Customizing electric cars for cost-effective urban commuting

November 17th, 2009 - 2:29 pm ICT by ANI  

Washington, Nov 17 (ANI): Researchers at Carnegie Mellon University’s Robotics Institute have come up with a novel approach of customizing electric cars for cost-effective commuting.

The project named ChargeCar led by Illah Nourbakhsh, associate professor of robotics, is exploring how electric vehicles can be customized to cost-effectively meet an individual’s specific commuting needs.

It is also examining how an electric vehicle’s efficiency can be boosted and its battery life extended by using artificial intelligence to manage power.

The researchers have successfully converted 2001 Scion xB into an electric commuter vehicle that will serve as a test bed for a new community-based approach to electric vehicle design, conversion and operations.

“Most electric cars today are being designed with top-down engineering to match the performance of gas-powered cars,” Nourbakhsh said.

“Our goal is to revolutionize urban commuting by taking a different approach - by first analysing the needs, conditions and habits of the daily commutes of actual people and then using this ‘commute ecology’ to develop electric vehicles suited to each unique commute,” Nourbakhsh added.

The key to the project is a vehicle architecture called smart power management, which uses artificial intelligence to manage the flow of power between conventional electric car batteries and a device called a supercapacitor.

Supercapacitors are electrochemical capacitors with unusually high energy density and have typically been used to start locomotives, tanks and diesel trucks.

Because it can store and rapidly release large amounts of electrical power, a supercapacitor can serve as a buffer between the battery pack and the vehicle’s electric motors, improving the vehicle’s responsiveness while reducing the charge/discharge cycling that shortens battery life.

“Many people have talked about using supercapacitors as buffers on a battery, but we also will use artificial intelligence to manage how power is discharged and stored,” Nourbakhsh said.

“Based on a driver’s route and habits, the smart power management system will decide whether to draw power for the electric motors from the batteries or the supercapacitor and decide where to store electricity produced by the regenerative braking system as the car slows down or goes down a hill,” he added.

The researchers have calculated that an intelligent electric car controller could recapture 48 percent of the energy during braking and that a supercapacitor could reduce 56 percent of the load on the batteries and reduce heating of the batteries - which shortens battery life - by 53 percent. (ANI)

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