UNIVERSITY PARK — Penn State’s Advance Vehicle Team hosted an open house Monday morning at the Transportation Research Building on Penn State’s campus to present their progress in the EcoCAR 2 challenge.
Several dozen people showed up to tour Penn State’s seven eco-friendly vehicles, enjoy refreshments and get updates on the competition.
Fifteen other North American universities are participating in the competition, now in its third year, to build the best plug-in electric vehicle from a 2013 Chevrolet Malibu.
Teams are evaluated each year at the national competition on a number of categories, ranging from best website to best electrical presentation. Penn State took home 11 awards last year, including the overall championship, and six awards the year before.
The team has more than 40 students and is part of the Thomas D. Larson Pennsylvania Transportation Institute.
Last year’s winnings netted the team $18,000, but the crew has its sights set on another championship at the competition finals in Washington, D.C., in May.
“Going into this year, our goal is to accomplish just as much as last year’s team and more,” said Cheyenne Sexton, the communications manager for the Advance Vehicle Team. “We want to show all the good engineering careers can do for the community and the value of this technology.”
Penn State President Rodney Erickson drove up to the garage in the team’s hybrid electric competition vehicle, which can go 40 miles on one charge. The team hopes to get that number up to 200 miles per charge by the final competition.
A few students working on the project picked up Erickson from Old Main and offered him the keys.
“It was pretty cool too see President Erickson drive the car through campus,” said Tyler Quinn, a senior in charge of the mechanical engine bay team.
Erickson was given a tour of the car’s engine and battery system by the student team members. He also spoke for five minutes at a podium outside the garage.
“It’s something that I’ve taken great pride in over the last three years,” said Erickson. “I think it is such a wonderful example of Penn State in so many ways. It captures the competitive spirit of the university and it captures the fact that when there’s a challenge out there, Penn State students and faculty will want to be involved in that challenge.”
State College Mayor Elizabeth Goreham was also on hand to talk about the impact Penn State’s research has on the town and gown relationship.
“I get the chance to talk about some of the important ways our town benefits from Penn State and its students,” said Goreham. “This is the future. Things are happening fast.”
The team’s goal is to have the car ready for someone to purchase by the national competition by maintaining all safety and performance standards while also making it as environmentally friendly as possible.
Kevin Horne is a Penn State journalism student