University will lead a
new effort aimed at cutting fuel consumption in half for commercial vehicles by
perfecting hybrid technologies for the world’s burgeoning bus and truck fleets.
The new Hoosier Heavy Hybrid Center of Excellence (H3CoE)
is funded with a $1 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy’s Graduate
Automotive Technology Education initiative.
Buses and trucks, particularly vehicles used to transport
goods, represent a huge percentage of global fuel consumption and tailpipe
emissions, says Gregory Shaver, an associate professor of mechanical
engineering and the center’s principal investigator.
“There is a lot of potential to increase the efficiency
of these vehicles,” says Shaver, who codirects the center with Maryam
Saeedifard, an assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering.
Additional faculty making up the project management team include Vahid
Motevalli, head of the Department of Mechanical Engineering Technology; James
Caruthers, the Reilly Professor of Chemical Engineering; and Eric Dietz,
associate professor of computer and information technology.
The project, which falls under the umbrella of the Purdue
Energy Center Advanced Ground Vehicle Power and Energy Storage initiatives,
seeks to achieve a 50% reduction in commercial vehicle fuel consumption and
greenhouse gas emissions. The
five-year project began Oct. 1, 2011.
“The savings in energy efficiency is absolutely
critical here,” says Maureen McCann, director of the Energy Center
and a professor of biological sciences. “If you can double energy
efficiency, you are halving your fuel consumption. That’s huge.”
Reducing fuel consumption for commercial vehicles by 50%
would cut petroleum use by about 15 billion gallons per year, corresponding to
a reduction of 155 million tons of carbon dioxide.
States is the world’s largest oil user,
consuming nearly 20.7 million barrels per day. U.S. consumption is expected to
grow moderately, but consumption in developing countries is expected to
skyrocket in coming years. China
consumes about 7.6 million barrels per day, and the rate is expected to grow at
“This trend in China is due in large part to the
increased use of commercial vehicles,” Shaver says.
Growth in e-commerce is one phenomenon leading to
significant increases in the number of trucks needed to transport goods. Annual
e-commerce spending in the United
States grew by nearly 100% in 2010.
“The explosive growth in e-commerce is a positive
outcome for the U.S.
and global economies, but requires an increase in the number of trucks to transport
goods,” Saeedifard says. “This need creates a significant economic
opportunity for U.S.
companies that are heavily engaged in the commercial vehicle market. Indiana companies can
benefit through the global market. The center will work toward solving
technical challenges and training engineers and scientists who will be ready to
make contributions once they go to company A or company B.”
The work will include industrial partners Cummins Inc.,
Delphi Automotive LLP, Ener1 Inc., Allison Transmission Inc., and the Energy
Systems Network, an initiative of the Central Indiana Corporate Partnership
focusing on clean-energy technologies in Indiana.
The project management team also intends to reach out to additional prospective
industry partners, Shaver says.
“This project will provide the intellectual
horsepower to accelerate the technology commercialization work of heavy hybrid
leaders like Cummins, Allison, Delphi, and Ener1,” says Paul Mitchell,
president and CEO of Energy Systems Network, which formed the Hoosier Heavy
Hybrid Partnership among Indiana
manufacturers in 2009. “The fact that this world-class work is being done
right here in Indiana
is a tribute to our state’s history of innovation in bringing advanced
technology vehicles to market.”
Commercial vehicles consume far more fuel on a per vehicle
basis than passenger cars, averaging 6.2 mpg and 74,000 miles per year,
compared to 21.1 mpg and between 10,000 and 12,000 miles per year for
light-duty automotive vehicles.
“This results in a drastic difference in fuel
consumption on an annual basis,” Shaver says. “As the global truck
markets continue to grow, fuel consumption and greenhouse gas emissions will
increase. Any attempt to significantly reduce fuel consumption and emissions
must focus not only on the U.S.
truck market, but also on global markets.”
Each commercial vehicle consumes an average of 11,900
gallons of fuel per year, whereas light-duty automotive vehicles consume an
average of 570 gallons of fuel annually.
“The greater fuel consumption of commercial vehicles
means that fuel reduction associated with technology improvement is much
greater for commercial vehicles on a per-vehicle basis,” Shaver says.
“For each commercial hybrid vehicle on the road, 20 light-duty automotive
hybrids would need to be in operation to achieve a comparable fuel
Hybrids also could provide large economic benefits, as
“One of the biggest cost drivers for fleet owners and
operators that run all these vehicles is fuel,” Shaver says. “If your
fuel costs go down, your bottom line improves and you can hire more
Purdue is providing more than $500,000 toward the center—by
way of tuition for up to eight H3CoE fellowships—to supplement DOE funds. The
center is working with industry partners to co-fund research projects for these
students as well as support a course-based certificate program.
“This is an important win for Purdue, for Indiana and for the
environment,” says Suresh Garimella, associate vice president for
engagement. “Greg and his colleagues are well-placed to deliver on this
exciting mission in partnership with leading companies in the state. The
ramifications for economic development and further growth of this important
industry are tremendous.”
Companies operating in Indiana,
such as Cummins, Delphi, and Allison, sell
vehicle components globally, so solving technological challenges associated
with medium- and heavy-duty hybrid vehicles could benefit the local economy.
“If we can help them in the short and medium term
with their technology challenges, that’s great for business, and at the same
time we’re training students to work in industry,” Shaver says.
The program will include fellowships for up to eight
students, an annual workshop, seminar series and the creation of a new course
on medium- and heavy-duty electric hybrid vehicles. A new certificate program
for graduate students in medium- and heavy-duty hybrids will be developed and
will possibly begin in the spring semester.
“We keep hearing from industry that there is a
shortage of engineers, and we’re helping to address that issue,” Motevalli
says. “This graduate student research and education grant, along with the Advanced
Electric Drive Vehicle Education Program and EcoCar 2 Student Vehicle
competition, are putting Purdue in a unique position to play a leading role in
the emerging field of hybrid vehicles and power train electrification.”
Challenges include learning how to better integrate the
various components in the vehicles’ power trains, encompassing the engine and
transmission and other elements.
“Often the major parts of the power train are built
by companies that don’t make the vehicle itself, so they may not be tailored
for the vehicle they are used in,” Shaver says. “For hybrids to be
optimized, these components need to be integrated properly.”
Another challenge is to design heavy-duty
“regenerative braking” systems, in which electric motors serve as
generators while the vehicle is braking, producing power to recharge the
battery pack. Researchers involved in the center also are developing
regenerative braking systems that store energy by compressing hydraulic fluid
in a tanklike “accumulator.” High-pressure fluid in the accumulator
would be used to drive a hydraulic motor, providing torque to the wheels and
While regenerative braking already is used in hybrid cars,
such systems are especially difficult to design for heavy vehicles.
“There are very large braking energy rates in
heavy-vehicle stopping and much more energy to capture,” Shaver says.
“So, how do you capture the energy and also handle the energy flow?”
Another step needed to improve efficiency is recovering
waste heat from the exhaust.
“More than half of diesel engine exhaust is lost to
waste heat out the tailpipe or radiator,” Shaver says. “If you could
better harvest that waste heat, you could make the whole power train more