Dr. Terry Woychowski, a 1978 Mechanical Engineering graduate of Michigan Technological University, is vice president, global vehicle program management, General Motors Corp. He addressed the College of Engineering First Year Student Assembly, Mon., August 31 at the Rozsa Center at Michigan Tech. The title of his talk: “Engineering – How Will You Change the World?”
Michigan Technological University will receive nearly $3 million in federal stimulus funds to develop an interdisciplinary educational program to train engineers and technicians to design and build the next generation of hybrid electric vehicles.
The $2.98 million grant is part of $2.4 billion in awards under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), announced today by President Barack Obama. Vice President Joe Biden was in Detroit to announce that companies and universities in Michigan will receive more than $1 billion of the grants, more than any other state.
Michigan Tech is one of three state universities in Michigan to receive education and training awards. The other two are Wayne State University and the University of Michigan.
“This is great news for Michigan Tech,” said Carl Anderson, associate dean for research and graduate programs in the College of Engineering and principal investigator for the new program. “We have had a strength in liquid-fueled vehicles and active partnerships with their manufacturers for a long time. Now we have the opportunity to take advantage of a broader array of our strengths and establish a similar leadership role in the development of a new generation of electric-powered vehicles.”
Michigan Tech will work with Argonne National Laboratory and a number of industrial partners including AVL, General Motors, Eaton, Horiba, MathWorks, Schweitzer Engineering Laboratories and Woodward. The University and its partners will develop undergraduate and graduate curricula, including a certificate program in hybrid electric vehicles.
“We’ll be training and retraining the next generation of engineers to produce vehicles that reduce fuel consumption and emissions,” said Jeff Naber, lead faculty member of the multi-disciplinary program.
The electric hybrid curriculum will be modeled after the groundbreaking course in advanced propulsion for hybrid vehicles that Michigan Tech taught in Detroit for displaced automotive engineers last spring. The course was offered in cooperation with the Engineering Society of Detroit (ESD) and General Motors, with GM providing laboratory facilities.
Another free, 3-credit course will be offered in Detroit this fall, in cooperation with AVL, a developer of powertrains and vehicle simulation and test systems based in Plymouth, and with ESD. AVL will provide lab space, and GM is donating three hybrid vehicles. Ford and Lotus are also supporting the course.
Under the new grant, plans are to develop a mobile lab that could enable engineers anywhere to take the courses, Naber said.
Auto engineers will be able to take a free graduate course in advanced vehicle technologies being taught in the Detroit area this fall by Michigan Technological University.
The 3-credit class is offered in cooperation with the Engineering Society of Detroit and AVL, a developer of powertrains and vehicle simulation and test systems based in Plymouth. The curriculum focuses on engineering skills that apply to next-generation hybrid and electric vehicles, such as the Chevy Malibu and Volt and the Ford Fusion and Escape, with an emphasis on battery design and hands-on learning.
The course is under the direction of Jeff Naber, associate professor of mechanical engineering–engineering mechanics. He taught a similar distance-learning course offered earlier this year to laid-off engineers in the auto industry.
The class is being offered under the auspices of the Michigan Academy for Green Mobility, in cooperation with the state Department of Energy, Labor and Economic Growth. The academy promotes worker training in green technologies for the auto industry.
“This marks a big step forward in developing an engineering workforce with the specific knowledge and skills to design and manufacture automobiles for the 21st century,” said Sean M. Newell, chair of the academy’s governing board.
The Engineering Society of Detroit is providing classroom facilities in Southfield, and AVL is providing lab space. General Motors is donating three hybrid vehicles, and Ford and Lotus are giving additional support.
The Engineering Society of Detroit is accepting applications from students interested in taking the course, Advanced Propulsion for Hybrid Vehicles with Concentration in Battery Engineering. First preference will be given to engineers employed in the auto industry. Their tuition will be covered by federal dollars administered through Michigan Works! Auto engineers who are unemployed are also encouraged to apply and will be admitted tuition-free if space is available.
More information and application materials on the course are available from the Engineering Society of Detroit or by calling 248-353-0735. Enrollment is limited; preference will be given to applications received by Aug. 19.
The semester-long class begins Sept. 3. The course will be offered again in the spring.
“There is no flex-fuel hybrid available, partly because it’s a big challenge to meet emissions standards,” said lead investigator Jeff Naber, an associate professor of mechanical engineering-engineering mechanics and director of Michigan Tech’s Advanced Power Systems Research Center.
Flex-fuel engines can burn anything from pure gasoline to E85–a blend of 85 percent ethanol and 15 percent gas. The properties of the two fuels vary tremendously, creating daunting engineering challenges. Ethanol contains only 63 percent of the stored energy of gasoline and requires about three times the energy to vaporize. Straight gasoline, however, has a much lower octane rating and can cause engine knock in a high-performance engine that would run smoothly on ethanol.
If engines can’t adapt to these very different fuels, emissions rise and mileage falls, Naber said. Starting and stopping the engine repeatedly makes this problem worse, and that’s just what hybrid engines do many times during a single trip, whenever the vehicle switches from battery to internal combustion and back again.
To address the problem, the researchers will work to optimize numerous aspects of the powertrain design and control, including the fuel and combustion systems.
As part of the project, the team aims to design and build an efficient, four-cylinder, hybrid engine with a variable compression ratio that can run on flex-fuel and meet the US EPA’s tough emissions standards, something that no hybrid has ever done. They will also develop a computer model that will allow engineers to simulate the factors involved in designing efficient, clean-running, flex-fuel hybrid engines.
“We look forward to an active exchange of expertise and know-how through this program,” said Thomas Wallner, principal investigator in Argonne’s Engines and Emissions Group. “Advanced instrumentation will be developed to further our knowledge base on the use of alternative fuels in engines.” As part of the collaboration, Michigan Tech students will visit Argonne to conduct research.
Ultimately, the technologies will be used by General Motors to manufacture energy-efficient vehicles that meet the federal government’s 2020 CAFE emissions standards.
Co-investigators on the project are Jay Meldrum, director of the Keweenaw Research Center; Donna Michalek and John Beard, associate professors of mechanical engineering-engineering mechanics; Seong-Young Lee, Scott Miers and Abhijit Mukherjee, assistant professors of mechanical engineering-engineering mechanics; and Jeremy Worm, staff engineer of the Advanced Power Systems Research Center, which is directed by Naber.
The team is part of Michigan Tech’s Wood to Wheels program in the Sustainable Futures Institute, a forest-to-tailpipe research and education initiative to improve the entire lifecycle of bioenergy production and utilization from Michigan’s abundant forest resources.