Students Tour New Circuit of the Americas Facility

On the final day of the Winter Workshop, EcoCAR 2 teams ventured to Circuit of the Americas (COTA) to for the final day in Austin! The day started with a breakfast banquet at COTA’s new facility outside of Austin, Texas. Students were able to hear from several speakers on racing sustainability, including Edgar Farrera, Director of Sustainability at COTA, Audley Brown, Director – Diesel Powertrain Drivability Calibration & Validation at General Motors, and P.T. Jones from the U.S. Department of Energy’s Green Racing Program.

Students were also able to attend vehicle demonstrations that would better prepare them for the competition in May. Representatives from AVL as well as General Motors were present to educate the teams on vehicle drive quality and how it would be evaluated at the competition. The base competition Malibu, to which all student vehicles are compared, was instrumented with the ‘block-pedal’ hardware that will be installed on student vehicles at competition. An accelerometer, mounted on the driver’s seat frame, measures any bumps, jolts and jerks as the vehicle performs several acceleration, coasting, and deceleration maneuvers. The AVL DRIVE software evaluates the quality of teams’ implemented controls and assigns a score for objective drive quality.

The demo also included an instructional lesson on using the software tools to evaluate and post-process test data. The students will be able to use AVL DRIVE at their schools to evaluate the drive quality of their vehicles before they are tested at competition.

In addition, Argonne organizer Patrick Walsh and Jim Tulpa, Manager of Milford Operations Test Support and Engineering at GM Powertrain, were on hand to show teams how the custom-built trailer would attach to their vehicles for the Emissions and Energy Consumption event. A SEMTECH DS portable emissions measurement system is mounted in the trailer and samples vehicle tailpipe emissions. From the sampling, organizers can determine how many regulated emissions come out of the tailpipe, and can infer instantaneous fuel consumption as well. The students were shown the do’s and don’ts for their vehicles, and gained a valuable visual understanding of how their vehicles would be instrumented at competition. They’ll have to drive 100 miles in the event and recharge their batteries in order to get a valid score, so the pressure will be on in the desert!

Students also enjoyed a personalized tour of the scenic COTA F1 track, which – in addition to motorsports – hosts special events, live music, and educational outreach. Teams toured the 3.4 mile race track, stopping at some of the 20 turns along the course. The new track was opened in fall of 2012, and hosted the Formula 1 United States Grand Prix in November.

Teams enjoyed touring COTA, as well as attending the vehicle demonstrations that will prepare them for the Year Two Competition in May.