The Progress of WSU EcoCAR3’s Innovation Topic

Innovation is just one of many focus areas of EcoCAR 3. Students participating in the Innovation track can contribute to meeting future energy and fuel efficiency goals through unique and creative ways. Innovation projects in EcoCAR 3 provide students with the opportunity to utilize and develop state-of-the-art technologies and methods. The innovation topic selected by the Wayne State University (WSU) EcoCAR 3 team focuses on the development of a clutch-assisted engine start for their hybrid drivetrain by controlling the slip, speed, and torque.

The engine will be started by using the electric motor and clutch, as opposed to a starter in most conventional vehicles.  Instead of a starter, an electro-hydraulic actuator will be used to receive signals from a controller in order to engage or disengage the clutch and therefore will be able to start the engine with the help of the electric motor.


The real innovation in this work, however, is the slip control.  Sebastian Briones, the electrical subteam leader, is currently working on a code that will tell the clutch to “slip” when too much torque is applied.  Slip, speed, and torque control are important when working on this innovation.

“Several control loops will be implemented to create an interactive system that can respond to any condition. Slip control is critical because it’ll prevent potential damages to the engine and electric motor,” said Sebastian.

The biggest challenge with this system is using the clutch while the vehicle is moving. Closing the clutch right away while the vehicle is in motion can damage the engine.  Achieving the slip control is necessary to overcome this challenge.  The torque distribution from the slip control will be split between the engine and the electric motor. The team will strive to achieve smooth transitions between the engine and electric motor, which will demand extensive hours of testing and calibration.


The WSU EcoCAR3 team hopes to start “Phase 1” validation and vehicle testing by the end of this month. “Phase 0,” which involves research, modeling, and simulation processes has started during summer and almost completed.

Sebastian is excited to see the potential that their innovation topic holds and is confident that it will succeed in the automotive industry,

“This system is attractive for all automakers that are shifting to produce hybrid electric vehicles. It is an efficient solution that provides all the functionalities that the automotive industry demands. The WSU EcoCAR 3 team believes that it will be accepted by potential customers that seek cutting edge technologies and innovative systems.”

To learn more about the Wayne State University EcoCAR3 team, visit them on their team page.