FutureCar explained

FutureCar is a national competition between 13 of North Americas finest engineering schools. The goal is to produce a midsize automobile that has the following characteristics comperable to todays conventional cars yet achieve 80 miles per gallon.

Performance
Clean Emissions
Comfort
Safety
Relyability

To achieve these goals the schools use a combination of power generation schemes. Most schools use a hybrid combination of combustion and electric power. This allows a small efficient combustion engine (1.5L or smaller) to be used. This small engine doesn't have enough power for acceleration so during acceleration, power is drawn from an onboard battery pack and transfered to the wheels through an electric motor.

The Michigan Technological University FutureCar, called the North Wind is what's called a series hybrid electric vehicle. Universities that don't use the series method, opt for the parallel or a combination of the two technologies. In the series hybrid the internal combustion engine is connected to an alternator (generator) which generates power to drive an electric motor which drives the wheels. The engine has no mechanical connection to the drive wheels. This allows the engine to run at an RPM independant ot the drive wheels. This alows the onboard computer to run the engine at it's maximum efficiency points (RPM and Torque) to produce different amounts of power. The amount of power that the engine produces depends on several factors including presant power draw and the state of charge of the battereis. The drawback of the series hybrid is that it is teoretically less efficient at constant highway speeds. The advantage is better efficiency during city driving.

The parallel hybrid has the small engine coupled directly to the drive wheels similarly to a conventional automobile. However in the hybrid parallel, an electric motor/generator is connected to the transmission. When the car is accelerating the motor/alternator acts as a motor and provides additional torque. During puriods of non acceleration or exhertion (hill climbing) the motor/generator acts as a generator tapping the engine's extra power and converting it to electricity to charge the batteries.

Both technologies are charge sustaining, meaning that you theoretically never have to stop to charge the batteries. As long as you have fuel in the tank you can keep driving.

Speaking of fuel, that's one of the areas that seperates the schools from each other. Some of the fuels used during last years competition were compressed natural gass, ethanol, biodiesel and diesel and probablly others that I can't remember.

The MTU FutureCar

Specs from 1998 competition

Combustion Engine 1.5L 4 cyl. Peugeot naturally aspirated, indirect injection
Alternator/Generator 32KW Unique Mobility
Electric Drive Motor 75KW (100HP) Unique Mobility
Car Body used for a Base 1997 Dodge Intrepid LHS
Acceleration can't remember but its slightly faster than stock
Top Speed just over 80mph, Hey it only has one gear and the motor tops out it's RPM!
Fuel Economy over 40 MPG highway
Weight 3800 (I think) she aint light! Copper, Lead and Steel are heavy metals!
Battery Pack 26 Hawker Genesis Lead acid batteries for 338VDC
Transmission (for electric motor) Funk Engineering, aluminum, 1 speed, 8:1 gear ratio 96% efficient

We have logged over 5000 miles of test driving since 98 competition!

What I do for FutureCar

Designed and built the interrior lighting controller.

Designed and built the buffer board to interface between the computer and the rest of the car.

Currently I am woking on the device that communicates between the onboard computer and the Chrysler CCD bus. This device is needed to comunicate with the instrument cluster and the electric power steering inut. This project will eventually be put on my projects page.

 

For more information about MTU FutureCar, below are some links and contacts.

FCCpictures My FutureCar Pictures Page
MTU FutureCar Official MTU FutureCar web Page (may be out of date)
Riding the Northwind˙˙ An article published by Autoweek about our car the first year of competition
Clyde e-mail our team leader
Dr. john Beard e-mail our faculty adviser