Mechanical engineering student Ted Alley connects tubes in the trunk of the University of Victoria’s EcoCAR 2. The vehicle is the school’s entry in the Advanced Vehicle Technology Competition

UVic students prepare for final launch of EcoCAR 2

Three-year university competition to turn gas-powered vehicle to hybrid culminates in testing next week

In the last week of a three-year competition, smiles and a slight sense of giddiness overwhelm students in the Green Garage at the University of Victoria Wednesday.

The source of pride: a Chevrolet Malibu Eco – their EcoCAR 2.

The team of student engineers, nearly 50 of them in computer and mechanical engineering and business programs, started working the project in April 2011. The challenge? Take a gas-powered car, issued in the second year of the competition, and convert it to a plug-in hybrid.

“In terms of hands-on engineering experience it’s amazing,” said mechanical engineering student Ted Alley. “There’s something to be said for making designs and seeing how they work. It’s a really valuable thing to be working on.”

Throughout the competition, the 15 university teams from Canada and the United States are given access to industry-leading technology, knowledge and training, enabling them to redesign the vehicle into a hybrid-electric model to near show-room quality. The competition was established by General Motors, the Canadian Ministry of Natural Resources and the U.S. Department of Energy as a way to provide students with hands-on experience working on vehicle.

The UVic EcoCAR 2 is set to ship to GM Thursday (May 22) for the final leg of the competition. From June 1-12, EcoCAR 2 teams will compete in more than a dozen dynamic and static events in Milford, Mich. and Washington, D.C. to determine which group achieved the best results.

“It’s nice to see it all put together,” said Amanda Kalhouse, GM mentor for the UVic team. Kalhouse, an advanced tech worker at GM in Oshawa, Ont. says she, too, sees the value of the project for university students.

“Being able to put the textbook skills to use, it’s something a lot of students don’t get the option to do. … The talent level that comes out of this is fantastic,” she said. “It shows a great deal of commitment, as well, on the part of the student to (their) career and school.”

UVic and Waterloo University are the only two Canadian schools participating in EcoCAR 2: Plugging into the Future.

For Alley, the project reaffirms what would be an ideal job on his future career path.

“I don’t want to design conventional vehicles. I want to design hybrid vehicles because I like the environmental aspect,” he says.

This is the final stage of the three-year Advanced Vehicle Technology Competition, and the culmination of six years of UVic’s involvement since the first round of EcoCAR 1.

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