The EcoCAR at UCR team recently attended the EcoCAR EV Challenge Year 1 Competition in Orlando, Florida that took place from May 21 to May 26, 2023. The team was able to celebrate after earning two prestigious awards: the Spirit of Communications Award and the Spirit of the Challenge Award, sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE). Both awards were nominated to them by other teams reflecting the positive impression they made in the competition and the strong relationships built despite being a completely new team to a 30+ year competition series.

The Spirit of Communications Award aims to recognize an individual that has made an outstanding effort in the area of Communications and exemplifies leadership and sportsmanship within their actions. The Spirit of the Challenge Award, named in honor of Ron Stence, a long-time competition sponsor and organizer, is given to the team that exhibits the following characteristics: exceptional perseverance in the face of adversity, maintaining a positive attitude throughout the competition despite significant challenges and obstacles and pursuing exceptionally high technical standards for their team that best represent the Spirit of the EcoCAR competition.

Courtesy of Trang Bui

Professor Heejung Jung and Communications Manager Trang Bui, who notably earned the Spirit of Communications Award, provided insight on the project and their accolades through their respective interviews.

Bui elaborated on how the EcoCAR EV Challenge (EcoCAR) is the latest Advanced Vehicle Technology Competitions (AVTC) series and challenges 15 North American universities to engineer a next generation battery electric vehicle (BEV) that utilizes automation and vehicle-to-everything (V2X) connectivity to implement energy efficient customer-pleasing features, and meet the decarbonization needs of the automotive industry. The 2023 Cadillac LYRIQ was the vehicle selected for the EcoCAR EV Challenge.

Courtesy of Trang Bui

The DOE, General Motors (GM) and MathWorks announced the 15 North American Universities and UC Riverside was selected to be part of this leading automotive engineering competition. Bui explained that the project provides hands-on, real-world experience in STEM that prepares students for future careers in automotive research and development, develops a diverse clean energy workforce, gives students access to industry tools and training. Professor Jung elaborated on working with GM as a sponsor and explained how modifications to the car must be consulted and approved by them.

Many challenges were faced through the development process and competition. Bui explained that being a first year team brought challenges, “From setting up a team, operations, relationships and identifying resources, to getting used to the deliverables and the work culture.” But she explained how valuable the experience was, “The knowledge gained was invaluable: we were exposed to high-level industry standards, gained lots of mentorship and connected with other prestigious universities, sponsors and organizers in the competition.”

Courtesy of Trang Bui

As the team moves forward into the next phase of the competition, they are actively seeking students to join as members and leads in six subteams. These subteams include Project Management (PM), Communications (Comms), Diversity Equity and Inclusion (DEI), Connected and Automated Vehicle (CAV), Propulsion Controls and Modeling (PCM) and System Design and Integration (SDI). Students interested in being part of the UCR EcoCAR team for the Year 2 competition have the opportunity to contribute their skills and expertise to a multidisciplinary project that promotes sustainable transportation. Students can work on designing the body structure, motor selection and control, system integration, connected and autonomous driving (CAV) and much more. 

Incentives of being a part of the project includes opportunities for Engineering students to earn credit in their undergraduate Senior Design and Research. In addition, through the DOE and the Argonne National Laboratory, UC Riverside is able to provide student mini-grants, with a value of $2,000, to active members of the UCR EcoCAR Team. A limited number of EcoCAR mini-grants are made available each quarter of the year (Fall, Winter and Spring).

When discussing the green impact of the project, Professor Jung in his interview explained how one of the goals of the EcoCAR EV Challenge is to promote sustainable transportation through shared mobility, as it reduces the number of cars on the road and promotes carpooling. The COVID-19 pandemic highlighted the importance of shared mobility, as disadvantaged communities had lost crucial access to transportation, and public transportation as a whole has become less safe. Jung explained the overall hope to modify the team’s EV to provide mobility for disadvantaged communities. As a team, they analyze energy efficiency to achieve greater transportation energy affordability, reliability and security.

Courtesy of Trang Bui

The EV Challenge encourages students to consider various factors when designing their vehicles, including energy efficiency, consumer features, cost and implementation risks. Throughout the competition, engineering students follow industry-level standards as they design, develop, build and test different aspects of the vehicle. Once the vehicle arrives in Fall 2023, students will have hands-on experience working directly with the car.

In addition to technical roles, non-engineering students, including those studying communications, business, marketing and public policy, also have an essential role to play. They gain skills in planning, execution, and evaluation, contributing to the team’s overall success in a PR capacity. By promoting the program, the team generates exposure and support, which, in turn, provides resources to give back to the local communities.

The EcoCAR EV Challenge offers students a comprehensive and interdisciplinary learning experience, fostering a diverse skill set and preparing them for future careers in the clean energy and transportation sectors. Through the EcoCAR Challenge, the team encourages students to participate and take the opportunity to delve deeper into the realm of STEM. Students can also find a positive and inclusive working environment to bring clean energy, shared mobility, and promote higher education.

Students can email EcoCAR at UCR if they are interested in joining and can provide their resume at They will be more actively recruiting as we come towards Fall 2023, when their vehicle arrives. You can visit their website to learn more about EcoCAR and if interested, you can even view the awards ceremony here.