Canadian university opens new powertrain research center

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The University of Waterloo in Ontario, Canada, has officially opened its new Green and Intelligent Automotive (GAIA) research center.

The US$7m facility is intended to facilitate research into the mechanical, electrical, thermal, and wireless behavior of IC powertrains and hybrid/electric vehicles, as well as validate new vehicle technologies in real-world conditions.

The infrastructure of the research center will be tightly integrated using a model-based design, enabling simultaneous system-level testing of components from each of its test cells: powertrain, battery, and vehicle.

Funding for the project has come from Toyota Canada, the University of Waterloo and the governments of Ontario and Canada. Professor John McPhee, who is in charge of the new operation, said, “The funding from our government and industry partners supports our team’s 145 graduate students and staff who are working on transformative technologies for the next generation of green powertrains and wireless-enabled intelligent controllers.

“We have established an immense program of research in this area, and the GAIA infrastructure is absolutely crucial to the advancement and eventual commercialization of this work.”

The initial proposal for the facility was put forward around four years ago, and establishing its design, which took almost two years to complete, was a particular challenge according to McPhee: “There so much equipment inside requiring high levels of power and cooling and to make that more complicated, all the equipment has to be tightly integrated with one another.”

There are three test cell labs housing approximately US$3.5m of equipment, including three 300kW PM dynamometers in the powertrain test cell, which, according to McPhee, are unlike the AC dynos used at other universities as they are capable of handling rapid torque pulsations.

The full vehicle test cell houses a four-wheel-drive rolling road with a 200kW chassis dynamometer for measurement of torque, speed, emissions and fuel on a complete range of vehicles (combustion, electric and hybrid).

The battery test cell consists of a bidirectional charging system with vehicle-to-grid capabilities, battery cell and pack cyclers, an environmental chamber, and electrochemical measurement equipment.

“This infrastructure is essential to predict the lifetime and performance of battery systems in real-world conditions, including the integration of PHEVs and EVs with our electrical grid, and to study thermal management issues that are critical to EV and PHEV performance,” McPhee added.

January 19, 2016

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Dean has been with UKi Media & Events for over a decade, having previously cut his journalistic teeth writing and editing for various automotive and engineering titles. He combines extensive knowledge of all things automotive with a passion for driving, and experience testing countless new vehicles, engines and technologies around the world. As well as his role as editor-in-chief across a range of UKi's media titles, he is also co-chair of the judging panel of the International Engine of the Year Awards.

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