University of Alabama team takes fourth in national EcoCar competition

University of Alabama team takes fourth in national EcoCar competition
The University of Alabama EcoCar3 team placed fourth in the national competition. (contributed)

Dubbed as the “Team to Watch” in the 2015 EcoCar3 Year One competition, the University of Alabama engineering students knew they were going to have to work hard to live up to their reputation in Year Two.

Fast-forward a year and the new kids on the block not only lived up to but have exceeded expectations at the 2015 competition in Yuma, Arizona.

Competing with 16 other university teams from the United States and Canada, UA’s EcoCar3 team placed fourth, moving up four places from last year’s finish.

“For Alabama, we have not been in this kind of competition since 1992, so we really had nothing to lay the foundation for the team, something other teams have. It’s definitely something to note that we are new but we were able to do so well as a new school,” said Kaylie Crosby, project manager for the team.

The EcoCar3 is the U.S. Department of Energy’s Advanced Vehicle Technology Competition for collegiate engineering teams to redesign a 2016 Chevrolet Camaro to make it energy-efficient while preserving the features, performance and speed of a muscle car.

After focusing on design in Year One, the UA students were dedicated to safety and consumer appeal, Crosby said.

“We have identified our target market as men and women 40-50 years of age with a median yearly household income of $100,000,” Crosby said. “Every decision we are making is geared toward meeting that target market.”

Crosby and other team members said hard work and outside support were key in their 2016 performance.

“We could not have reached this kind of success without the monetary support of our sponsors,” said Crosby. “Our sponsors make it happen and we are thankful for their support.”

While the Year Two competition ended in May, Crosby said team members are already back at work preparing for Year Three by reviewing scorecards to make corrections based on General Motors standards.

“This summer, the team is making sure the systems we have in place are now up to our standards. We want to redo, refine and perfect.” said Crosby.

Work this summer will also focus on the integration and functionality of the car as students work on electrical components and making the car lighter.

The team will experience leadership changes in for the 2017 competition as Trevor Ford becomes project manager. He spent the past semester learning his responsibilities and preparing for next year.

UA EcoCar 3 Awards graph“I’ve already started doing some work this summer in preparation for the fall, and I’m so excited to get back to Tuscaloosa to work with the team,” said Ford. “I know most of the team members already and they are really supportive and helpful, so that makes the transition into my role that much easier.”

UA Faculty Adviser Paulius Puzinauskus said students gain more than engineering experience through EcoCar.

“They learn so much more than just engineering because of the need to interact and work as a team. They make technical decisions as well as ethical and economic decisions while also looking at the big picture,” said Puzinauskus.

With the Year Three competition and the mission of “refinement,” UA’s team is well on its way to improving their car and showing that they can compete with veteran teams.

In the next year, the team hopes to have their car fully operational, something that will bring about challenges. Team members said they don’t focus on the competiton scores or how they will place in future team standings.

“We can’t worry about the score. We just have to do the best we possibly can,” said Puzinauskus. “In the end, I want them to feel like they did the best that they could and know what it’s like to be fully dedicated in something by putting the program ahead of them and have the whole team succeed as a group. That’s a whole lot more important than the standings.”

For more information, visit UA’s EcoCar 3 team.

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