EcoCAR team gears up for its next challenge

Posted: August 1, 2022
Ohio State and Wilberforce team with Cadillac LYRIQ
From left: Ohio State Clinical Professor Shawn Midlam-Mohler; Wilberforce student Emmanuel Nshimiyimana; Ohio State graduate research associate Kamryn Russell; Ohio State graduate research associate Karun Prateek Singh; Wilberforce student Patrick Rukundo; Dwobeng Owusu-Nyamekye, dean of professional studies, Wilberforce University; and Johnny D. Jones, provost and vice president for academic affairs, Wilberforce University

After wrapping up the EcoCAR Mobility Challenge in May, The Ohio State University EcoCAR team is gearing up for its next Advanced Vehicle Technology Competition (AVTC). Beginning this fall, Ohio State will partner with Wilberforce University to compete against 14 other North American universities in the EcoCAR EV Challenge

The four-year competition challenges students to engineer a next-generation battery electric vehicle that deploys connected and autonomous vehicle technologies to implement energy-efficient and customer-pleasing features, while meeting the decarbonization needs of the automotive industry. It is sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy, General Motors and MathWorks.

“The EcoCAR program has provided a unique opportunity for Ohio State students to have real-world experience in putting cutting-edge technologies to work in creating cleaner, more sustainable vehicles that are both marketable to consumers and kinder to the planet,” Ohio State President Kristina M. Johnson said.

“The addition to our team of Wilberforce University will greatly increase the breadth and reach of its efforts and will make us even more competitive going forward. I know our EcoCAR team members are thinking big and pushing the boundaries of what is possible in ways that will benefit all of us for years to come.”

Managed by Argonne National Laboratory, the EcoCAR EV Challenge will be at the cutting edge of automotive engineering education, serving as a proving ground for future automotive engineers.

Teams will be tasked with complex, real-world technical challenges including enhancing the propulsion system of their 2023 Cadillac LYRIQ—donated to each team by General Motors—to optimize energy efficiency while maintaining consumer expectations for performance and driving experience.

To improve representation in STEM and higher education, diversity, equity and inclusion will be incorporated into all areas of the competition. Teams will be challenged to identify and address specific equity and electrification challenges in mobility through the application of innovative hardware and software solutions. They also will reach out to underserved communities and underrepresented youth to increase awareness about advanced mobility and recruit underrepresented minorities into STEM fields. Four minority-serving institutions, including two Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), will also share more than $1 million to strengthen their automotive programs, and recruit and retain underrepresented minority students and faculty.

“I am thrilled to be a part in the newest evolution of the AVTC series,” said Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering Clinical Professor Shawn Midlam-Mohler, the team’s faculty advisor. “The focus on vehicle electrification, autonomy and diversity together in a single project is exactly the kind of experience we want to give our students.”

In May, the Buckeyes earned second place overall in the EcoCAR Mobility Challenge’s final year. They also received seven first-place awards, including for their final technical report, mid-year project status presentation, and human-machine interface and user experience presentation. The four-year competition tasked 11 universities with utilizing electrification, advanced propulsion systems and automated vehicle technology to improve the efficiency, safety and consumer appeal of a 2019 Chevrolet Blazer.

Ohio State student teams have been participating in Advanced Vehicle Technology Competitions since 1990 and have placed in the top three in 13 of the last 14 years, including winning first place seven times.

Although winning competitions is a nice bonus, it’s not Midlam-Mohler’s primary goal.

“With EcoCAR, I’m not out to build the best car. I’m out to build the best students who will likely build a very good car,” he said. “Even if we don’t succeed in the competition, I can still build the best students who will go out and make a big impact in the industry when they graduate.”

Standing under the raised EcoCAR Mobility Challenge  vehicle, Prof. Shawn Midlam-Mohler talks to EcoCAR team members
Ohio State EcoCAR teams have won six of the last seven national competitions.

Ohio State EcoCAR team members come from all engineering disciplines, as well as students from other backgrounds, such as communications, public relations and business.

“This program ignites an entrepreneurial group of students operating inside the university with access to all the great stuff at CAR (the Center for Automotive Research) and it lets them innovate,” Midlam-Mohler explained. “It’s a class, a research project, a hobby, a business.”

Connected and automated team lead Shaumya Jha said being part of the EcoCAR team enables her to gain hands-on experience that enhances what she learns inside the classroom.

“I have been talking to a few employers, and the technologies we use in the student project are very similar to the technologies they use out in the real world, so they were pretty shocked and surprised that as a student I have been working on these,” she said. “That’s the kind of experience EcoCAR has given to me and I’m delighted to be a part of it.”

The EcoCAR EV Challenge competition will kick off in Fall 2022 and conclude in May 2026.

Listen to a recent episode of the Enginuity podcast, where College of Engineering Dean Ayanna Howard chatted with two leaders of the team – Shaumya Jha and Colin Knight – about the Mobility Challenge, upcoming EV Challenge, what they’ve learned and how participating helps students prepare for life after graduation.