Is Eco-Routing the Next Big Thing? HEVT Thinks So!

Most hybrid electric vehicles boast an average range of 40 miles on electric energy. Well, some of the time.

“Multiple factors determine how far hybrid electric vehicles can run in electric vehicle mode, including both average speed and road grade,” said Lucas Shoults, engineering manager of the Hybrid Electric Vehicle Team (HEVT) of Virginia Tech.

Driving conditions, such stop-and-go traffic, can chip away at an eco-driver’s range. This has caused drivers to feel anxious about making it all the way to their destination on one charge.

Rather than looking at this problem as a reason to step away from hybrid electric vehicles, HEVT saw it as an opportunity to improve. HEVT is currently exploring eco-routing as a tactic to help drivers get the most range out of their hybrids.

 

Eco-routing uses a GPS system that maps the most fuel-efficient route available. “Eco-routing increases the consumer acceptability of the vehicle by giving the consumer the option to choose the route that maximizes fuel-efficiency,” said Pramit Baul, HEVT’s electrical graduate research assistant.

While most conventional GPS systems only search for the fastest route, eco-routing takes into consideration:

  • Traffic conditions (it avoids stop-and-go traffic)
  • Road types (some surfaces extend a hybrid’s range; high-speed highways, not so much)
  • Road grades (going downhill increases a hybrid’s range due to regenerative braking; going uphill decreases a hybrid’s range)
  • Weather conditions
  • Weight of the car as well as the car with extra luggage and passengers

HEVT is working with Dr. Hesham Rakha at VTTI to implement eco-routing into designs for the Chevrolet Camaro. HEVT presented eco-routing as their chosen innovation topic at the EcoCAR 3 Winter Workshop in Austin, TX.

The main goals of the competition is to reduce energy consumption, well-to-wheel green house gas and tailpipe emissions, all while maintaining the safety, performance and consumer acceptability of the vehicle. A unique goal to the EcoCAR 3 competition is to also take into consideration the cost and innovation of the Camaro. This is where eco-routing comes in to play.

“Eco-routing will reduce petroleum energy usage and greenhouse gas emissions as well as increase consumer acceptability,” Shoults said. “Who doesn’t like to save gas when given the option?”

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