Clemson University researches have been awarded roughly $1.16 million to research the use of connected and automated vehicle technology to help boost energy efficiency.
The U.S. Department of Energy announced the investment last week as part of a total $19.4 million investment package through the Vehicle Technologies Office for more than a dozen projects nationwide.
The investments, a release said, are to assist 22 cost-shared projects to accelerate research of advanced battery, lightweight materials, engine technologies and energy efficient mobility systems.
DOE said the Department of Army will also contribute an additional $1 million through the Advanced Vehicle Power Technology Alliance to support the projects.
Clemson is one of three recipients that will conduct research evaluating energy-saving benefits from connected and automated vehicles, DOE said. The other recipients are Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University and University of California Riverside.
Clemson’s project will be led by Dr. Ardalan Vahidi, an associate professor of mechanical engineering in the College of Engineering, Computing and Applied Science at Clemson.
Collaborating on the project will also be Dr. Beshah Ayalew, professor of automotive engineering and director of the DOE GATE Center of Excellence in Sustainable Vehicle Systems at Clemson’s International Center for Automotive Research, and Dr. Yunyi Jia, director of the collaborative robotics and automation lab and assistant professor in the department of Automotive Engineering at ICAR.
“I was surprised,” Ayalew said of the announcement last Wednesday.
“Definitely exciting,” Jia added.
“I got out of work, got on the train and saw my email. It’s so exciting,” Vahidi said by phone from France last week. “I didn’t expect it, because normally with these grants you just apply and you don’t know what’s going to happen. It was very unexpected and very exciting exciting, because this is research that we’ve wanted to do for a long time.”
Vahidi said he’s worked on aspects of this project for the past 10 years with his students, as have Ayalew and Jia.
“But more recently the focus has shifted as autonomous cars are no longer a futuristic concept anymore. They are going to happen,” Vahidi said. “At least some automated functions are going to happen. Not only in information, but autonomy can help cars do better in terms of energy efficiency.”
While recent developments have focused on safety elements of automated and autonomous cars, Vahidi said there’s more to be done on the research side to find out how those cars can save energy, too.
A provided project description states the project seeks to “demonstrate a 10 percent energy-saving potential from different aspects of the implementation with a focus on reducing unnecessary braking events by anticipatory speed and lane selection.”
The grant will stretch out for two years.
“The grant will allow us basically to integrate this expertise and demonstrate 10 percent energy efficiency by deploying these technologies on cars,” Ayalew said.
The research will also collaborate with the Argonne National Lab and the test track facility at the International Transportation Innovation Center in Greenville.
“Because we want to be safe, we will put one or two real vehicles on the test track to see how they interact in real traffic,” Vahidi said. “But we’ll also simulate in a computer framework other virtual vehicles that talk to these vehicles in real time using cellphones.”