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AVTC History

History of AVTCs

For more than 25 years, the U.S. Department of Energy has sponsored Advanced Vehicle Technology Competitions (AVTCs) in partnership with the North American auto industry. Managed by Argonne National Laboratory, AVTCs represent a unique coalition of government, industry and academic partners who join forces to explore sustainable vehicle solutions. DOE sponsors these competitions to educate the next generation of automotive engineers and accelerate the development and demonstration of technologies of interest to the DOE and the automotive industry.

What are AVTCs?

AVTCs challenge North American universities to reduce the environmental impact of vehicles while retaining performance, consumer acceptability and safety. This year, we celebrate the 25th anniversary of AVTCs. Take a look back at the program over the last 25 years! 

What is the Goal?

Stimulate the development of advanced propulsion and alternative fuel technologies and provide the training ground for the next generation of automotive engineers.

Facts about AVTCs

  • 91 participant universities in North America since 1988
  • 531 individual university teams have competed since 1988
  • 16,500 students have been involved
  • 75% graduates enter automotive industry on average

AVTC History Timeline


  • EcoCAR: The NeXt Challenge

    2008-2011

  • EcoCAR: The NeXt Challenge

    2008-2011

    EcoCAR: The NeXt Challenge

    EcoCAR: The NeXt Challenge (2008-2011) was a three-year collegiate advanced vehicle technology engineering competition established by the United States Department of Energy (DOE) and General Motors (GM), and managed by Argonne National Laboratory.

    The competition challenged 16 universities across North America to reduce the environmental impact of vehicles by minimizing the vehicle's fuel consumption and reducing its emissions while retaining the vehicle's performance, safety and consumer appeal. Students used a real-world engineering process to design and integrate their advanced technology solutions into a GM-donated vehicle.

    Students designed and built advanced propulsion solutions based on vehicle categories from the California Air Resources Board (CARB) zero emissions vehicle (ZEV) regulations. They explored a variety of cutting-edge clean vehicle solutions, including full-function electric, range-extended electric, hybrid, plug-in hybrid and fuel cell technologies. In addition, students incorporated lightweight materials into the vehicles, improve aerodynamics and utilize alternative fuels such as ethanol, biodiesel and hydrogen

    Teams followed a real-world approach modeled after GM's global vehicle development process (GVDP), which gave students valuable experience in real-world engineering practices, resource allocation and meeting deliverables. While previous student engineering competitions focused primarily on hardware modifications, EcoCAR included a unique focus on modeling and simulation, as well as subsystem development and testing.

    Universities included:

    - Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University
    - Georgia Tech
    - Michigan Tech University
    - Mississippi State University
    - Missouri University of Science & Technology
    - North Carolina State University
    - Ohio State University
    - Pennsylvania State University
    - Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology
    - Texas Tech University
    - University of Ontario Institute of Technology
    - University of Victoria
    - University of Waterloo
    - University of Wisconsin
    - Virginia Tech
    - West Virginia University

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  • Challenge X: Crossover to Sustainable Mobility

    2004-2008

    Challenge X: Crossover to Sustainable Mobility

    Challenge X: Crossover to Sustainable Mobility (2004-2008) was a unique four-year engineering competition that provided the opportunity for students across North America to develop advanced propulsion technology solutions that increased energy efficiency and reduce the environmental impact of light-duty vehicles.

    To address the issues surrounding personal mobility (like vehicle fuel economy and emissions), General Motors Corporation (GM), the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), and other government and industry leaders joined to create the advanced vehicle technology competition. This four-year competition managed by Argonne National Laboratory challenged 17 university engineering teams to redesign a Chevrolet Equinox SUV to minimize energy consumption, emissions, and greenhouse gases while maintaining or exceeding the vehicle’s utility, safety, and performance.

    Universities included:

    - Michigan Technological University
    - Mississippi State University
    - Ohio State University
    - Pennsylvania State University
    - Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology
    - San Diego State University
    - Texas Tech University
    - University of Akron
    - University of California, Davis
    - University of Michigan
    - University of Tennessee
    - University of Texas at Austin
    - University of Tulsa
    - University of Waterloo
    - University of Wisconsin-Madison
    - Virginia Tech
    - West Virginia University

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  • FutureTruck

    1999-2004

    FutureTruck

    FutureTruck (1999-2004) was designed to develop alternative propulsion systems and fuels that demonstrate increased energy efficiency and reduced emissions while continuing to meet customer expectations for performance and comfort. The U.S. Department of Energy teamed up with other sponsors to challenge more than 200 of the best and brightest students from 15 universities in the United States and Canada to re-engineer full-size SUVs to meet the needs of the future, producing green, efficient transportation that has the performance, utility, and affordability that customers expect.

    Working with General Motors during first two years of the competition, teams modified Chevrolet Suburbans by using cutting-edge technologies, such as fuel cells and other advanced propulsion systems, space-age materials, and alternative fuels including biodiesel and ethanol (E-85). Teams were also encouraged to develop technologies that reduce total cycle greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. FutureTruck included an event that measures upstream fuel-cycle emissions (pollution resulting from producing and delivering a fuel) and dynamometer emissions measurements.

    The U.S. Department of Energy then worked with Ford Motor Company for the final three years of the FutureTruck competition to redesign Ford Explorers.

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  • Ethanol Vehicle Challenge

    1997-2000

    Ethanol Vehicle Challenge

    The Ethanol Vehicle Challenge (1997-2000) was developed to demonstrate the potential of ethanol to significantly lower emissions, improve performance, increase fuel efficiency, and improve cold starting of vehicles. During the two years of the competition the platform changed – from a 5-passenger sedan (Chevrolet Malibu) to a full-size truck (Chevrolet Silverado) – to reflect consumer demands for larger vehicles and more power. The venues changed – from GM’s Milford Proving Ground in Michigan to a 7-day tour through Ontario, Canada. Events were added (off road, hill climb, trailer tow) or made more challenging (lower cold start temperature. By 2000, the winning vehicle in the emissions event (University of Illinois at Chicago) met the CARB ULEV standard – one of the toughest in the world. 

    Check out the Ethanol Vehicle Challenge photos here


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  • FutureCar Challenge

    1995-1999

    FutureCar Challenge

    The FutureCar Challenge (1995-1999), adopted the goals of the Partnership for a New Generation of Vehicles (PNGV), especially the 3X improvement in fuel economy. USCAR partners, Chrysler, Ford, and General Motors, donated a mix of mid-sized sedans to the schools including Intrepids, Luminas, and Taurus’. Fuel used by the teams included reformulated gasoline, diesel and fischer-trophsch diesel, ethanol, compressed natural gas, liquid petroleum gas, hydrogen, dimethyl ether, and electricity. A wide range of events were held to test the vehicles’ performance and the teams’ ability to communicate their design choices and rationale. Performance improved over time with better batteries, control strategies, and experience. 

    Photos from FutureCar Challenge can be found here

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  • Propane Vehicle Challenge

    1995-1997

    Propane Vehicle Challenge

    The Propane Vehicle Challenge (1995-1997) began with conventional 1996 Chrysler minivan platforms, twelve college teams developed dedicated propane vehicles, while maintaining the performance that consumers expected from gasoline vehicles. The winning entries met the range goal of at least 250 miles with no problem, and the University of Texas-El Paso entry achieved an incredible estimated range of 716 miles upon refueling. 17 colleges and universities participated in the 1997 PVC with some teams using the 1996 Chrysler minivans or Dodge Dakota pickup trucks. For the first time, an award was given for the best component to the University of Texas at El Paso for the development of fuel-distribution spiders. This is a novel fuel-rail design that ensures equal distribution (temperature and pressure) of liquid-phase LPG to each fuel injector.

    Check out the photos from Propane Vehicle Challenge here

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  • HEV Challenge

    1992-1995

    HEV Challenge

    The Hybrid Electric Vehicle (HEV) Challenge (1992-1995), was an intercollegiate competition created by the U.S. DOE and SAE. The HEV Challenge began in 1993 with 18 Ford Escort Wagons and 12 Ground-Up vehicles; twelve Saturn SL2 sedans were added in 1994, and twelve Neons were added in the 1995 HEV Challenge. The HEV Challenge consisted of events in which vehicle designs and overall dynamic performance were evaluated. The events included acceleration, handling, range, emissions, fuel economy, consumer acceptability, engineering design review, and technical reports. All three HEV Challenges represented the most ambitious and difficult engineering research competitions to date. Although they showed that HEV technology is still developing, these competitions set performance benchmarks and established testing procedures that will affect the engineering community far after the last event was completed.

    Check out the photos of the HEV Challenge here!

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  • Natural Gas Vehicle Challenge

    1990-1993

    Natural Gas Vehicle Challenge

    The Natural Gas Vehicle Challenge (1990-1993) was conducted annually which gave teams the opportunity to go back to the drawing board twice to improve the vehicle in areas believed to be lacking. In 1993, twenty-two colleges and universities from the U.S., Canada, and Mexico, including five new entries, converted a GMC 2500 Sierra truck to run on dedicated natural gas. The teams underwent rigorous testing of emissions, fuel economy, performance, driveability, as well as judging by industry experts. In 1991, only three teams earned points in the emissions event whereas in 1993 eleven teams met or exceeded the current federal emissions standards. Seven teams did better than CARB TLEV emissions standards, and three teams met the CARB ULEV standards. The University of Texas – El Paso vehicle (a first year entry) tested less than one half of the ULEV standard. The average EPA combined fuel economy (from both the city and hwy. tests) went from 12.7 mpg in 1991 to 13.6 mpg in 1992 to 14.82 mpg in 1993; a steady, and impressive progression.

    See the photos from NGV Challenge here

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  • Methanol Marathon

    1988-1990

    Methanol Marathon

    The Methanol Marathon (1988-1990) was an alternative fuels competition for college and university students in the U.S. and Canada. General Motors Corporation provided 1988 Chevrolet Corsicas which were converted to operate on an M85 fuel (85% methanol and 15% hydrocarbons).Competition organizers went on to further challenge the student teams by establishing more stringent and controlled tests of their 1988 Chevrolet Corsicas in 1989. An important addition to the Methanol Marathon was the inclusion of a gasoline-powered control vehicle that provided a baseline from which to judge the effectiveness of the conversions. 

    Check out all Methanol Marathon photos here

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EcoCAR 2 is an Advanced Vehicle Technology Competition (AVTC) managed for the U.S. Department of Energy by Argonne National Laboratory. Learn more about EcoCAR 2 →