Virginia Tech puts their EcoCar vehicle through the paces at General Motors' Milford Proving Grounds. | Credit Department of Energy Advanced Vehicle Technology Competitions

The EcoCAR competition challenges 16 universities across North America to reduce the environmental impact of vehicles by minimizing the vehicle's fuel consumption and reducing its emissions—all while retaining the vehicle's performance, safety and consumer appeal. They are revving up the great innovation machine to meet our energy challenges.

After passing a rigorous 300-point safety and technical inspection and an on-road safety evaluation, the team vehicles compete in more than 10 dynamic events at General Motors’ Milford Proving Grounds. These events include acceleration and braking, dynamic consumer acceptability, emissions and energy consumption (E&EC), towing, autocross, and more.

Fourteen of the 16 participating vehicles passed safety and technical inspection and on-road safety evaluation to participate in the dynamic events. In the acceleration and braking event, teams compete for the fastest 0-60 MPH and 50-70 MPH and the shortest 60-0 MPH braking distance. For example, Mississippi State University has a 0-60 MPH time of 5.76 seconds and 50-70 MPH time of 2.80 seconds while Virginia Tech demonstrated a braking distance of 132.74 feet -- beating the stock vehicle (0-60 MPH of 11.81 seconds and 141.66 feet braking distance)!

With 420 points out of 1000, the Emissions and Energy Consumption (E&EC) event measures fuel consumption, energy use, and emissions of the vehicles. Teams must complete a 20-mile, 40-mile, and 100-mile drive cycle to determine their E&EC data. The event utilizes a portable exhaust gas analyzer to measure the vehicles’ emissions.

The autocross event, which demonstrates the ability of the vehicles to navigate a serpentine course, is the most anticipated. As part of this event, experienced GM drivers navigate each vehicle through the course up to three times in order to test the vehicles’ handling. After these runs are completed, student drivers have the opportunity to try their hand at the course. Mississippi State earned the best time through the course with a time of 54.801 seconds. The best time achieved by a student driver was 55.923 seconds from Virginia Tech.

This week, the competition moves into the final stretch as the teams head to Washington, DC for a series of activities that will culminate with finish line event at the Department of Energy headquarters with Secretary Chu and an awards ceremony to be held at the Library of Congress. We'll be there with the students every step of the way, documenting the competitors’ personal stories and innovative approaches as they attempt to take home top honors in the inaugural EcoCAR competition.

For more photos from the dynamic testing phase visit: