A tradition in innovation

The Chebrolet Camaro donated for EcoCar3.

Photo from EcoCar3 flickr.

The University of Waterloo Alternative Fuels Team prepares for EcoCar3

Ben Gaffney is in the second year of his Masters of Science degree in Mechanical Engineering – he is also one of the new team leads in upcoming EcoCar3 Advanced Vehicle Technology Competition. Ben joined the University of Waterloo Alternative Fuels Team (UWAFT) in his fourth year of his undergrad at Waterloo and decided to extend his university experience into research and leadership roles with the team.

On May 1 it was announced that the team had been selected to compete in EcoCar3. Over the next four years they’ll be working to convert a donated Chevrolet Camaro into a Plug-In Hybrid Electric Vehicle that can deliver optimal performance to Canadian drivers in cold weather road conditions. The application took eight months for the team to complete, and they were ecstatic to find out they had made it – again.

“Being the only Canadian university to be in all three EcoCar competitions is extremely special.  We are also pretty excited to have the opportunity to work on a classic muscle car, the Camaro, in the upcoming competition!” said Ben.

First, Ben and UWAFT will wrap up year three of EcoCar2 as they get ready to compete in June with a 2013 Chevrolet Malibu, which they converted to run as an all-wheel drive series plug-in hybrid electric vehicle. As he joined UWAFT in the middle of EcoCar2, Ben is looking forward to the beginning design phases of EcoCar3, and all of the learning opportunities he knows will come with it.

“This competition is unparalleled in academia in terms of its connection to industry, learning experiences for the next generation of engineers, and the opportunities that it creates,” he said, looking forward to beginning the four-year program.

You can read more about Ben & UWAFT’s success on the Daily Bulletin and Waterloo News.


The EcoCar2 car.

July 2014: An update from University of Waterloo Alternative Fuels Team members Patrick Carroll and Ben Gaffney

The alternative future: A look at a student design team that is making eco-friendly cars a reality

The University of Waterloo Alternative Fuels Team (UWAFT) has just completed the EcoCAR 2 competition and has been accepted into the next competition in the series, EcoCAR 3! This past June, UWAFT was at the General Motors (GM) proving grounds in Milford, Michigan to take part in the final evaluation of the EcoCAR 2 competition; a North American engineering collegiate competition sponsored by the US Department of Energy and General Motors.  Competing against 14 other schools from across North America, UWAFT looked to make a car that was innovative, eco-friendly and performance driven while maintaining consumer acceptability.  This vision was realized through a 2013 Chevrolet Malibu, converted into a Series Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicle.  The car can run on pure electricity as well as E85, a biofuel that burns cleaner than regular gasoline and can be made from corn or sugar cane.  The idea is that one day, eco-cars such as UWAFT’s will become a standard design in the automotive industry.

The EcoCAR2 competition, which took place from June 1-12, enabled teams to compete in several technical, business and communications events. The vehicles underwent engineering tests to determine readiness for production, and moreover prove the viability of the advanced technology vehicles. At General Motors’ Milford Proving Ground for the year three competition, UWAFT had worked alongside a dedicated GM technician fixing any last minute issues which arose during vehicle testing and refinement.  A lot of work was put in in only a few short days!  However, during one event, the car’s belted generator system suffered a catastrophic failure when the idler pulley broke.  The team pushed on to complete as many events as possible, and performed well during the accompanying design presentations by impressing many high ranking engineers and executives. A lot of lessons were learned from the EcoCAR 2 competition, and the team is eager to draw on these for years to come.

UWAFT at EcoFest

On top of technical work, a recently developed partnership with Wilfrid Laurier University allowed UWAFT to expand the business and communications areas of the team.  The business team has been helpful in securing sponsorships, managing human resources and budget tracking while the outreach team continuously hosts events.  Being one of two Canadian teams chosen for the competition, we continuously reach out to the local Waterloo community and its surrounding areas. UWAFT recently held an event called EcoFest, at the Waterloo Region Museum, to showcase EcoCAR and help convey the team’s ideas, inventions and passion with the public. The event consisted of interactive exhibits, with information about the car, but also presented the overall project that the team had been working on. The team of engineers was present at the event to provide a thorough run through of the technology and mechanisms that help the car run efficiently. Although these may seem like nominal tasks compared to building a car, these two sub-teams have been key to keeping work on track throughout the competition.

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