Obama-era EPA rules may be on their way out but that doesn’t mean the search for more sustainable transportation is over. The University of Alabama and three other schools were recently picked by the National Science Foundation to make automobiles more fuel efficient.
UA joins the NSF Industry/University Cooperative Research Center, established to support efforts by the automotive and ground transportation industries to make transportation easier on the planet. The focus is on making electric vehicles more efficient, cheaper and more reliant on sustainable materials, said Yang-Ki Hong, principal investigator on the project. Co-principal investigators are Tim Haskew, professor and head of the department of electrical and computer engineering, and Hwan-Sik Yoon, assistant professor of mechanical engineering.
Automobiles increasingly need more advanced technology, including antennas to communicate with each other and with infrastructure such as traffic lights. The permanent magnets that fuel the electric motors also rely on expensive, hard-to-process rare earth minerals. As part of the center, research at UA will attempt to provide solutions for some of those issues. That means better magnetic materials for electric motors and generators, high performance electric motor controls and thermoelectric materials for automotive energy recovery.
“The center is a great opportunity to not only improve related research capabilities but also promote the automotive engineering education program at UA in both undergraduate and graduate levels by directly interacting with automotive industries, ” Yoon said.
Text by Dave Helms