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ASU students work to create energy-efficient car

About 65 students are working on the four-year long project to build a energy-efficient Camaro.

EcoCAR 3

The EcoCAR 3 team at a meeting in December 2014, held in our garage space. (Photo courtesy of EcoCAR 3)

A group of ASU students are setting out to turn a regular Chevrolet Camaro into a fuel-efficient, eco-friendly vehicle.

The EcoCAR 3 team consists of about 65 graduate and undergraduate students, most of whom are engineering majors. The competition lasts four years, with different competitions and requirements each year, team member Ashley Yost said. This is the first year for the team, and they will receive the actual car in the fall semester of next year, Yost said.

“Each year of the competition has set deliverables that are used as a timeline,” Yost said in an email. “Year One focuses primarily in architecture selection, or understanding how we will make our team’s Camaro into a fuel-efficient vehicle.”

Team member Cassie Fincher said students from across the country compete in each stage of the competition, which will conclude in May 2018.

This year, the team will travel to Washington for the first year’s competition, which will include judging about architecture design and understanding of building a fuel-efficient vehicle.

Yost said the competition requires the team to reduce energy consumption, decrease well-to-wheel greenhouse gas emissions, reduce tailpipe emissions and maintain utility, performance and safety while keeping costs considered, Yost said.

“The vehicle we intend to make is supposed to reflect upon our main consumers and what they find acceptable,” Yost said. “Our Project Management team had the task of researching who our main consumer market would be and from that, our engineering team had to ensure we met their acceptability requirements.”

The cars are also expected to meet different standards based on their market demographics.

“Since all teams are from different parts of North America, each team’s consumer market audience is different,” Yost said.

Brian Hennesy, the group’s project manager, previously worked in the car industry after graduating with a degree in business and economics. He said he applied to be on the team after receiving a mass email from ASU.

"I didn’t know about the EcoCAR 3 project until I applied for the position," Hennesy said in an email. "My passion for the project comes from my interest in vehicles since I can remember. The EcoCAR 3 project really stood out to me because it focuses on the leading edge of vehicle technology."

Yost said a General Motors representative mentors each team, who guides the team in architecture and parts knowledge.

The team is also required to find sponsorship from local businesses, which provide money or other support, Yost said.

Each student spends between 12 to 15 hours working in the garage, located on the Polytechnic campus, Yost said.

"The success in team management stems from team integration and team leadership," Hennesy said. "There are five engineering sub-teams: mechanical, electrical, controls, system simulation and modeling, and innovation, all with team leads and team lead assists. These are the teams that dive into the details of powertrain design and the vehicle user interface. The engineering team members get real-world, hands-on experience of what it is like to work for a company like General Motors by completing work that mirrors a real-world design project."

Both agreed that the hands-on experience helped create skilled engineers who could bring real-world experience to problems in the future.

“In the end, the purpose of the competition is not to create the next edition of the Chevrolet Camaro, but train the next generation of automotive engineers,” Yost said. “With these skills, they can take their talents, what they’ve learned and apply them to the jobs they take in the automotive industry.”

Reach the reporter at or follow @CorinaVanek on Twitter.

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