AUSTIN, Texas —A team of mechanical engineering students from The University of Texas at Austin won first place in the international Ethanol Vehicle Challenge, taking home $6,000 in prize money. The winning team’s truck, modified to use ethanol-based fuel, received the highest combined score in a seven-day competition among 16 North American college and university teams.
The competition was held in Ottawa, Toronto and Windsor, Ontario in May. Contestants were challenged to re-engineer Chevrolet Silverado 4-by-4 pickup trucks to run on E85, a mixture of 85 percent ethanol and 15 percent gasoline. The goal was to produce the most efficient, lowest-emission, best-performing vehicle. The trucks were judged on emissions, fuel economy, cold-start capabilities, power, design strategy and handling.
“These students worked very hard and learned a tremendous amount about teamwork, mechanical engineering and budgeting,” said Dr. Ronald D. Matthews, professor of mechanical engineering and co-faculty advisor. “It’s great to celebrate these kinds of academic victories with our students.”
Dr. Matthew J. Hall, associate professor of mechanical engineering, served as co-faculty advisor to the team.
The Cold Start Event was among the divisions won by the UT Austin Society of Automotive Engineers team. After standing overnight at a temperature of 0 degrees Fahrenheit, 13 of the 16 entries failed to start. UT Austin’s entry started in less than 2 seconds and also had the best performance for driving in cold conditions. The concept used by UT Austin to achieve exceptional cold start, cold “driveability” and low EPA emissions is an “on-board distillation system.” This concept also won UT Austin the Most Innovative Component Award.
UT Austin’s on-board distillation system also was instrumental in achieving second place in the contest’s EPA emissions division. The innovation is the subject of a joint patent application by UT Austin and Ford Motor Co. UT Austin is developing a version suitable for gasoline vehicles with funds from the Texas Advanced Technology Program and Ford. Additional development work will be conducted on a Ford vehicle.
The UT Austin team also won first place in the off-road event, with driver Team “Radar” Ted Kane of Phoenix.
Although 15 students worked on UT’s 2000 Ethanol Vehicle Challenge entry, only seven made the trip to Canada. They include: Yiqun Huang of Wuhan, China (team captain and mechanical engineering Ph.D. candidate), Kane (mechanical engineering graduate student), Shrik Aithala of Pune, India (mechanical engineering graduate student), Courtney Frey of Austin (graduating senior in mechanical engineering), Darius Mehta of St. Louis (mechanical engineering graduate student), Chad Stovell of Friona (mechanical engineering graduate student) and Steven Vilano of Friendswood (graduating senior in mechanical engineering).
Team sponsors were the Texas State Energy Conservation Office, the Western Regional Biomass Energy Program, General Motors and Betz Dearborn.
The Ethanol Vehicle Challenge is a cooperative effort of governments, the academic world and the auto, ethanol, agriculture and petroleum industries to bring environmentally friendly vehicle technologies to the market place. It is sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy, Natural Resources Canada and General Motors.
For more information, contact Becky Rische at the College of Engineering (512) 471-7272. For images see http://www.engr.utexas.edu/comm/news.html