By STEVEN NALLEY
Mississippi State University’s Center for Advanced Vehicular Research will host several guest speakers, tours and technology demonstrations at “Movin’ Maroon” 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 “Movin’ Maroon,” 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 MSU’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 wasn’t the first such competition where MSU students were recognized.
“Before EcoCAR, before that competition, we were involved in Challenge X,” Pratt said. “It was hosted by GM and it was the same kind of competition. We placed first overall. It began in 2004 and went to 2008.”
Matthew Doude, MSU EcoCAR team leader, said where MSU’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.
“It’s a lot of improvement over a couple of years’ time,” Doude said. “New technologies came out and allowed that big jump.”
Pratt said as much as changing technology excites her, changes to the team excite her even more.
“It’s been interesting to see how the team changes every year,” Pratt said. “We get some new, fresh perspectives, and that’s just been interesting to see.”
Doude said the EcoCAR team is open to all MSU students of all majors.
“We’re looking for a lot more than just engineers,” Doude said. “We need business majors, we need commmunications and public relations, we need people with Web design experience, video design, photography.”
In addition to the test drive vehicles, Doude said, some vehicles will be on static display, including MSU’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 “Movin’ Maroon;” 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.
“With 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,” Doude said. “For example, with EcoCAR, we worked with a lot of politicians like Gregg Harper.”