Lee College of Engineering Part of New Intelligent Vehicle Project

Date Published: 
April 28, 2017

As part of a new U.S. Department of Energy Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) project, the Lee College of Engineering will be participating in a multi-institution team to create intelligent vehicle networks that reduce the fuel used by trucks and other heavy vehicles by up to 20 percent.

The $3-million grant is part of ARPA-E's NEXTCAR program. Along with UNC Charlotte, the institutions involved are Penn State, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Volvo Group North America. UNC Charlotte’s portion of the grant will be $400,000.

Penn State will provide expertise in optimal vehicle energy management, vehicle connectivity and automation and engine and powertrain control. MIT and UNC Charlotte will provide expertise in intelligent vehicle-infrastructure systems. Volvo will provide expertise in vehicle powertrain and chassis innovation, as well as in technology commercialization.

This research project centers on using both inter- and intra-vehicle coordination to achieve a goal of 20 percent fuel economy improvement in both city and highway driving. Inter-vehicle coordination involves communicating key vehicle measurements and intentions between multiple vehicles on the road, then coordinating their actions. Intra-vehicle coordination involves concurrently designing two aspects of automotive control systems, namely vehicle-level control and powertrain-level control that have traditionally been designed separately.

“Our research team is developing a unique hierarchical controller that allows for vehicle-level and powertrain-level control systems to coordinate their actions within a single vehicle,” said UNC Charlotte Mechanical Engineering Assistant Professor Dr. Chris Vermillion, “while both elements of the control system exchange data with surrounding vehicles to coordinate their actions. Our control systems will be validated on a heavy-duty Volvo truck, however, many of the control tools developed in this project will be broadly applicable to a variety of vehicles.”

UNC Charlotte, through Dr. Vermillion’s Control and Optimization for Renewables and Energy Efficiency (CORE) Lab, will develop the control architecture wherein vehicle-level and powertrain-level controllers work together. Secondly, the team will develop and validate algorithms that optimize vehicle speed to synchronize it with surrounding vehicles and adapt to changing road grades in open highway travel.

The North Carolina Motorsports and Automotive Research Center at UNC Charlotte, and faculty member Dr. Mesbah Uddin, will be an affiliated center on this grant. The project will NCMARC’s first to focus on connected and autonomous vehicle research and vehicle control system design. There will be three UNC Charlotte graduate students taking part in the project.