EMC2: Efficient Mobility via Connectivity and Control
Within the Systems and Control discipline, we have pursued two main research tracks in the past few years: i) Cyberphysical Transportation Systems in which we are exploring the impact information technology and advanced computing can have on increasing energy efficiency and mobility of networked vehicles analytically and experimentally; and ii) Alternative Propulsion and Energy Storage Systems emphasizing systems engineering issues of renewable energy devices such as fuel cells, batteries, ultracapacitors and their integration into the next-generation hybrid electric cars and hybrid power systems.
1. Information Technology and Advanced Computing for Increasing Energy Efficiency and Mobility of Networked Vehicles:
[You can watch a presentation of some of our more recent work
In the past few years we have been exploring the role that information technology can play in improving mobility and energy efficiency of vehicles. We have formulated algorithms that use preview information of terrain , , traffic signal timing , , and traffic flow  for saving fuel and reducing emissions of modern vehicles with conventional or hybrid powertrains.
The proposed solutions enable fuel saving and improve mobility relying mostly on software and information and with minimal hardware investments. This impacts not only the high-tech vehicles of the future but the current fleet with Wi-Fi or 3G connectivity. If successfully deployed, our methods can lead to dramatic reduction in CO2 emissions and total national fuel use with direct societal and economical impacts. Our main sponsor in this work is the, but our work has created wider interest and attracted additional sponsors and collaborators.
2. Alternative Propulsion and Energy Storage Systems:
We have been working on topics in the general area of renewable energy systems, based on the vision that renewable energy solutions will be pertinent to sustainable technological growth and that energy is going to play a central role in the global economy for the years to come. Our work spans: i) advanced propulsion and storage technologies, i.e. fuel cells and ultracapacitors, ii) novel optimization-based energy management techniques for hybrid powertrains, and iii) use of preview information for better energy utilization in hybrid vehicles.
Hybrid Powertrains: Since 2005 we have worked on a number of projects in the area of energy management of hybrid and plug-in hybrid vehicles. In a University Research Program project, awarded to us in 2007, our main focus has been on enhancing the energy management of hybrid powertrains by using systematic dynamic optimization techniques. The energy management of a hybrid vehicle is a complex problem due to strong nonlinearities, various constraints, and uncertainties. The energy management schemes in production are mostly rule-based relying on “if-then-else” logical rules and pre-calculated lookup tables. The optimality of such solutions is often unclear. On other hand, optimal solutions obtained using methods such as dynamic programming are often non-causal and too computationally demanding for real-time implementation. Our approach presented in  refined further in  employs moving horizon optimization (Model Predictive Control), and has evolved over more than three years of extremely hard work and under close monitoring of Ford scientists. The result is an algorithm based on fundamental control theoretical concepts that achieves close-to-optimal fuel economies and has the potential for real-time implementation. (See tutorial presentations on modeling and control of hybrid vehicles presented at the 2008 American Control Conference [here]).
Ultracapacitors: Ultracapacitors are high power density energy storage devices with capacitances in the order of hundreds of Farads, capable of releasing bursts of power in the order kilowatts. While their value is acknowledged as compared to modern batteries, few analytical and experimental studies have explored their true merits. Most existing studies have considered ultracapacitors for auxiliary energy storage along with batteries and fuel cells, including our paper . Our paper  is the first, to our best knowledge, to suggest using ultracapacitors, stand-alone, for providing power boost in a mild hybrid powertrain. Our meticulously executed model-based simulations indicate that fuel savings up to 15% can be achieved by taking advantage of power boosts and energy recuperated during braking. More recently we have shown in  the benefits can be larger, up to 40%, for heavy trucks such as delivery vehicles with many stops and goes. This work was supported by . and . which is now interested to explore these benefits experimentally.