MSU EcoCAR team takes victory lap

By Dennis Seid/NEMS Daily Journal

STARKVILLE – For the second time in three years, Mississippi State University lapped the competition.
Last month, MSU students won the overall title in the EcoCAR competition, a three-year advanced vehicle technology competition. In 2007, it won the ChallengeX competition.
And on Tuesday, the team took a victory lap around campus before being showered with praise and applause by university leaders at the Center for Advanced Vehicular Systems at the MSU Thad Cochran Research, Technology and Economic Development Park.
In front of a cowbell-ringing, sign-waving crowd, MSU President Mark Keenum said, “This is tantamount to Mississippi State University winning a national championship. We competed against the best of the best.”
In fact, MSU beat 15 other universities across North America for top honors. All told, the team won 20 first-place awards, plus several other awards that came with cash prizes totaling some $23,000.
The money will be put back into CAVS and the EcoCAR effort, which concludes next year.
For its winning entry, MSU used a battery pack which provided an electric range of 60 miles, and a 1.3-liter GM turbodiesel helped the vehicle get 118 miles per gallon gas equivalent.
“We weren’t competing against the other schools – they were competing against each other,” Keenum said. “We were a class among ourselves.”
Indeed, MSU scored 844 of a possible 1,000 points. Second-place Virginia Tech trailed with 691 points, followed by Penn State with 620.
“This is one of the proudest moments of my life,” said Marshall Molen, a distinguished professor in MSU’s Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering who served as faculty adviser for the team.
Matthew Doude, MSU’s team project leader, felt good about the team’s chances going into the competition, but said he didn’t think it would win in such dominating fashion.
“But we’ll take it,” he said.
After a road-testing phase at GM’s Proving Grounds in Yuma, Ariz., Doude said the team felt that its converted Saturn sport utility vehicle had been the best performer. But, Doude said, there wasn’t time for the team to relax in the presentation phase, which took place in San Diego.
Next year, MSU will be back to defend its title in Detroit. Until then, the team – and the other 15 teams who competed – will tweak their designs to see who comes out on top.