Virginia Tech recently was named the overall winner of EcoCAR: The NeXt Challenge, a three-year collegiate vehicle engineering competition sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy and General Motors (GM). The Virginia Tech team designed and built an extended-range electric vehicle using E85 (ethanol) and capable of achieving fuel efficiency of 81.9 miles per gallon gasoline equivalent. The team used NI technology to design, prototype, validate and deploy a control strategy for the hybrid components of the vehicle.
To interface with and control the vehicle, the Virginia Tech team chose CompactRIO to act as a hybrid vehicle supervisory controller that would balance power distribution between the vehicle’s combustion and electric systems. The controller was programmed with LabVIEW, which also served as the runtime environment for the main driver display in the vehicle. The LabVIEW Statechart Module was used to create a high-level state machine control architecture for splitting torque between the hybrid components. Prior to deploying their control strategy to hardware, the team used NI VeriStand and NI PXI to create a hardware-in-the-loop simulation and validation system that evaluated the fuel and electric energy consumption of the vehicle as well as test safety features.
Sixteen North American universities participated in EcoCAR and re-engineered GM-donated vehicles to minimize fuel consumption and emissions while maintaining its utility, safety and performance. In addition to winning the overall competition, Virginia Tech won awards for Shortest 60-0 MPH Braking Distance, Best AVL Drive Quality, Best Dynamic Consumer Acceptability and Best Fuel Consumption. The team also received the National Instruments Most Innovative Use of Graphical System Design award. NI is a platinum sponsor of EcoCAR.