Prof. Jessy Grizzle is applying his expertise in control theory to hybrid
electric vehicles in a partnership with Ford Motor Company, and finding ways
to improve fuel economy while allowing for optimal driving experiences.
"If you just optimize for fuel economy in a hybrid, you get a car that
would be very unsettling to drive," said Jessy Grizzle, the Jerry W. and
Carol L. Levin Professor of Engineering in the U-M Department of Electrical
Engineering and Computer Science.
"The car would constantly change gears and engine speed to save minute
quantities of fuel " Grizzle explained. "It would not be a pleasant
The new technology has already been tested with 2,500 road trips, and the
data is being analyzed to determine how internal electronic vehicle controls
could be tweaked to further improve fuel efficiency and fun-to-drive
In addition to the road trips, nearly 1 million controller design
simulations of hybrid vehicle control systems have been tested to date, and
the pace continues at about 50,000 a week - a development that allows a much
more complete exploration of design tradeofffs than has ever been possible
in the past.
Prof. Grizzle is quick to credit collaborator Daniel Opila, a mechanical
engineering doctoral student, for his major contributions to the research.
main goal of this project," explained Opila, "is to bring advanced methods
to HEV and plug-in HEV design. Most academic control methods work well in
simulation but do not incorporate the many constraints required for a
production car. By developing a controller design method that can
incorporate many different goals for vehicle behavior, state-of-the-art
optimal control methods can be used to develop real cars that consumers
want. My work attempts to bridge the gap between theoretical proofs and the
practical requirements of engineers designing the hybrids of tomorrow. This
research allows improvements in fuel economy, but more importantly, it is
automatic and fast. This really helps when a manufacturer is designing a new
vehicle; controllers for that vehicle can be developed in days rather than
Dan came to Michigan from Orbital Sciences Corporation; he earned his
bachelor's and master's degrees in mechanical engineering at MIT in 2002 and
2003. Grizzle recruited Opila during one of his courses to work specifically
on the HEV project. "It combined all the things I wanted," stated Opila,
"theory, an interesting application, and the chance to test in hardware and
compare against industrial benchmarks. Energy issues are the biggest problem
facing the world today, and I wanted to tackle an important problem."
research is being conducted as a Ford-UM Alliance Project. Mr. Jeffrey Cook,
former Technical Leader at the Ford Scientific Research Laboratory,
initiated the original HEV project between U-M and Ford, having been
familiar with Prof. Grizzle's work in the past. The seeds for the methods
being used were sown in earlier work sponsored by NSF.
Cook has held appointments in the department as an adjunct research
professor, and as a lecturer. In recent years, he has provided valuable
expertise and industrial perspective as an instructor of the senior
undergraduate course, Embedded Control Systems.
Posted: October 22, 2009 by
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