One of the controllable causes of global warming is carbon dioxide (CO2) emission from burning fossil fuels. This process is precisely what enables most cars to function by means of combustion engines. In recent years, some companies in the automobile sector have brought out models that combine a standard combustion engine with an electric one. These are known as hybrids, and they produce less pollution. In his final thesis, Toni Font, who recently graduated from the ETSEIB, proposed a way to make these vehicles more efficient.
The proposal is based on one of the problems of conventional vehicles: the loss of kinetic energy during braking. This waste of energy leads to very high fuel consumption and, consequently, to an increase in CO2emissions. Under the supervision of Ramon Costa, lecturer at the Department of Automatic Control (ESAII), Toni Font has focused on solving this problem. According to Ramon Costa, "The project modifies the structure of conventional cars to introduce elements that help to recover lost energy and reinject it into the system. It is made up of two parts: one related to hardware components, and one to software components".
The study proposes the installation of a supercapacitor battery and the creation of software to coordinate and manage the new elements. The supercapacitators facilitate the work of the battery, as they prevent current peaks that can diminish performance and transfer the remaining energy. The software envisages four operational modes for the vehicle, which depend on the propulsion system. As the most suitable motor is activated for the type of driving, this technology brings about energy savings and reduces CO2 emissions. In a standard driving cycle, the modifications lead to up to 67% less fuel consumption and up to 63% less energy consumption than a conventional vehicle of the same size with no hybrid components. In addition, it uses 55% less energy than a standard hybrid vehicle.
Energy and transport management
With respect to the applications of his work, Toni Font explained that, "It could be used in sectors related to energy generation and management that aim to work in the most sustainable and efficient way possible. It could also be applied to the areas of the transport sector that use petrol and diesel motors".
As a result of this research, Toni Font has received one of the six research grants that Ferrari will award in 2009, in the category of CO2 emissions reduction. The ETSEIB student is the only Spaniard to participate in the programme, which is funded by the Maranello-based company.