NOTICIAS DE LA INDUSTRIA: Industry teams with engineering students on hybrid technology

By Lynn Nystrom

BLACKSBURG, Va., April 2, 2008 — Virginia Tech mechanical engineering students and RIDE Inc., a Virginia-based corporation concentrating on the development of hybrid vehicles, are working together to develop vehicle components. Al Kornhauser, associate professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering at Virginia Tech, who specializes in internal combustion engines, fuel cells, and other energy-conversion systems, is working with RIDE. Mechanical engineering students under Kornhauser’s guidance will design, build, and test a hydraulic pump/motor for use in a hydraulic hybrid vehicle. “Hybrid vehicles use two or more distinct power sources, as opposed to conventional automobiles that rely on internal combustion engines alone,” said Kornhauser. “An electric hybrid vehicle has a motor/generator that can either supply power to the wheels or store energy in a battery. In a hydraulic hybrid, a hydraulic pump/motor can either supply power to the wheels or store energy in a hydraulic accumulator, which contains high-pressure hydraulic fluid and compressed gas.

“Current hydraulic hybrid vehicle designs use hydraulic pump/motor technology that has been developed for general industrial applications. These pump/motors are not ideal for vehicle applications. An alternate pump-motor concept has been devised, with a geometry similar to that of the World War I – era ‘Gnome’ aircraft engine. The students will build a pump/motor based on this concept to serve as a prototype and demonstrator.”

RIDE already has a patent pending on the Rotational-Inertial-Dampening-Engine (RIDE), a hybrid engine that stores energy in a flywheel rather than a battery or hydraulic accumulator. According to Phillip Vera, president of RIDE, it achieves double the fuel economy and sharply reduces emissions compared to a similar-sized conventional engine. It also provides hybrid capabilities without the necessity for separate components to perform the energy storage and retrieval functions.

Both the RIDE engine and the pump/motor technology were invented by Gary Greenwell. Greenwell attended Virginia Tech and has 30 years of experience in the automotive industry, including stints with Mercedes Benz and Nissan. He has teamed with Vera, who has a master’s degree from George Mason University and is president of EDGE Office Solutions, to develop the technology.