"We wanted to standardize on one platform for the course, and we didn’t want to have to teach that as well. With MathWorks tools, our students can do both modeling and analysis, and then develop an embedded controller without switching software platforms. That is invaluable."
Dr. Joel Anstrom, Penn State University
In a graduate-level course at Penn State, engineering students use hardware-in-the loop (HIL) methodologies to study electric, hybrid electric, and fuel cell vehicle technology.
"To our knowledge, this is the only course in the country focused on HIL for advanced vehicles," says Dr. Sean Brennan, assistant professor of mechanical engineering, who co-teaches the course with Dr. Joel Anstrom, director of the Graduate Automotive Technology Education (GATE) Program at Penn State.
Advanced Vehicle Hardware-in-the-Loop Methods is part of a comprehensive, Department of Energy funded, GATE curriculum. Working with advanced powertrain components in Penn State’s HIL network — which was developed with MathWorks software — students use Simulink® and xPC Target™ to complete the course labs.
"MathWorks tools enable us to integrate research and teaching," Dr. Brennan says. "Implicit in that is rapid turnaround — the tools enable my colleagues and me to set up lab hardware in minutes, while our students use them to quickly apply high-level concepts, visualize results, and control real hardware."
Penn State's HIL network links fuel cells, batteries, ultracapacitors, electric drive motors, combustion engines, chassis dynamometers, and other vehicle subsystems across the campus.
"To support such a wide variety of equipment and data exchange interfaces across different labs, we needed tools that were quickly reconfigurable and flexible," Dr. Brennan explains. "Our students needed to interface with this equipment without interfering with research projects going on in the labs, and they needed to conduct offline and online simulations."
In addition, Brennan and Anstrom needed analysis and simulation tools that would enable students from a wide variety of disciplines to learn advanced vehicle powertrain analysis concepts quickly. "C source code does not work well as a teaching aid," says Dr. Anstrom. "We wanted the students to be able to visualize systems. We needed tools that could help us quickly explain a system in the classroom and that students could use on their own to explore concepts in more detail."
The Penn State instructors use MathWorks products in all lectures and labs in Advanced Vehicle Hardware-in-the-Loop Methods. "MathWorks tools enable students to do modeling, analysis, and controller design on a single platform," says Anstrom.
Each of the first four labs in the course focuses on the dynamics of one specific powertrain component: the battery pack, ultracapacitor, DC motor, or engine. In these labs, students use powertrain system models in Argonne National Laboratory’s Powertrain System Analysis Toolkit © (PSAT). Based on Simulink, PSAT enables automotive engineers to analyze and simulate advanced powertrain technologies.
Using the PSAT model as a starting point, the students replace the software representation of a single component with real hardware. They use Simulink Coder™ to generate code from the model and xPC Target to run real-time simulations, control the hardware, and collect simulation results. In the battery lab, for example, students use xPC Target to control and gather performance measurements from a power-processing system capable of producing up to 150 kilowatts.
In each lab, students use MATLAB® and Simulink® to analyze system behavior, compare simulated and measured results, and determine how the results might be used for advanced vehicle powertrain optimization.
In the final lab, students work with a full electric vehicle on a chassis dynamometer. They emulate the terminal response of a fuel cell using a power-processing machine driven by a Simulink model and xPC Target.
Brennan and Anstrom used Stateflow® to develop sophisticated control algorithms that manage startup and shutdown of the full electric vehicle to ensure safe operation. The controller was deployed on a standalone PC using xPC Target Embedded Option™.
They are developing a scaled-down version of a hybrid electric vehicle that students can use in the classroom to create their own control strategy and real-time controller.
To teach engineering graduate students advanced vehicle powertrain technologies using hardware-in-the-loop methodologies
Use MathWorks tools to set up an interconnected campus-wide HIL network and help students apply high-level concepts, visualize results, and control real hardware