Off to the races: Colorado State University selected to compete in EcoCAR3

Colorado State University is back in the race to build a greener car.

CSU was one of 16 universities selected to participate in EcoCAR 3, a national automotive engineering program sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy and General Motors. More than 300 university student teams applied for the national competition, which kicks off this fall.

“It’s really exciting,” said Thomas Bradley, CSU mechanical engineering professor and EcoCAR advisor. “We will be competing with schools that are considered the premier automotive engineering schools in North America.”

This is the second time CSU has been selected for the EcoCAR program.

CSU students currently are competing in the EcoCAR 2 contest, which is in its third and final year. In June, the team travels to Michigan where their redesigned, hydrogen-electric hybrid Chevrolet Malibu will undergo testing and then to Washington, D.C.

The CSU car operates on a combination of compressed hydrogen gas and electricity, and uses no gasoline. Its only emission is water produced by a reaction between fuel cells, hydrogen, oxygen and electricity for propulsion. It is the only hydrogen-fueled car in the EcoCAR 2 competition.

"I believe that we have a great opportunity to demonstrate this vehicle and our hydrogen-hybrid technology before an influential and interested audience,” Bradley said.

The EcoCAR 3 program also requires student teams to revamp a GM vehicle.

Over the next four years, CSU students will convert a Chevrolet Camaro into a hybrid electric car that gets better gas mileage and emits fewer greenhouse gases but still maintains the performance of the iconic American muscle car.

GM donates the vehicle and provides mentors for the student teams. The teams also receive funding to support the project and in-kind donations from regional and national vendors.

Bradley said CSU students submitted a 50-page application that outlined not only potential ideas but also the resources available to them at the University.

“It’s very competitive,” he said. “Just because you were selected before doesn’t mean you will be again. The sponsors evaluate the students’ ideas and also whether CSU has the institutional knowledge and support to help them complete the project.”