How dSPACE Tools Kept OSU EcoCAR on Track

The Ohio State University (OSU) EcoCAR team developed an Electric Range Extending Vehicle (EREV) that employs a dedicated E85 engine. Honda donated two identical 1.8L 4-cylinder compressed natural gas (CNG) engines to the team, which the team converted to run on E85 ethanol.  E85 has a higher octane rating than gasoline and is one of the approved fuels of the EcoCAR competition. The high octane rating of E85 allows it to run in the compressed natural gas engine, which is built for higher compression ratios that allow the engine to achieve higher efficiencies than a regular gasoline engine. One engine was set up in a dynamometer test cell with the other one in the vehicle. The two identical engines allowed the team to perform development in the dynamometer test cell and in the vehicle simultaneously in order to optimize the efficiency and emissions of the vehicle. Using the OSU-designed control system, the engine reaches peak diesel like efficiencies of 40% and a peak power of 100 kW.

As part of the competition, emissions testing took place at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) National Vehicle and Fuel Emissions Laboratory (NVFEL) from March 7-14, 2011. However, a mechanical failure of the engine in the dynamometer test cell left the team without a much-needed test platform for engine tuning before emissions testing took place.  The test data was needed to calibrate engine software for testing at the EPA.

Thanks to sponsor support from dSPACE and the chosen design architecture for the OSU vehicle, the team was able to quickly set up and perform the required engine testing in the vehicle. The OSU vehicle can couple its engine to the 82-kw Remy front electric machine without connecting the front powertrain to the wheels. The dSPACE ControlDesk software provides the calibration interfaces needed to perform engine tuning tests safely in the vehicle.  The team developed an experiment for in-vehicle dynamometer testing in dSPACE’s ControlDesk that allowed the tests to be conducted in the vehicle.  ControlDesk even allowed the dynamometer tools from ETAS, Vector, and Woodward that are usually used in the dynamometer test cell to still be connected to the system, thus making the transition to the temporary in-vehicle testing seamless.

In-vehicle engine test setup designed using dSPACE tools

The OSU team was able to ship their vehicle to the EPA facility for emissions testing. The dSPACE ControlDesk dynamometer set-up allowed the team to get back on schedule and fully prepare for emissions testing at the EPA, despite the hardware setback with the dynamometer engine.  The dSPACE ControlDesk tool is one of many software tools that helped the team remain on schedule to perform well in the final competition events in June 2011. OSU did so well in Finals that the team earned a 2nd Place Overall Finish!

The Ohio State EcoCAR team would like to say thank you to dSPACE Inc. for all their help throughout the three year EcoCAR competition. The team also focused their “Sponsor Series” on dSPACE Inc., where they interviewed Santhosh Jogi, Director of Engineering at dSPACE about his experience with EcoCAR: The NeXt Challenge. You can watch the interview below!