Engineering Building A103Q
Fort Collins, CO 80523
Faculty Advisors: Dr. Thomas Bradley
Team Leaders: Jake Bucher and Shawn Salisbury
Communication Managers: Emily Keats
Business Manager: Unknown
Graduate Advisor: Benjamin Geller
Colorado State University's Vehicle Innovation Team (CSU VIT) combines approximately 35 students who are dedicated to developing and building innovative green automotive technologies with decades of experience in automotive and energy research. This diverse team brings expertise and experience to the project in a variety of fields including manufacturing, systems engineering, mechanical engineering, electrical and computer engineering, and design. The team works out of the CSU Motorsports Engineering Research Center, which supports students in the fields of vehicle dynamics, vehicle structures and materials, vehicle aerodynamics, and power-train system design and vehicle-level control.
As we move towards energy efficient and alternative fuel sources for the next generation of personal vehicles, many people are unsure of the differences between electric hybrid and fuel cell technologies. While both technologies offer increased fuel efficiency over their traditional counterparts, there are some distinct differences between the two. For example, a fuel cell plug-in hybrid car utilizes the same technology as a traditional hybrid vehicle with one major difference: a plug-in car uses the output of a fuel cell to power the motor and charge the car's battery. In a fuel cell, hydrogen and oxygen are combined in an electro-chemical reaction that creates electricity with only water as a by-product. For this reason and because the car doesn't run on gasoline, fuel cell cars have zero emissions. Producing zero emissions isn't the only advantage fuel cells have over traditional hybrids, though. Fuel cell vehicles also have higher motor efficiency in part because they use a process known as regenerative breaking, whereby energy created from applying the brakes is stored so that it can be reused by the motor later. To the driver, fuel cell plug-in vehicles have the same performance and feel as traditional hybrid cars, but the fuel cell plug-in hybrid technology hidden under the hood is an innovative difference that is a step toward a healthier planet. For more detailed information, check out fueleconomy.gov. The CSU VIT is building a fuel cell plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (FCPHEV). This fully functioning, front-wheel-drive electric vehicle will be powered by a Unique Mobility 145 kW electric motor and an 18.9 kWh lithium-ion battery from A123 Systems. With these components, the vehicle will have up to 55 miles of all-electric range for commutes and short trips. For longer trips, a small, high-efficiency, hydrogen fuel cell will supply additional energy to achieve a total driving range of more than 200 miles. Although the selected architecture does present a myriad of design challenges, its advantages are significant. Compared to other PHEV technologies, the FCPHEV’s high efficiency, low well-to-wheel emissions and negligible use of petroleum make it superior. Compared to pure electric vehicles, the hydrogen system not only provides additional driving range but also enables fast refueling while maintaining zero tailpipe emissions. This unique combination of advantages embodies the CSU team’s vision for the future of transportation: A vehicle with high efficiency, low emissions and full functionality.