The University of Idaho is entering its fourth and final year of the Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) partnership for the next generation vehicle (PGNV) with emphasis on more efficient and cleaner sport utility vehicles. The project, a partnership of government, industry, and education, is a competition among 15 leading universities to design, develop, and demonstrate how this popular type of vehicle can achieve better fuel economy and lower emissions while maintaining the performance, safety, and convenience features of the production vehicle.
Last year, the UI team converted a new Ford Explorer to hybrid-electric and also incorporated an advanced thermal conditioning system, a unique energy-saving engine cooling system, computerized controls, and telemetry. The result was a 25 percent improvement in fuel economy and lowering tailpipe emissions to the ultra-low emission vehicle (ULEV) standard. Among 15 universities, UI placed 7th in the competition.
This year the goal will be to incorporate additional technologies, further education, and broaden outreach. Together with a lighter, more efficient engine, the UI team will couple both electric and hydraulic motors to improve the efficiencies of regenerative braking and power assist. A unique aspect of the UI design is that it is the only vehicle in the competition to achieve the fuel economy and emissions goals by using a low voltage electric system which, compared to high voltage systems, is safer, less costly to produce, and easier to maintain.
To further education, we will capitalize on our university resources by involving the entire campus in the project. Students studying business, marketing, public relations, communications, education, public relations, environmental science, industrial technology, computer science, and engineering will be invited to participate. Students will learn from one another and will get experience working with professionals from other disciplines.
To broaden outreach, the UI team will attend events such as the International Bioenergy Conference and the Northwest Governor’s Conference where additional applications for the vehicle’s technologies can be promoted. The relatively low cost and high efficiency of the electric-hydraulic hybrid system allows the concept to be of value several vehicle types from on-road passenger vehicles to off-road utility vehicles. In summary, the project will help prepare transportation professionals for the future and will demonstrate an array of technologies that are ready now to improve fuel economy and reduce emissions.