Skip to content Skip to main navigation Report an accessibility issue

UT Chosen for 12th Advanced Vehicle Technology Competition

Photo of EcoCAR team

UT’s EcoCAR Team

The Tickle College of Engineering, College of Communication and Information, and the Haslam College of Business at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, have been chosen to participate in the EcoCAR Mobility Challenge, an Advanced Vehicle Technology Competition (AVTCs) managed by Argonne National Laboratory sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy, General Motors and MathWorks.

UT is one of 12 North American universities chosen to participate. Beginning in 1988, UT has participated in 10 Advanced Vehicle Technology Competitions.

EcoCAR Mobility Challenge prompts university students to reengineer a 2019 Chevrolet Blazer to incorporate advanced propulsion systems, electrification, and connected and automated vehicle technology that will improve the energy efficiency, safety and consumer appeal of vehicles, specifically for the carsharing market.

Led by Dr. David (Butch) Irick, a professor in the Department of Mechanical, Aerospace and Biomedical Engineering, a team of undergraduate and graduate students within the Tickle College of Engineering, College of Communication and Information, and Haslam College of Business will participate in the four-year multidisciplinary competition.

Additional Faculty Advisors include: Dr. David Smith, Department of Mechanical, Aerospace and Biomedical Engineering; Dr. Hairong Qi, Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science (EECS); Dr. Maureen Taylor, School of Advertising and Public Relations; and Lynn Youngs, Haslam College of Business.

Students will gain real-world experience solving complex engineering challenges and build teamwork and leadership skills for their future careers.

“AVTCs provide our students with career opportunities and prepare them for embarking on their engineering future,” said Dr. Irick. “UT has a strong background in propulsion systems development; however, the connected and autonomous vehicle (CAV) technology component of this competition will be a new challenge.”

“With the addition of CAV component and the mobility focus to this competition, the EECS team is able to interact more with the MABE team,” said Dr. Qi. “This is another great opportunity to learn how to interact with people in a truly multi-disciplinary environment.”

UT students benefit from a hands-on experience with concept design, risk assessment, and technical work in vehicle propulsion, automated vehicle systems, and electrical systems. Using the Chevrolet Blazer donated by General Motors, the team will use onboard sensors and wireless communication from the vehicles’ surrounding environment to improve overall operation efficiency in the connected urban environment of the future.

In the first year, the team will decide on a vehicle architecture to develop through research and simulations. In the second and third years, the students will apply their findings to the Blazer in a tangible manner to develop a hybrid electric Blazer with CAV capability. At the end of each year, the 12 teams will compete against one another in more than a dozen static and dynamic events. Teams will follow a real-world vehicle development process to meet rigorous technical constraints throughout the four-year competition, which will conclude in the summer of 2022.

“This competition gives me the opportunity to gain experience with the automotive industry while still in school,” said Dean Blanks, Project Manager for UT’s team. “As someone pursing an interdisciplinary career with engineering and business, EcoCAR allows me to apply principles learned in the classroom to a wide range of real-world challenges.”

The EcoCAR Mobility Challenge builds on a 30-year history of Advanced Vehicle Technology Competitions (AVTCs) provided by the U.S. Department of Energy. EcoCAR aims to develop a highly-skilled workforce by providing hands-on experiences designing and building next-generation mobility solutions to meet our nation’s future energy and mobility challenges.

For more information on EcoCAR, the participating schools, or the competition sponsors, please visit or follow the team on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.




Whitney Brothers