A Sustainable Approach to Advanced Energy and Vehicular Technologies at the University of Kansas

Christopher Depcik, Lou McKown, Matt LeGresley
2009 Volume 7: Engineering Education and Professional Development   unpublished
In the fall of 2008, the Department of Mechanical Engineering at The University of Kansas began a hybrid vehicle program as an undergraduate senior design project. The purpose of this class is to ensure that the students leaving the curriculum are learning about advanced energy and vehicular technologies to make them attractive candidates for the new wave of energy related jobs. Future efforts of this project will follow the pathway of the Department of Energy's Strategic Approach to Energy
more » ... rity while keeping objectives realistic and costs manageable. From the first meetings with the students, a sustainable architecture was set as the approach to the project. The student's definition of sustainability draws from others mentioned in the literature and illustrates the application of engineering techniques to solving real-world problems by holistically approaching the situation from five vectors of success: the environment, energy, economics, education and ethics. Each of these concepts individually addresses specific aspects of sustainability, shaped by the confluence of the ideals of people, planet, and prosperity. Moreover, it is through the multi-leveled application of the vectors of success that the students have developed the means to face the challenges of advanced hybrid automotive technologies. This paper describes the hurdles faced by the faculty and students upon starting this hybridization program, illuminating methods to minimize the costs involved with beginning a new vehicular program while maximizing the reward to the students and faculty. In particular, the recycling of an iconic vehicular platform, the Volkswagen Super Beetle, has stimulated enthusiasm in the program while also providing a reasonable baseline vehicle. In addition, the reclamation of such a vehicle is inherently economically and environmentally friendly. This has significantly reduced the start-up expenses of the project by taking advantage of a discarded and underutilized resource. Since a hybrid vehicle is a complex electro-mechanical and aerodynamic system, the success of the program ultimately relies upon building relationships with faculty members across many disciplines. As a result, this paper illustrates novel methods of synergy in order to exemplify how multiple disciplines can work independently, yet with a common goal. Furthermore, this work describes the inclusion of energy technologies often not associated with production vehicles, such as solar and wind power. Finally, the authors demonstrate how the five vectors of sustainability fit within the program to ensure continuing success of the curriculum.
doi:10.1115/imece2009-10247 fatcat:mdfbwjmh55fjdfkkd5anhscbzm