Design and Control of a Unique Hydrogen Fuel Cell Plug-In Hybrid Electric Vehicle
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The University of Waterloo Alternative Fuels Team (UWAFT) is a student team that designs and builds vehicles with advanced powertrains. UWAFT uses alternatives to fossil fuels because of their lower environmental impacts and the finite nature of oil resources. UWAFT participated in the EcoCAR Advanced Vehicle Technology Competition (AVTC) from 2008 to 2011. The team designed and built a Hydrogen Fuel Cell Plug-In Hybrid Electric Vehicle (FC-PHEV) and placed 3rd out of 16 universities from across North America. UWAFT design projects offer students a unique opportunity to advance and augment their core engineering knowledge with hands-on learning in a project-based environment. The design of thermal management systems for powertrain components is a case study for design engineering which requires solving open ended problems, and is a topic that is of growing importance in undergraduate engineering courses. Students participating in this design project learn to develop strategies to overcome uncertainty and to evaluate and execute designs that are not as straightforward as those in a textbook. Electrical and control system projects require students to introduce considerations for reliability and robustness into their design processes that typically only focus on performance and function, and to make decisions that balance these considerations in an environment where these criteria impact the successful outcome of the project. The consequences of a failure or unreliable design also have serious safety implications, particularly in the implementation of powertrain controls. Students integrate safety into every step of control system design, using tools to identify and link together component failures and vehicle faults, to design detection and mitigation strategies for safety-critical failures, and to validate these strategies in real-time simulations. Student teams have the opportunity to offer a rich learning environment for undergraduate engineering students. The design projects and resources that they provide can significantly advance student knowledge, experience, and skills in a way that complements the technical knowledge gained in the classroom. Finding ways to provide these experiences to more undergraduate students, either outside or within existing core courses, has the potential to enhance the value of program graduates.