VTool: A Method for Predicting and Understanding the Energy Flow and Losses in Advanced Vehicle Powertrains

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Virginia Tech


As the global demand for energy increases, the people of the United States are increasingly subject to high and ever-rising oil prices. Additionally, the U.S. transportation sector accounts for 27% of total nationwide Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions. In the U.S. transportation sector, light-duty passenger vehicles account for about 58% of energy use. Therefore incremental improvements in light-duty vehicle efficiency and energy use will significantly impact the overall landscape of energy use in America.

A crucial step to designing and building more efficient vehicles is modeling powertrain energy consumption. While accurate modeling is indeed key to effective and efficient design, a fundamental understanding of the powertrain and auxiliary systems that contribute to energy consumption for a vehicle is equally as important if not more important. This thesis presents a methodology that has been packaged into a tool, called VTool, that can be used to estimate the energy consumption of a vehicle powertrain. The method is intrinsically designed to foster understanding of the vehicle powertrain as it relates to energy consumption while still providing reasonably accurate results. VTool explicitly calculates the energy required at the wheels of the vehicle to complete a prescribed drive cycle and then explicitly applies component efficiencies to find component losses and the overall energy consumption for the drive cycle. In calculating component efficiencies and losses, VTool offers several tunable parameters that can be used to calibrate the tool for a particular vehicle, compare powertrain architectures, or simply explore the tradeoffs and sensitivities of certain parameters.

In this paper, the method is fully and explicitly developed to model Electric Vehicles (EVs), Series Hybrid Electric Vehicles (HEVs) and Parallel HEVs for various different drive cycles. VTool has also been validated for use in UDDS and HwFET cycles using on-road test results from the 2011 EcoCAR competition. By extension, the method could easily be extended for use in other cycles. The end result is a tool that can predict fuel consumption to a reasonable degree of accuracy for a variety of powertrains, calculate J1711 Utility Factor weighted energy consumption for Extended Range Electric Vehicles (EREVs) and determine the Well-to-Wheel impact of a given powertrain or fuel. VTool does all of this while performing all calculations explicitly and calculating all component losses to allow the user maximum access which promotes understanding and comprehension of the fundamental dynamics of automotive fuel economy and the powertrain as a system.



petroleum, fuel economy, powertrain modeling, hybrid electric vehicle, plug-in hybrid electric vehicle, electric vehicle, environment, greenhouse gases