Mississippi State students redesign their car for maximum fuel efficiency amid gas crisis

STARKVILLE, Miss. (WCBI) – As rising gas prices have drivers looking for new ways to save fuel, a team of Mississippi State students has spent the past four years designing a safer and more fuel-efficient car.

“It’s a mild hybrid, not a plug-in hybrid,” says MSU Associate Professor Dr. Randy Follett. “All the battery charging happens from its driving and regenerative braking and the electric propulsion components are really there to improve acceleration when needed, but also to recuperate energy when possible. “

Dr. Follett oversees the state EcoCAR Mobility Challenge comprised of nearly 60 students across 15 majors, tasked with using advanced propulsion systems and vehicle automation to improve the performance of a 2019 Chevrolet Blazer.

“The system we have chosen is a vehicle architecture where we have the gasoline engine that drives the front wheels and the electric motor in the rear that drives the rear wheels,” says Jagdeo Singh, Head of Propulsion and modelization.

When the team started, the Chevrolet Blazer did about 27 mpg. After all of their modifications, the EcoCAR team says it should be doing at least 32 mpg.

“The goal here is not only to assist the driver, but also to improve fuel economy, so we’ve designed our software systems to take that into account,” says Vance Hudson, engineering manager of the team. “What should we do for the vehicle that may be in the lane in front of us or traveling slower than us?”

MSU is competing with 11 other schools in the latest in a series of advanced vehicle technology competitions hosted by the U.S. Department of Energy.

“All of this is playing with the autonomous vehicle systems that they had to create,” says Dr. Follett. “As well as talking with smart infrastructure to give additional opportunities for energy harvesting.”

As gasoline prices continue to reach record highs, the team says this is a concrete reminder of the importance of their work.

“It makes me proud of what I do,” Singh says. “It justifies all the late nights we spent working on the car.”

The EcoCAR team says their vehicle is around 95% complete and they will spend the next few months carrying out tests and calibrations ahead of the contest in May.

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