Past Competitions

EcoCAR: The NeXt Challenge

The predecessor to EcoCAR 2, was EcoCAR: The NeXt Challenge. The competition challenged 16 university teams to re-engineer a GM-donated crossover utility vehicle with the goals of improving fuel economy and emissions while maintaining performance, safety, and consumer appeal. EcoCAR was headline-sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy, General Motors Corporation, with the support of many more organizations from the United States and Canada. Penn State’s EcoCAR team placed 3rd overall, Spirit of Outreach Award and Best Autocross Time.


The freedom that personal mobility provides is a building block of America’s culture and strength. Over the last decade, the American automotive customer market has tended toward larger family-sized vehicles because of the utility they provide over passenger cars that get better fuel economy. At the same time, there has been a greater demand to reduce energy consumption and vehicle emissions. As a result, the auto industry, the U.S. government, and the academic community have been working together, through a series of competitive programs, to develop and explore advanced vehicle technologies that address important energy and environmental issues.

Since 1987, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has sponsored more than two dozen competitions challenging thousands of engineering students to achieve better fuel economy and lower emissions while maintaining the safety, performance, utility, and consumer appeal of a variety of vehicles.

Now, General Motors Corporation (GM), DOE, and other government and industry leaders have developed a new competition called Challenge X: Crossover to Sustainable Mobility. This ground-breaking, three-year competition will give engineering schools an opportunity to participate in hands-on research and development with leading-edge automotive propulsion, fuels, materials, and emissions-control technologies.

PSU Placed 6 / 17 due to a malfunctioning urea system
Final Competition Results:

The Vehicle
Penn State’s ChallengeX entry is a low-emissions, diesel-hydrogen Chevrolet Equinox. Designed to draw on Penn State’s experience working with diesel engines and merge them with the future of alternative fuels, our ChallengeX vehicle burns a combination of biodiesel and hydrogen in its high-efficiency GM diesel engine. Like our 2002 “Wattmuncher” vehicle, our ChallengeX Equinox is a versatile parallel hybrid; its diesel engine can both turn the wheels directly or turn the electric generator the charges the vehicle’s lithium-ion batteries.

General Overview of the Vehicle:

  • Platform: Chevy Equinox
  • Architecture: Post Transmission Parallel hybrid
  • Specifications:
    • 70 kW 3-phase induction motor n 17 Ah
    • 300 V lead Lithium Ion battery pack
    • 1.3 l Fiat common rail turbo Diesel
    • Bio-Diesel with hydrogen assisted combustion
  • History: donated to Penn State by General Motors for the 2005-2008 Challenge X Design Competition

Below are several key components of our vehicle manufactured by Penn State students.
Penn State takes team engineering very seriously. The PSUAVT Team is divided up into six different teams that specialize in one of six areas of the vehicle. These six areas are Controls, Electrical, Engine, Fuels, Integration, and Lightweighting.

When deciding on adding or changing new components to the vehicle, the teams collaborate with each other to determine the best procedure and modification for the task. This ensures that the team produces a fully integrated vehicle that performs up to production standards.

Once a decision is made, the team in charge of the project gets to work installing/modifying the system. Our teams work around-the-clock making sure that the component is installed safely and correctly. This leaves our maximum turn around time to be under 5 days for a new system, and 2 days for an existing system.

After the component has been installed, the next task is to test and refine the installed system. To do so, that system enters a 5-day freeze that allows PSU engineers to find all the bugs, verify the interaction with other systems, and make sure that the system is operating safely. After the freeze phase, the team in charge has 10 days to refine the system to increase it’s efficiency and effectiveness.

Using this process for all the tasks on the vehicle, the PSUAVT Team produces top quality vehicles ready for the road to the future.


FutureTruck was a unique five-year engineering program that brought together the resources of industry, government, and academia in a cooperative effort to address important environmental and energy-related issues posed by the growing demand for sport utility vehicles (SUVs). FutureTruck was sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, Ford Motor Company, General Motors Company, and a variety of other sponsors and was managed by Argonne National Laboratory’s Center for Transportation Research.

The FutureTruck competition challenged teams of students from 15 top North American universities to continue reengineering a conventional production vehicle into a lower-emissions vehicle with at least 25% higher fuel economy, without sacrificing the performance, utility, safety, and affordability consumers want. To meet these challenges, students employ cutting-edge automotive technologies, including advanced propulsion systems, lightweight materials, and alternative fuels, such as hydrogen, ethanol, and biodiesel. All of the teams in are implementing hybrid electric design strategies: an internal combustion engine with a battery and electric motor.

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