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Harnessing Drag Energy in Electric Automobiles

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2020 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access


Virtual On line

Publication Date

June 22, 2020

Start Date

June 22, 2020

End Date

June 26, 2021

Conference Session

ECCD - Technical Session 1 - Energy & Electrical Engineering

Tagged Division

Energy Conversion and Conservation

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Paper Authors


Aman Luthra University of Georgia

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Aman Luthra is an undergraduate at the University of Georgia. He is a Mechanical Engineering student interested in Energy Harvesting.

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Tom Lawrence P.E. University of Georgia

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Dr. Lawrence is the program lead for mechanical engineering at the University of Georgia. He has over 35 years of professional experience, roughly half of which was in industry and the latter half now in academia. He has been the primary point of contact between the University of Georgia and Karlsruhe Institute of Technology and the industrial corporate partners for advancing this program.

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John M. Mativo University of Georgia

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Dr. John Mativo is Associate Professor at the University of Georgia. His research interest lies in two fields. The first is research focusing on best and effective ways to teaching and learning in STEM K-16. He is currently researching on best practices in learning Dynamics, a sophomore engineering core course. The second research focus of Dr. Mativo is energy harvesting in particular the design and use of flexible thermoelectric generators. His investigation is both for the high-tech and low tech applications. In addition to teaching courses such as energy systems, mechanics, mechatronics, and production, he investigates best ways to expand cutting edge technologies to the workforce.

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This research project investigated a novel method of harvesting drag energy in electric automobiles for conversion into supplemental electric power for the vehicles. The main focus of the project was on capturing drag energy in the vehicle’s compartment, where some airflow is needed for cooling purposes but most is wasted as drag. The project entails estimating the potential of mounting a rotating fan blade attached to a generator in the vehicle’s engine compartment, which would spin as the vehicle is in motion and generate extra power for the vehicle’s battery. To evaluate this potential, an anemometer and logger were mounted in the compartment of a Ford C-Max Plug-In Hybrid to estimate how much electrical power could be generated at various speed limits. Data were collected from a sample trip that included local roads and highway travel. From the data collected, an equation was generated to show the correlation between driving speed and power generated. The results showed that the drag-energy-capturing system would generate enough power to increase the vehicle’s battery life by an average of 0.1% at full capacity. We identified multiple areas for improvement including a refined experimentation and measurement process and system designs that can increase the system’s power-generating capability and ultimately reduce emissions from vehicles.

The paper is a result of a yearlong honor’s course. The student and faculty that conducted the research created methods of investigation that enabled them to generate data and analyze it. The methods will be presented as a reference point for future research.

Luthra, A., & Lawrence, T., & Mativo, J. M. (2020, June), Harnessing Drag Energy in Electric Automobiles Paper presented at 2020 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual On line . 10.18260/1-2--34721

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