Former Purdue graduate students Sylvia Lu (left) and Mayura Halbe work in the Cummins Power Laboratory at Purdue’s Ray W. Herrick Laboratories.
Photo courtesy of Purdue University/Charles Jischke

Edited by Eric Brothers

Purdue University researchers are participating in the U.S. Department of Energy’s Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) Next-Generation Energy Technologies for Connected and Autonomous On-Road Vehicles (NEXTCAR) program, a $32 million initiative to fund 10 projects.

The Purdue project focuses on Class 8 trucks and will work with team members Cummins Inc., Peloton Technology, Peterbilt Motors Co., the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, and ZF TRW.

The Purdue-led team will receive $5 million throughout three years to develop fuel-saving algorithms that use connected-vehicle data for automated systems where sensors and online cloud technology could cut fuel use by 20%.

Team leader, Purdue Mechanical Engineering Professor Gregory Shaver, says, “Trucks will be connected to the cloud, and they will be connected to each other.”

The team includes Assistant Professor of Mechanical Engineering Neera Jain; Professor of Aeronautics and Astronautics Daniel DeLaurentis; Assistant Professor of Aeronautics and Astronautics Shaoshuai Mou; and Srinivas Peeta, the Jack and Kay Hockema professor in civil engineering.

Purdue’s team will pursue:

  • On-the-fly engine, transmission recalibration to adapt to new conditions
  • Running model-based control algorithms from the cloud
  • Platooning with enhanced capabilities, such as synchronizing transmission shifting between two trucks

Engineers from diesel engine manufacturer Cummins will spearhead development of algorithms needed to operate engines and related systems. The project also will involve four Purdue graduate students.

“We can improve our customers’ business through real-time optimization of the powertrain,” says Ed Hodzen, director of Advanced Controls Engineering at Cummins. “Predictive and optimization algorithms have not been possible to implement on existing on-board controllers.”

Each truck will be connected to a cloud-based network operations center, enabling access to crowd-sourced traffic data, road-grade maps, and weather services.

Truck platooning, much like positioning racecars close to each other, could reduce aerodynamic drag if it can be done safely using connectivity data.

“It’s also the same thing that happens when you have a cluster of bicycles, called a peloton, in competitive racing,” Shaver says. “Together, they reduce the drag on each other. Through automation, we want to get the trucks closer together than human drivers could safely drive them.”

Peloton Technology’s platooning system provides a wireless vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) communications link between the throttle and braking systems of pairs of trucks, allowing the trucks to coordinate speeds and maintain a safe, aerodynamic following distance. Optimizing powertrains via information about the road ahead significantly enhances platooning algorithms.

Today, platooning with the Peloton Technology two-truck platooning system results in average fuel savings of 7% at a following distance of 36ft, based on 4.5% fuel savings for the lead truck and 10% for the following truck. Enhanced algorithms promise to boost average fuel savings from platooning to as much as 13%.

The National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) will assist with testing of the trucks on tracks and roads. Peterbilt will advance its Platooning Development Program to include capabilities such as over-the-air (OTA) engine/transmission calibrations for route, weather, and traffic changes.

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