By Ohio State’s Mark Hornak
Designing an advanced hybrid vehicle is definitely no small task, but I have been doing just that for the past three years, and I have been lucky enough to share the workload with an amazing team. As the team’s CAD and component packaging lead, I get to work on the design and integration of many of our vehicle’s sub-systems, including our front and rear powertrain, battery and structural systems. Working between these different areas is a challenge, but it has been made easier through the use of state-of-the-art CAD software tools such as Siemens NX and Solidworks.
As a new freshman on campus at Ohio State, I involved myself in our school’s EcoCAR team as general mechanical member. This was an unusual step, seeing as I was studying Materials Science and Engineering and had very little background on hybrid and conventional vehicles. The one bit of prior experience I did have, however, was a class I had taken in high school that taught me the ins and outs of Solidworks, a CAD program also used at Ohio State. As a mechanical team member, I designed and assembled a large part of our front powertrain in CAD and loved it!
Fast forward two years, and I am still using CAD to help out the Ohio State team, just on a much higher level. Instead of just designing a simple component or system here and there, I now get to design and integrate components into a model of our entire vehicle! This is especially important in a competition like EcoCAR 2, where each team is redesigning an existing Chevrolet Malibu sedan. After working on an SUV cross-over vehicle in EcoCAR: The NeXt Challenge, it is proving to be a difficult challenge to fit our hybrid vehicle components in a smaller vehicle. Some of the work I did last fall used our Siemens NX CAD program to compare the spatial impact and feasibility of various components our team was interested in using. Though many components may be able to meet the performance targets our team is aiming for, not all of them will fit together in the existing vehicle. To solve these problems, I have worked closely with my fellow team members to find the optimal vehicle architecture configuration. It is lessons like this that make EcoCAR 2 such a valuable experience for students, because at the end of the day, no matter where you end up working, you will have to work with others to solve complex problems.
Speaking of complex problems, there is the occasional case where components we need do not fit perfectly into the existing vehicle. In order to make them fit, we must make changes to existing parts on the car. This is where our CAD programs really start to help us. Using Siemens NX, we can make design modifications, then test them to make sure that they are stronger than they were to begin with! My major project this year is to manage the design of our team’s rear powertrain system. As I continue this project, I know that there is a lot of hard work to do, but I take some comfort in the fact that I have the tools necessary to get the job done, and done right!