Green mobility

Jan 14, 2011

Kettering has developed an HEV Green Mobility Laboratory focused on teaching undergraduate students about technology critical to the future of the auto industry.

With the auto industry increasingly focused on electric-based vehicles, Kettering University has positioned itself as one of only a few schools in the country preparing students in Hybrid Electric Vehicle (HEV) technology from an electrical engineering perspective.

 “There has been a paradigm shift from exclusively mechanical engineering to a major role for electrical engineering in automotive drive train engineering education.” said Dr. James Gover, professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering and an IEEE Fellow (Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers).

“At least three factors could make the value proposition of hybrid or electric vehicles shift from a niche market to a mass U.S. market. When the world’s demand for oil causes gasoline prices to triple, or the U.S. tires of having its trade imbalance dictated by imported oil, or the public comes to appreciate the environmental and military costs of oil, electric and hybrid vehicles sales could easily accelerate several million sales a year in the U.S.

“When any of these happen, the competition for the EV and HEV market will grow and companies will face world-wide competition from both traditional automobile companies and new companies for this accelerating market. The winners will be those who can do the electrical engineering as an integral part of their mechanical engineering and do it in the most cost effective way while maintaining quality,” Gover said.

After receiving grant money in 2010 from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), Kettering has created an HEV Green Mobility Laboratory under the supervision of professors Dr. Mark Thompson, professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering, and Dr. Craig Hoff, professor of Mechanical Engineering as well as an educational program under the supervision of Dr. Gover, professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering, focused on teaching undergraduate students about technology that is critical to the future of the auto industry. The Green Mobility lab and program also give graduate students and faculty in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECE) a facility to conduct critical and innovative research on the subject.

“The lab is still under development, but it is up and fully functioning,” said Thompson.

In the lab, students are working to both understand and improve electric vehicle technology using models of three open-bench, hybrid electric vehicle drive train control, simulation and data acquisition systems. With the hardware models, students and faculty are able to study road load forces on an electric vehicle such as aerodynamics, tire rolling resistance and gravity. They can also examine parameters like fuel efficiency in hybrid vehicles in different driving conditions as well as battery life.

“It’s a lot more hands-on involvement being able to build these drive train systems (in the lab) rather than just learning about them in class,” said Allan Taylor, a graduate student in Electrical Engineering.

Along with the lab, the ARRA grant money, which was shared with the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor and UM-Dearborn, was used to develop new courses and programs based on company hiring needs identified by the Michigan Academy for Green Mobility (MAGM).

Two new courses were developed – Semiconductor Switching: Electrical and Thermal Effects and Design, Simulation and Control of Power Electronic Circuits for Electric Drive Trains – and three existing courses (one taught by the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor) fit the needs reflected in the employment advertisements of employers, particularly employers who are treating power electronics as a disciplined science at the circuit and semiconductor device level. 

Gover taught the first of the new courses this semester and will teach the second for the first time during spring term, 2011. He estimates that it will take two or three cycles of the courses for content to stabilize and then simply follow advancements published in the research literature.

For several years Kettering has been offering two undergraduate courses in power electronics. One has been offered as an elective for electrical engineering majors, the other for mechanical engineering majors. Dr. Hua Bai, assistant professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering, has recently co-authored a soon-to-be published book on transient switching phenomena in power electronics.

Kettering is also unique in that it offers a course in electric machines, a topic of great importance in hybrid and electric vehicles and it has just purchased software that permits electromagnetic field analysis of motors and generators. Dr. Huseyin Hiziroglu, professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering, has co-authored a popular book on electric machines.

Along with the courses, Kettering also is offering an undergrad Electrical Engineering specialty program in HEVs, a Master’s in Electrical Engineering with a specialty in HEVs and a graduate certificate program in HEVs for mechanical and electrical engineers.

“Kettering is quickly pulling together a critical mass of multi-disciplinary faculty, education programs and laboratory facilities needed to make it a leading institution in hybrid electric vehicle research, engineering, testing and education,” Gover said. “These capabilities combined with its emphasis on developing the entrepreneurial mindset among faculty, staff and students will only strengthen Kettering’s role as a private university creating jobs and developing the Michigan economy.” 

Contact: Patrick Hayes