UW Hybrid Vehicle Team


The Team

The Hybrid Vehicle Team consists mainly of undergraduate students from the University of Wisconsin who work together to build a hybrid electric vehicle. Many of the members have little to no previous automotive experience but they learn from working alongside seasoned members. The master/apprentice type learning environment lends itself well to the constant turn over of students as the old members graduate and new students step up to teach the next generation.

The team is subdivided into five groups, each responsible for a different system of the vehicle. The Mechanical and Drivetrain Groups primarily function to facilitate major changes in the structure and architecture of the vehicle; from frame redesign to adding an electric motor, they do it all. The Control and Electrical Groups are responsible for maintaining all of the vehicle computer and electrical components; they program the ECU and rewire the vehicle to accommodate they hybrid subsystems. The Outreach group publishes newsletters, maintains the website, and involve the team in community and regional events. Each of the individual group leaders coordinate projects, teach the new members, and take responsibility for their particular aspects of the vehicle's development.

Past Competitions

In the team’s first years, 1992-1995, the main competition event was the HEV challenge. The original Electric Cow (Ford Escort wagon) was built for these competitions.

The FutureCar Challenge became the team’s focus in 1995. Originally, the Future Cow (Dodge Intrepid) was used and took third place over all at the first year of competition. In the fall of 1997 the team change its focus to their third HEV, the Aluminum Cow (Mercury Sable). The Aluminum Cow then went on to win the next two competitions.

FutureTruck 2000 competition followed the FutureCar Challenge. It was a 5-year competition similar to the FutureCar Challenge series, but with new and bigger challenges. For the first 2 years of the competition the team built the "Moollennium" (Chevrolet Suburban) which took fourth place the first year and second place the second. For the last 3 years of the FutureTruck competition, the team redesigned a 2002 Ford Explorer into a hybrid SUV. Each year the team performed very well at competition, taking first place. The final year of the competition, the explorer finished with a 125 point lead over second place.

Challenge X is the newest competition that the team is currently undertaking. Different from FutureCar or FutureTruck, Challenge X focuses on the modeling and simulation aspect of design in the first year. The second and third years are similar though, where when the team passes the first year, they receive a Chevrolet Equinox to transform into a hybrid vehicle.

Current Competition

The Challenge X Program is a four-year competition sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy and General Motors Corporation for 2005-2008. Seventeen universities from across North America were selected to participate in Challenge X. During the first year of the competition, team concentrated on modeling, simulation, and testing of the major vehicle components, consisting primarily of the powertrain and any major modifications like the frame or body selected by each school. Teams that passed the first year received keys to a 2005 Chevrolet Equinox. During the second year of competition, the objective of each team was to incorporate the powertrain modeled in the first year into the vehicle. Other objectives were minor modifications to increase the fuel economy and reduce the total greenhouse gas impact of the vehicle; without compromising the safety, convenience, or performance consumers expect in a Sport Utility Vehicle. The first year competition of Challenge X took place at the GM University in Auburn Hills, MI from June 6-9, 2005. After two days of presenting control strategy and technical design, the University of Wisconsin-Madison Hybrid Vehicle Team took 10th place with 633.4 points and 3rd place for the Freescale Semiconductor - Silicon on the Move Award. The competition ended with a key presentation ceremony for each of the teams receiving a new Chevrolet Equinox.


The University of Wisconsin–Madison Hybrid Vehicle Team designed a four-wheel drive, charge sustaining, split-parallel hybrid-electric crossover vehicle for entry into the Challenge X 2007 competition. This multi-year project is built on a 2005 Chevrolet Equinox platform. Fuel economy results, greenhouse gas impact (GHGI), acceleration, component packaging, and consumer acceptability were appropriately weighted to establish Wisconsin’s vehicle technical specifications. Wisconsin's Equinox, nicknamed the Moovada, is a split-parallel hybrid utilizing a General Motors 110 kW 1.9 L CIDI Diesel engine coupled to a GM F40 6-speed manual transmission. The rear axle is powered by a Ballard AC induction motor/gearbox powerlimited to 59 kW and powered by a 44-module (317 volts nominal) Johnson Controls nickel-metal hydride battery pack. The vehicle is fueled by B20 biodiesel, which has a lower GHGI impact than conventional diesel fuel. The engine control unit is a Motorola MPC555 based Powertrain Control Module (PCM) embedded controller with 38 inputs, 28 outputs and dual CAN bus capability, it has been specifically designed for automotive applications. Wisconsin is utilizing ANSI C language for code development and MotoTron development tools for programming the controller.

During the second year of the Challenge X competition, the team integrated the powertrain into the stock Equinox. Year two focused on powertrain development and demonstration of the energy use and emissions goals of the competition. This was accomplished by finalizing the control strategy developed in the first year of the competition and physically mounting the powertrain components into the vehicle. The Challenge X year two competition took place at the GM proving grounds in Mesa, AZ in June. Wisconsin took 2nd overall in points, highlighted with awards for the Dr. Donald Streit Sportsmanship Award, Best Engineering & Fabrication Workmanship Award, Outstanding Long-Term Faculty Advisor award, Best Technical Presentation, Best Vehicle Development Review, Best Acceleration, Most Improved Outreach Program, 3rd in Best Written Technical Reports, 1st place for Freescale Semiconductor: Silicon on the Move, and 3rd for Best realization of VTS.

During the third year of Challenge X, the UW-Madison hybrid vehicle team concentrated on tuning and perfecting the design of Moovada. Aside from slightly reducing the battery voltage to 288 volts; the powertrain components remained the same for this phase of the competition. To reach a 99% buyoff in year three, the team is concentrated on perfecting and remaking the exhaust and catalyst system, they also refined the controls system and repackaged the batteries. Both the interior and exterior were modified to reflect a more "consumer acceptable" vehicle. Testing and calibration was also done to assure the occupants a smooth and flawless vehicle ride quality. In year three, team vehicles were judged extensively in categories such as towing capacity, and consumer acceptability. Teams were also required to give technical oral presentations and submit an SAE-style technical paper.

The fourth year of the program will give students the opportunity to further implement innovative technologies in their vehicles, such as global positioning and entertainment systems that will help meet consumer demands for safety, security entertainment and convenience. This final year will also allow teams to focus on developing and implementing marketing plans for their vehicles to promote the goals of the Challenge X program.


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