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Ethanol Vehicle Challenge


The Ethanol Vehicle Challenge, a three-year vehicle design competition, began in 1998. It gives students real-world engineering experience as they convert new vehicles built for gasoline into optimised vehicles fuelled solely by E-85 (a blend of 85% denatured ethanol and 15% gasoline-like hydrocarbon primer). The goal is an ethanol-fuelled vehicle with greater fuel economy and lower exhaust emissions, but with the driveability, performance, and consumer appeal of a conventional gasoline vehicle.
Student from universities in the United States and Canada are replacing and upgrading major engine and fuel system components for ethanol operation. As they work on their vehicles, the students solve real-life engineering problems and make complex decisions by applying creative, innovative thinking. Their solutions may someday become a part of a production ethanol-fuelled vehicle ready for use on the road.
Competition Highlights
FUEL EFFICIENCY: In 1998, eight vehicles had better fuel efficiency than the stock Malibu. Vehicles achieved the same range on one tank of ethanol as the stock Malibu achieved on one tank of gasoline. This success continued in 1999 when 11 teams achieved better fuel efficiencies than the gasoline Silverado. The winning team, University of Illinois-Chicago, demonstrated a greater-than-10% increase in fuel efficiency.
EMISSIONS TESTING: In 1998, the University of Waterloo came close to meeting California Air Resources Board Low-Emission Vehicle (LEV) emission standards. In 1999, three teams met LEV and were within 0.020 grams of THCE per mile of meeting Ultra-Low-Emission Vehicle (ULEV) standards - impressive for a half-ton, 4x4 truck!
COLD START: The teams have demonstrated that cold-start problems, due to the lower vaporization of E-85 fuel, can be overcome. Some of the innovative cold-start technologies include an onboard distillation system, glow-plug ignited fuel system, electric supercharger, quick-heat intake manifold, a liquid-heated fuel injector rail, and a phase-changing catalyst.
PERFORMANCE: The 1999 competition vehicles outperformed the stock Silverado. Twelve vehicles out-accelerated the stock truck; Cedarville College reached 60 mph in 15.29 seconds on the quarter-mile track, beating the stock truck by 1.5 seconds. In the hill climb event, 12 vehicles outperformed the stock Silverado; the Minnesota State University at Mankato vehicle reached the top of the hill in 36.20 seconds - almost 10 seconds faster than the gasoline-powered truck.
EDUCATION: In 1999, more than 70% of the graduating seniors who participated in the EVC accepted jobs in the automotive industry. They take with them an unparalleled engineering experience as well as a direct, hands-on knowledge of ethanol as an automotive fuel.
In the final year of the competition, Ethanol Vehicle Challenge 2000, student teams will continue to optimise their ethanol-fuelled Chevrolet Silverado pickup trucks for lower emissions and greater fuel economy.


Ethanol Fuel Challenge 2000

Development of a Dedicated E85 Truck for Participation in the 2000 Ethanol Vehicle Challenge

Future Truck Competition

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2.7L Chrysler Sebring Convertible
This vehicle is designed to run on 85% ethanol.

Advanced Vehicle Technology Competitions
Since 1987, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has sponsored 44 different college and high school Advanced Vehicle Technology Competitions through Argonne. Argonne organizes and operates these competitions to
Accelerate the development and demonstration of technologies of interest to DOE and the automotive industry
Provide the automotive industry with a new generation of engineering leaders with highly desirable experience
Help prepare the market to accept advanced vehicle technologies.

The UC Davis Future Truck 2002 team built a truck getting 30 miles per gallon or better on ethanol, reducing emmissions by 67%, and able to accelerate from 0-60 mpg in only 7 seconds.


Participants at FutureTruck 2000
Focusing on engineering students at the graduate and undergraduate levels, these competitions target ultra-efficient vehicle designs, hybrid electric vehicles, and alternative-fuel vehicles for development, demonstration, and testing. They emphasize current or future vehicle technology; students work with production vehicles (donated by vehicle manufacturers) to improve their energy efficiency and to meet the toughest emissions standards while maintaining performance and functionality. Extensive data are collected to measure the real-world performance of advanced technologies and benchmark their developmental status.
The competitions represent a unique coalition of government and industry aimed at eliminating technical and institutional barriers to acceptance of advanced vehicle technologies and alternative fuels. The competitions are highly valued and supported by automotive manufacturers, suppliers, fuel providers, and the educational community. Auto industry experts judge events, interact with students, and compare technologies. Federal funding for the competitions is heavily leveraged by industry contributions.
Conducting competitions provides significant technical, educational, and promotional benefits to DOE and the nation. More than 15,000 student engineers from more than 235 schools from the United States, Canada, and Mexico have participated.
The premier competition, FutureTruck, provides a way for engineering schools to participate in hands-on research and development with leading-edge automotive propulsion, fuels, materials, and emissions control technologies. The objectives of the competition are to explore and refine production-feasible advanced propulsion technologies that improve the efficiency of sport utility vehicles. At the same time, hundreds of the country's best young engineers are gaining invaluable experience developing and implementing the latest automotive technologies.
Several innovations and ongoing research projects have resulted from the competitions. Examples include the following:
In FutureTruck 2000, a 13% improvement was attained in on-road fuel efficiency (MPGE), and a 26% reduction was attained in greenhouse gas emissions, compared to the stock Chevrolet Suburban
In Ethanol Vehicle Challenge 2000, the winning vehicle in the emissions event (University of Illinois at Chicago) met the California Air Resources Board ultra-low emissions vehicle standard - one of the toughest in the world.
Northwestern University developed a gas quality sensor, Old Dominion University developed a gaseous fuel injector that is now an OEM component, and other teams developed several complex emission-control systems.
Four universities were awarded $1.2 million in research grants on the basis of their competition experience.
Three university hybrid electric vehicles were used to help validate the draft Society of Automotive Engineers Hybrid Electric Vehicle Emissions Procedures.
More than 250 student papers and over 20 Argonne technical papers have been published.
Future Plans
The competitions continue to grow in sophistication and complexity. New competitions based on ethanol reformation to hydrogen for use in fuel cell vehicles are under discussion. Both Ford and General Motors have made a commitment to long-term support for these competitions on the basis of their benefits in technology development and demonstration.

Fuel ethanol FAQ

More about ethanol as a fuel