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By STEVEN NALLEY
Mississippi State Universityâ€™s Center for Advanced Vehicular Research will host several guest speakers, tours and technology demonstrations at â€śMovinâ€™ Maroonâ€ť 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. today.
At 12:30 p.m., MSU will also hold an interest meeting to recruit students for its EcoCAR 2 program. The MSU entry that won the national EcoCAR competition in 2010 will also be one of several vehicles visitors can test drive at â€śMovinâ€™ Maroon,â€ť including the Nissan Leaf and Crown Victorias with propane fuel conversions.
The EcoCar Challenge, organized by General Motors and the U.S. Department of Energy, lets students from 16 universities compete to reduce the environmental impact of a given vehicle. Lee Pratt, outreach coordinator for MSUâ€™s EcoCAR team, said EcoCAR competitions take place over the course of three years, with the first year spent on design and virtual simulations, the second modifying an actual vehicle and the third refining the design for production. The first EcoCAR competition was in its second year when MSU placed first, she said, and it wasnâ€™t the first such competition where MSU students were recognized.
â€śBefore EcoCAR, before that competition, we were involved in Challenge X,â€ť Pratt said. â€śIt was hosted by GM and it was the same kind of competition. We placed first overall. It began in 2004 and went to 2008.â€ť
Matthew Doude, MSU EcoCAR team leader, said where MSUâ€™s Challenge X vehicle got about 50 miles per gallon, their EcoCAR, an electric vehicle with a petroleum-based range extender, gets the equivalent of 118 miles per gallon.
â€śItâ€™s a lot of improvement over a couple of yearsâ€™ time,â€ť Doude said. â€śNew technologies came out and allowed that big jump.â€ť
Pratt said as much as changing technology excites her, changes to the team excite her even more.
â€śItâ€™s been interesting to see how the team changes every year,â€ť Pratt said. â€śWe get some new, fresh perspectives, and thatâ€™s just been interesting to see.â€ť
Doude said the EcoCAR team is open to all MSU students of all majors.
â€śWeâ€™re looking for a lot more than just engineers,â€ť Doude said. â€śWe need business majors, we need commmunications and public relations, we need people with Web design experience, video design, photography.â€ť
In addition to the test drive vehicles, Doude said, some vehicles will be on static display, including MSUâ€™s Challenge X vehicle, a Tesla Roadster, and an 18-wheeler retrofitted with battery-powered air conditioning, slated for discussion by MSU professor Mike Mazzola. Mazzola is one of several professors discussing vehicular research at â€śMovinâ€™ Maroon;â€ť others include Glenn Steele with the Sustainable Energy Research Center and Marshall Molen with CAVS.
Other special guests who will discuss the importance of alternative fuel technologies include U.S. Congressman Gregg Harper, R-Miss., Mississippi Development Authority Energy Division Director Motice Bruce, Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality engineer Keith Head, Oktibbeha County Sheriff Dolph Bryan and Starkville Mayor Parker Wiseman.
â€śWith the different projects we have here, amongst all of us, we have worked with almost all of those people on one different projects with another,â€ť Doude said. â€śFor example, with EcoCAR, we worked with a lot of politicians like Gregg Harper.â€ť