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KNOXVILLE – A team of researchers from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, is working on building a better, greener car—and General Motors (GM) is supporting it.

UT Knoxville has been selected to join fifteen other universities in the EcoCAR 2: Plugging into the Future Competition. EcoCAR 2, established by the US Department of Energy (DOE) and General Motors (GM), is a three-year collegiate engineering competition that challenges the next generation of automotive engineers to reduce the environmental impact of vehicles without compromising performance, safety, and consumer acceptability.

The team of graduate and undergraduate students—led by Butch Irick, a research professor in the College of Engineering’s Department of Mechanical, Aerospace, and Biomedical Engineering—is required to use the real-world engineering regimen modeled after GM’s Global Vehicle Development Process.

The design will be conducted on a Chevrolet Malibu donated by GM. Students will explore a variety of cutting-edge clean vehicle solutions, including full-function electric, range-extended electric, hybrid, plug-in hybrid and fuel cell technologies. They will also incorporate lightweight materials into the vehicles, improve aerodynamics and utilize alternative fuels such as ethanol, biodiesel, and hydrogen.

“Since 1989, UT has had more than 500 students participate in similar projects. Students who participate in these projects begin their engineering careers with valuable experience,” said Irick. “The environmental benefits of training future engineers in advanced vehicle technologies are clear. If the environmental impact of the transportation sector is to be reduced, it’s up to engineers to make that happen.”

In the first year, the team will use math-based design tools to compare and select an advanced vehicle powertrain that meets the goals of the competition.

In the second and third years, the team students will translate their design into reality and develop a working vehicle that meets the competition’s goals. The competition will culminate at the end of each academic year where all the schools and their vehicles will come together to compete against one another in more than a dozen static and dynamic events. Cash awards are given to winners of the different events as well as a substantial award to the overall winner.

GM provides production vehicles, vehicle components, seed money, technical mentoring, and operational support to EcoCAR 2. The DOE and its research and development facility, Argonne National laboratory, provide competition management, team evaluation, and technical and logistical support.

For more information on the student engineering program, the participating schools, or the competition sponsors, please visit or

C O N T A C T :

Kim Cowart (865-974-0686,

Whitney Holmes (865-974-5460,