Oak Ridge National Laboratory


News Release

Media Contact: Media Relations (news@ornl.gov)
Communications and External Relations


Collegiate engineering vehicle tested at ORNL

OAK RIDGE, Tenn., July 7, 1995 — A 1995 Chrysler Neon using natural gas and electricity as alternative energy sources recently underwent testing in the Buildings Technology Center of the Department of Energy's (DOE) Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) prior to winning a national performance and acceleration competition in Auburn Hills, Mich.

The vehicle, altered and tested by a group of about 40 engineering students under the guidance of Professor Jeff Hodgson of the University of Tennessee's Mechanical Engineering Department, won the 1995 Hybrid Electric Vehicle Challenge. The competition tested vehicles from 30 colleges and universities across the United States for their performance and acceleration with the use of fuels other than gasoline.

"We were testing the car's heat pump," Jeff Christian, program manager of the Buildings Technology Center, said of the tests conducted at ORNL several weeks prior to the competition. "During an eight-hour period, we placed the car in a special chamber called the Large-Scale Climate Simulator that exposed the entire car to 20 degrees Fahrenheit. We wanted to test how long it took the heat pump, which the students designed and installed, to heat the passenger cabin to acceptable comfort conditions in simulated winter conditions."

The simulator is large enough to hold a full-size car while maintaining any surrounding air temperature between -40 degrees F to 145 degrees F. The test was repeated during the competition as part of the overall scoring, and was worth 20 percent of the total competition. By pre-testing the vehicle, the students had the opportunity to refine their design before arriving in Michigan for the final test.

"This is one of the impressive capabilities of the Buildings Technology Center User Facility," Christian said. "You can get answers to winter performance any time."

ORNL technologist Phil Childs and mechanical engineer Tom Petree helped the UT students equip the Neon and conduct the heat-pump performance test.

Christian said this is the first time the ORNL Buildings Technology Center has tested an automobile or aided UT in preparing for this competition. He said he hopes other institutions interested in taking advantage of ORNL's Buildings Technology Center services will participate.

"This is an example of how our facility can help users from academic and industrial institutions with their projects," Christian said. "We hope to do more of these types of cooperative research programs in the future."

ORNL's Buildings Technology Center is funded by DOE's Office of Building Technologies.

You can learn more about this research and many other exciting projects by visiting ORNL on Oct. 21, 1995, during its Community Day event. Many of our facilities will be open to the public that day. For additional information, call ORNL Public Affairs, 865-574-4160.

ORNL, one of DOE's multiprogram national research and development facilities, is managed by Lockheed Marietta Energy Systems, which also manages the Oak Ridge K-25 Site and the Oak Ridge Y-12 Plant.