial 11.1 seconds.  This puts the team a little closer to middle of the pack, but still not within striking distance of Virginia Tech and Mississippi State which posted about 6-second 0-60 times.

Day 6: Saturday 6/11/11

This morning, OSU is on deck for the towing event.  In the afternoon, the team has both of their presentation events around the vehicle.  The first is the Vehicle Testing Complete presentation, which is given in front of a panel of expert judges from industry and government.  The purpose is to demonstrate the vehicle’s near-production status as demonstrated by testing.  OSU should have a strong case to make, as they have conducted a number of tests at OSU-CAR, the EPA facility in Ann Arbor, GM’s Desert Proving Grounds, and Transportation Research Center.  The second presentation is the Static Consumer Acceptability event, in which the students describe the customer features of their vehicle.

Following the six days of dynamic events explained above, Ohio State went on to Washington, DC where they competed in several static engineering presentations. Together they earned a total of 691 points (out of 1,000) and took home the Second Place Award, demonstrating a tremendous amount of hard work and commitment over three years! We salute the Ohio State EcoCAR team for their tremendous effort and look forward to seeing them in EcoCAR 2!