College of Engineering and Computer Science gets $3.1 million award from Chrysler Group for hybrid truck project

December 18, 2009

Chris Mi, associate professor of electrical and computer engineering, examines batteries to be used in his proposed "Ram Pickup Truck Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicles Development and Demonstration Project," which recently received a $3.1 million grant. File photo by John Gambotto.

DEARBORN / Dec. 18, 2009---In August 2009, President Barack Obama unveiled an unprecedented investment as part of a massive, $2.4-billion effort to accelerate the manufacturing and deployment of hybrid electric vehicles and new-generation batteries―and to save or create thousands of jobs.  The goal is to get 1 million plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs) on the road by 2015.

The University of Michigan-Dearborn will be part of this historic effort.  Chrysler Group LLC, which received $48 million of the federal grant monies, has awarded Chris Mi, associate professor of electrical and computer engineering, $3.1 million for his proposed, “Ram Pickup Truck PHEV Development and Demonstration Project.”

The $2.4 billion investment is part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, and sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy.

“I feel very excited and also fortune because we’re the only major development partner on this project,” Mi says, “and the only university to work with an OEM on such a project.” 

Mi’s research role includes the development of a state-of-the-art power electronics laboratory for PHEV power converter, battery pack, and e-motor testing and characterization; battery management and control development; evaluation of PHEV on-road performance; charger development, testing, and validation; a power panel for battery control and charger interface; and much more.

This research is an integral part of Chrysler’s overall project titled, “Advancing Transportation through Vehicle Electrification–PHEV.”  UM-Dearborn is one of many partners in the projects, but a key leader in that it will conduct research and develop systems and products.  Many of the other partners are municipalities around the country that will be involved more in demonstration than in research and development.

UM-Dearborn is uniquely suited to this role, Mi says.  “We have been working toward the plug-in hybrid electric vehicle for many years―specifically in battery management, vehicle control, power electronics, and electric motors.  We have also worked with Chrysler on their recent PHEV development.”

Mi’s proposal calls for a Ram Crew 1500 that is “the only plug-in hybrid truck available,” and the “only full-sized truck with advanced technology partial zero emission,” among other features.  The truck would have a next generation lithium ion battery with charge times of two to four hours at 220 volts, or four to six hours at 110 volts; a full hybrid system function without plug-in; a range of 655 miles; and a regenerative braking system.

“Power management will be one of the key challenges in this development― how you minimize fuel consumption for different driver behavior and different driving scenarios with a fixed battery pack,” Mi explains.  “Another challenge is the safety and reliability of the vehicle system with a large, lithium ion battery pack.”

The specific goal that Mi’s research will help accomplish is what U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu in August called the “launch of an advanced battery industry in America” that will result in the creation of tens of thousands of manufacturing jobs in the U.S. battery and auto industries.

Auto-industry-rich southeast Michigan is the launching pad for much of this effort, and UM-Dearborn is well-located to be involved, and to help boost the local economy during this time of transition.

“As our work evolves into the electrification of vehicles, we’ll create several thousand jobs, at a minimum,” Mi says.  “And there also will be continuing efforts to get people attracted to this new technology.  In fact, as part of this entire effort to put PHEVs on the road, the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor, UM-Dearborn, and Kettering University have received $2.5 million to create training and education programs for green mobility.”

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About University of Michigan-Dearborn
The University of Michigan-Dearborn is celebrating its 50th anniversary throughout the 2009/2010 academic year. Founded in 1959 with a gift of just over 200 acres of land and $6.5 million from the Ford Motor Company, UM-Dearborn has been distinguished by its commitment to providing excellent educational opportunities responsive to the needs of southeastern Michigan. The university has 8,700 students pursuing undergraduate, master’s, doctoral and professional degrees in the liberal arts and sciences, engineering, business, education, and public administration. With a faculty devoted to teaching, and students committed to achievement, UM-Dearborn has been shaped by its history of interaction with business, government and industry in southeastern Michigan, and is committed to responding to the needs of the region in the future.

 

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