Overcoming Obstacles: An Inside Look at Colorado State University’s EcoCAR2 Team

The CSU Controls Team Gets a Little Help from DSPACE

One of the biggest challenges faced by the Colorado State University (CSU) controls team to date is troubleshooting and repairing new hardware. DSPACE graciously provided a hardware in the loop (HIL) testing setup, but due to damage from shipping, it did not function properly at the Winter Workshop. Over a month of work was lost in this process. However, with the excellent customer support provided by DSPACE and countless hours put in by each team member, the HIL box is finally up and running.

“From the time we got there until we were asked to leave, the DSPACE reps worked diligently to make sure we had the hardware needed to ensure success,” said Chris Hargett, a member of the controls team.  “They provided us with a new processor board on the fly and soldered our power supply leaving us ample time to test our strategy and perform in our presentation. We are lucky to have talented and motivated individuals on the controls team along with excellent support from DSPACE.”

The Two-Man Team: Analysis at Colorado State University

The CSU analysis team has been crunching numbers and running simulations night and day. The goal? To make sure the component selections are backed up with simulation analysis to show how each component fits harmoniously into the team’s architecture while producing optimal vehicle performance.

In addition to overseeing the component selection, the analysis team has been performing additional investigations to determine hydrogen storage requirements for the unique architecture. The team has to overcome a variety of hurdles when designing the hydrogen storage system. There are multiple tradeoffs that must be assessed including the complexity and safety of the system and its effects on trunk space, consumer acceptability and vehicle range. With the assessment of these tradeoffs, the team is designing the hydrogen storage system and pushing forward.

CSU’s Energy Storage Team is Hard at Work

The CSU energy storage team is hard at work making sure their battery enclosure will keep the team’s batteries safe and cool. The A123 batteries will be water cooled and enclosed in a carbon fiber case. Getting all 7 battery modules into the car is another challenge, but the team is working hand-in-hand with GM to accomplish this while keeping the car safe and maintaining consumer acceptability.

“Our team is taking on a significant challenge being a first year team and the only team using hydrogen in the competition,” said Matt Zevenbergen, energy storage team leader. “A goal for the energy storage team is to be 20 years ahead of the hydrogen powered car curve.  That is a huge motivator for the entire team to do well this year. We want to leave years two and three with a great foundation to build on.”

During the remainder of the year, the team will be hard at work making the carbon fiber battery enclosure and readying facilities for hydrogen storage. Much more work lies ahead, but the team is looking forward to the challenge.

Reflections: CSU’s Auxiliary Team

The EcoCar2 competition departs from previous electric vehicle competitions by placing equal importance on consumer acceptability and “green” innovation.  The auxiliary systems of a car have become standard features in the eyes of the consumer.

This is where the two-person auxiliary team comes into the picture and plays a major role. The team saw room for innovation in the area of automobile air conditioning. Traditional air conditioning systems use a toxic working fluid, which is harmful to the atmosphere.  Thermoelectric technology on the other hand uses solid state cooling, no working fluids, and no moving parts.  The team has become very familiar with this type of technology and is confident enough to specify, fabricate and construct a thermoelectric assembly to be implemented in the vehicle.

CSU Team Update: Powertrain

The Colorado State University powertrain team has met and successfully overcome challenges with the design and analysis of their powertrain.  The powertrain is a fully electric powertrain with all power coming from UQM’s 145kW Powerphase Select electric motor mounted to a single speed gearbox/differential from Borg Warner.  The team is confident it will be extremely efficient and user friendly, providing ample acceleration and adequate cruising speed for any highway.

Additionally, the team was challenged to find a motor that would supply the power needed without exceeding voltage limitations. In order to determine the power requirements to maintain performance, the team simulated a 0-60mph sprint as well as a 50-70mph passing exercise using a variety of motors and gear ratio.  Once they determined the UQM 145kW motor would supply ample power, they had to find a suitable gearbox to get that power to the wheels.  They decided to go with a purchased gearbox from Borg Warner and to adapt it to the Malibu’s half shafts and the selected motor.

Though the team has had success so far, they still face challenges.  They must determine a good mounting strategy for implementing the powertrain into the vehicle.  They also need to design a cooling system to keep the motor and inverter cool.  Integrating all these components will be crucial to the success of the Colorado State University EcoCar2 Chevrolet Malibu.