Car of the future makes rounds of local schools 0
Students at Collingwood Collegiate Institute will have the opportunity to view an alternative fuel vehicle touted as the future of cars.
The EcoCAR is built and designed by the University of Waterloo Alternative Fuels Team (UWAFT) with the goal of converting a GM-sponsored Cross-Over Vehicle to alternative fuel sources such as hydrogen, ethanol, or bio-diesel. The vehicles must maintain performance and have a minimal environmental impact.
The team consists only of students. Engineering is done by engineering students at the University of Waterloo. Faculty members are available as advisers.
Grade 11 and 12 students will have an opportunity to see the car and ask questions in a presentation by the UWAFT this morning. The car is also being shown to several other high schools in the area this afternoon.
EcoCAR: The Next Challenge is a program sponsored by General Motors, the United States Department of Energy, and the Government of Canada, among others.
The challenge is set over three years and involves teams of students from 16 universities across North America, including three Canadian schools, planning and building the most environmental and fuel efficient car they can.
It started in September of 2008, and is set to end next June. Each year the teams have a specific goal they must meet.
By the end of the first year, students are expected to be trained to use computer environments to design and simulate their vehicle designs.
UWAFT has used a Hydrogen Fuel-Cell Plug-In Hybrid Electric Vehicle (HFPHEV). The hydrogen, kept on board in large tanks, is used in the fuel cell where a reaction occurs with oxygen and electricity is created. There are two electric motors, one for the front wheels and one for the rear, that propel the vehicle. Energy is stored in a large battery.
Because engine parts are so large, the team -- during the design process -- had to design the parts to fit into the car. Teams are not allowed to modify any vehicle frame components or safety features.
In year two the teams receive their cars, and get ready to start work on them. The UWAFT ran baseline performance tests on the GM-donated car. The team then gutted the car and replaced the powertrain, the mechanism that transmits the drive from the engine to the axle.
By the end of year two, teams are expected to have their vehicles working, in driveable condition.
During the third year, teams must improve on the cars, increasing their travel range and getting them "production ready."
"Our goal for the third year is to see our vehicles range get to about 320 km. before refuelling," said Eric Mallia, Outreach Coordinator from the University of Waterloo Alternative Fuel Team. "Another goal is to have it go 40 km. on batteries alone."
UWAFT's Education team goes to schools and public events, not only showing the car, but educating people about alternative fuels.
"We are not only trying to lower emissions on the vehicle. We are also trying to see if we can improve comfort and performance on the base vehicle," said Mallia. "Consumer acceptability is huge."
The University of Waterloo Alternative Fuel Team (UWAFT) and other teams in EcoCAR: The Next Challenge are working on designing the next generation of ecofriendly vehicles that use alternative fuels, such as bio-diesel, hydrogen, or ethanol.
The technologies being used are available today, although widely-available infrastructure is not in place.
More information about UWAFT and the ECOcar can be found at www.uwaft.com,and the EcoCAR: The Next Challenge website at www.ecocarchallenge.com.