Friday, September 17, 2010

And the Winner Is...

The Progressive Insurance Automotive X Prize competition is now complete, and the winners were announced yesterday in Washington D.C.. The $10 million in prize money was awarded to three teams as follows:

  • Edison2 - $5 million in the Mainstream Class

  • Li-ion Motors - $2.5 million in the Alternative Side-by-Side Class

  • X – Tracer - $2.5 million in the Alternative Tandem Class

At the start of the year, 43 teams entered this international competition, ranging from a young group of high school students, to teams of experienced automotive engineers and business people. The event took to the track at Michigan International Speedway in the spring, to commence the shakedown stage, which was followed over the summer by the knockout stages and the finals stages, before moving to Illinois for the validation stage. Throughout each stage, teams had to pass a series of tests for safety, emissions, and performance, while meeting 100+ mpg equivalent fuel economy. Sensors was pleased to have been a part of this exciting event throughout the year, helping teams collect and understand their on-road emissions data.

And while the top three teams take the Prize, everyone comes out a winner. From the experience both gained and shared by the high school students at West Philly, to the shared ideas from some of the top entrepreneurial minds of today, to an emerging class of super-efficient vehicles, everyone can take something from the Progressive Automotive X Prize. Congratulations to all of the teams for their hard work and inspiring ideas, and to Progressive Insurance and to the X Prize Foundation for creating the opportunity and incentive to bring these ideas forward.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Safety First: Top Ten Cautions When Conducting In-Use Emissions Testing

We’ve all done it – your new equipment arrives, and in your haste to get it up and working, you toss the manual aside and start connecting cables, only reverting to the boring old document if your instinct fails you. And even then, you’re likely to jump to the section that seems to pertain to your issues, skipping over all those pages with the bright red font declaring CAUTION! Dig that boring text out and read it. When conducting in-use emissions testing there are several things that you need to be aware of, and the manufacturer of your equipment is best prepared to present those to you. They are important, not only for your own safety, but for the safety of those around you, and to ensure the warranty of your equipment. In addition to reading your manual, the following list should help to keep you safe while conducting in-use emissions measurements.

  1. Ground Your Equipment: Before connecting any accessories or power cable, make sure that your analyzer is electrically grounded. If using a power generator and more than one device, all of the devices must have the same ground potential. They should be connected to the vehicle frame, or to the negative terminal of the battery.

  2. Use Two People to Lift Heavy Equipment: Be nice to your back: use two people to lift heavy equipment, and always lift with your legs.

  3. Don’t Run the Equipment While Driving: It seems obvious, but you shouldn’t be operating a laptop computer while you’re driving! Always take at least two people when testing: one to drive, one to run the equipment.

  4. Route Exhaust Gases Outside: Make sure that the analyzer’s exhaust tubing is routed outside of the vehicle, and that it flows downhill. There will be some condensation in the exhaust lines, which can create problems if allowed to back up into the sample system or FID.

  5. Conduct Frequent Leak Checks, and Repair Leaks Immediately: A leaky unit could be dumping exhaust gases into the vehicle.

  6. Secure the Analyzer Tightly into Place: Make sure it’s tight enough that it won’t go flying in the case of an accident.

  7. Watch Those Cables: Some cables have conductive shielding around them, and should not come into contact with the positive battery terminal! Also, make sure that there is plenty of slack in the cable between connections: tension on the connectors could damage your equipment.

  8. Shut Down First: Before you change a filter, or perform other routine maintenance, be sure to shut down the equipment, remove the main power connector, and allow it to cool.

  9. Maintain Your Equipment: Be sure that your equipment is maintained properly and inspected regularly.

  10. Read Your Manual: Yeah – it’s worth repeating.

Always remember: While the data is important, it isn’t more important than your safety!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Collegiate Competitions: A Win-Win-Win Scenario

June: The month of Father’s Day, weddings, and, of course, graduations. And once again, the job outlook for 2010 graduates looks bleak. According to a survey by Michigan State University, employment for 2010 grads is expected to decline about 2% over 2009. Graduates will have to stand out as they enter a fiercely competitive workforce.

But, ask students that have been participating in the EcoCAR Challenge for the last two years, and many will tell you they already have jobs lined up at their first choice companies. They have made themselves stand apart by participating in this collegiate competition, offering both experience and an education, right out of school. Just as important, these students have established the contacts at these companies that they need to get their foot in the door.

Programs such as the EcoCAR Challenge, put on by GM and the US Department of Energy, and the Society of Automotive Engineers’ Clean Snowmobile Challenge, provide students with the opportunity to get hands-on experience while still in the classroom, and provide companies with the chance to work closely with this young talent before putting the job offer on the table.

But the win-win doesn’t end with jobs. Everyone benefits when emerging technologies are forged, refined and put to the test in these annual competitions. Sensors has been a proud sponsor of both of these collegiate events for several years. At this year’s Clean Snowmobile Challenge, the University of Wisconsin-Madison ran away with Sensors’ In-Service Emissions award and the first place overall. Their entry focused on improving the emissions of the internal combustion engine – improvements that can be adopted into commercial snowmobiles. In Year 2 of the three year EcoCAR Challenge, Mississippi State University drove off with Sensors’ Best Tailpipe Emissions award, as well as taking first place overall in the contest, with a biodiesel extended range electric vehicle. They will continue their work over the next year to have their designs “near showroom” ready.

So to all of you students out there: Take advantage of these collegiate competitions. Not only will it help you in your future career search, but it will help to build a cleaner future for the transportation industry. Not to mention that these competitions are just plain fun!

Friday, May 14, 2010

The Boy Scout Motto of Testing

When conducting in-use testing, there are a host of factors that can impede your progress and influence the quality of the data that you collect. While a fair number of these factors are completely out of your control, such as weather and traffic, the old boy scout motto, ‘Be Prepared’, can go a long way to making the process run as smoothly as possible. In that light, we’ve gathered a list of ten key items to help you be prepared the next time you are testing in the field.

  1. Analyzer Maintenance: Proper maintenance of your emissions analyzer(s) is vital to collecting accurate emissions data. Be sure to check all flow paths before and after each test, and to inspect and change all filters when necessary. Refer to your owner’s manual for the proper maintenance schedule of your equipment.

  2. Test Cables: Make sure that you have all of the cables that you need, in the correct lengths, and that they are in proper working order. Custom cables can’t be found at the local hardware store!

  3. Power Check: Make sure that you have any batteries that you need, and that they are fully charged.

  4. Double Check Those Calibration Gas Bottles: Make sure that the FID fuel bottle and the calibration gas bottles that you are using to span and audit your analyzers contain the proper gases and gas mixtures, and supply the gas at the proper pressure for your analyzer.

  5. Communications Check: Make sure that your flow tube, accessories, vehicle interface, analyzers and Host PC are talking to each other as expected before you hit the road.

  6. Check the Test Vehicle: This is important not only to ensure that the vehicle is in good working order, but to ensure that your analyzer is set up properly for the type of engine and fuel that you are testing.

  7. Ensure Clean Ambient Air: Your analyzer will need to be zeroed while testing, and most likely will use ambient air to do so. When installing the test equipment, make sure you route tubing to clean, outside air, away from the analyzer’s exhaust.

  8. Pre-Flight Check List: Develop a pre-flight checklist that is specific to your test application, and work through it carefully every time you test.

  9. Record Pre & Post Data: Be sure to zero and span your analyzer(s) before and after each test run, and to save the data within your test file.

  10. Check Your Data: Before you shut down and un-install all of your test equipment, check all of your data to ensure it passes the test of reason.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Blog KickOff!

The world of emissions testing is continuously expanding, with new and tighter regulations that affect a wide range of businesses and engine manufacturers, some of whom have never had to deal with emissions testing before. From large spark ignition engines, to manufacturers of yard equipment, in-use emissions testing is reaching out to every type of engine, in every corner of the world.

Since 2001, the launch of our first portable emisssions measurement system, Sensors has had engineers and technicians in the field, providing guidance, assistance, elbow grease, and expertise to our customers. The intent of this new blog to compile the knowledge that we have gained over the past decade and share it with the world.

From installation to data collection, data processing to report submission, we have accumulated a wealth of knowledge that will (hopefully!) make the process a little easier for you.

For those of you that have 'Been There, Done That', we welcome your contributions, and hope that you are able to pick up some helpful tidbits along the way. Please email me directly with your tips and experiences.

Is there something you need help with? You're probably not alone. Post your questions below, and we'll do our best to get to them all.

Initially, we intend to post once per month.