Virginia Tech triumphed over students from top engineering universities last week for their designs for environmentally friendly crossover sports utility vehicles (SUVs) at the second annual Challenge X: Crossover to Sustainable Mobility competition, which took place in Mesa, Ariz. Challenge X is a three-year engineering competition to develop methods for reducing total energy consumption and emissions in a crossover vehicle while maintaining or exceeding vehicle utility and performance. Virginia Tech used the National Instruments LabVIEW graphical development environment, LabVIEW Simulation Interface Toolkit, LabVIEW Real-Time and FPGA modules with CompactRIO (reconfigurable I/O) hardware for comprehensive engine control of their vehicle.
Virginia Tech placed highest overall based on performance in categories such as control strategy and validation, fuel economy, emissions testing, braking and handling, acceleration and towing capabilities. The architecture of the vehicle was a split parallel hybrid that used two electric motors and ran on E85, an ethanol gas blend that reduced the vehicle's well-to-wheels petroleum use by 74 percent. Additionally, the team used an innovative LabVIEW monitoring application displayed on a flip-up LCD monitor as a "fault management system" to relay critical system information to the driver from the CompactRIO embedded control system.
"LabVIEW running in real time on a FPGA was the key for our strategy in the Challenge X competition," said Steve Bushey, Virginia Tech controls team member. "With graphical programming, we quickly developed our prototype and were able to easily deploy the vehicle controller on small, FPGA-based CompactRIO hardware. Because of the flexibility of NI software and hardware for embedded prototyping, we were able to implement an innovative, fuel-efficient control strategy for our hybrid vehicle."
The NI embedded design and prototyping platform combines the LabVIEW graphical development environment with off-the-shelf, FPGA-based measurement and control hardware for design, simulation, rapid prototyping, implementation, validation and verification of embedded systems. With the intuitive LabVIEW graphical dataflow programming environment, engineers and scientists can rapidly develop and iterate on designs, reducing the time from concept to prototype. Using LabVIEW with tightly integrated FPGA-based NI PXI or CompactRIO hardware further reduces time to market by eliminating the need for costly integration steps.
"National Instruments software and hardware platforms for graphical system design give the competing Challenge X teams high-level tools, allowing them to quickly design, prototype and deploy innovative control strategies for new hybrid and fuel cell vehicles," said James B. Kolhoff, GM Powertrain software engineering director. "In this research phase of development, the NI platform is being used to improve fuel efficiency and performance at a lower cost for future GM vehicles."
As a platinum sponsor, NI presented The Award for Most Innovative Use of Virtual Instrumentation to Virginia Tech. Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology received second place honors based on their PXI approach to software and hardware in-the-loop testing while The University of Tulsa received third place. Additional teams participating in Challenge X include Michigan Technological University; Pennsylvania State University; San Diego State University; Texas Tech University; The Ohio State University; University of Akron; University of California, Davis; University of Michigan; University of Tennessee; University of Texas at Austin; University of Waterloo; and Virginia University.
About National Instruments
For 30 years, National Instruments ( www.ni.com) has been a technology pioneer and leader in virtual instrumentation -- a revolutionary concept that has changed the way engineers and scientists in industry, government and academia approach measurement and automation. Leveraging PCs and commercial technologies, virtual instrumentation increases productivity and lowers costs for test, control and design applications through easy-to-integrate software, such as NI LabVIEW, and modular measurement and control hardware for PXI, PCI, PCI Express, USB and Ethernet. Headquartered in Austin, Texas, NI has more than 3,900 employees and direct operations in nearly 40 countries. For the past seven years, FORTUNE magazine has named NI one of the 100 best companies to work for in America.
National Instruments, Austin Editor Contact: Julia Betts, 512-683-8165 or Reader Contact: Ernest Martinez, 800-258-7022