Environment-smart car a winning concept
The car of the future is not just climate-smart. It will be a cog in our entire energy-consuming society. It will be powered by hydrogen and electricity, and instead of just standing idle in the garage when not in use, it will be able to function as an energy source.
Five years ago, the School for Industrial Engineering and Management, along with the School of Engineering Sciences, started a student project to build fuel-efficient cars. It was so successful that more schools were integrated into the project. Today, 20 students and doctoral students are contributing their knowledge in order to create as energy-efficient and effective a vehicle as possible. Result: A hybrid car that runs on hydrogen and which is participating in the Shell Eco-marathon for the sixth time.
This time, the aim is to win.
“We have raised the level this year by allowing doctoral students and master’s students with a background from Sweden, Iran, Germany and China, and elsewhere, to participate in the project. They are contributing great new approaches to the problems we are trying to solve. Everyone is working closely together,” says Mats Leksell, research engineer and project manager at the School of Electrical Engineering.
Younghui Liao, a master’s student on the Electric Power Engineering program, is 22 and comes from China. He is carrying out a system study in which he is simulating what the car taking part in this year’s competition can do.
“I am doing a simulation to see if the program works and to find out what is the best running cycle for this car.”
“This is incredibly interesting and gives me an opportunity to transform theory into practice. It increases my knowledge, and it is fun to take part in a competition to see how good we are,” he says.
KTH’s entry in the competition runs solely on hydrogen. This means there is minimal environmental impact — the emissions consist of water. In order to propel the car forward, a fuel cell has been installed. This converts the hydrogen into electrical energy. The aim of the conversion is to achieve as high a degree of efficiency as possible.
This is where doctoral student Tomas Modéer at Electrical Machines and
Power Electronics comes into the picture.
“My role is to make the conversion as efficient as possible. I look for losses and work out how I can deal with them. In the future, an integrated solution may be possible, but what we are doing today is to look at each block individually to see where we can gain a few watts in each part,” he explains.
What is so interesting about taking part in this project?
“Hybrid cars are the future. I think we will see a hybridization of the entire motor pool. In ten years, I think we will still have hybrid cars, but we will be increasingly moving over to pure electric cars. The type of car we are building — a series hybrid with hydrogen — is still some way off, but may become reality in fifteen to twenty years.”
“The way people view energy will also change and develop towards greater holistic thinking,” he believes.
“We will look at energy and energy consumption and how it needs to be used as effectively as possible. We will use energy in a different way and see more energy storage so that it is not converted unnecessarily, but is stored in an energy form suitable for the purpose, such as for heating homes,” says Tomas.
Today’s cars stand idle 95 per cent of the time when we don’t need them. This is unsustainable in the long term with a growing global population and an increasing burden on our climate.
In the future, we will need to do more with fewer resources. The entire transport system and our vehicles need to be more efficient. In Sweden, a large part of this work is being channeled through Svenskt Hybridfordons Centrum (the Swedish Hybrid Vehicle Centre — SHC), a unique partnership between industry, the state and academia.
“Swedish vehicle manufacturers and universities are at the forefront of this area. Thanks to SHC, our ideas are spreading quickly,” says Mats.
For more information, contact Mats Leksell, email@example.com, +46-70-602 5657.