Government of Canada invests in SFU green auto technology research
SFU's Mechatronics Systems Engineering (MSE) program got a boost on August 29, 2011 with the Honourable Minister of State (Science and Technology) Gary Goodyear's announcement of new research funding through Automotive Partnership Canada (APC), a five-year, $145-million initiative that supports collaborative research and development in Canada’s automotive industry. SFU researchers Erik Kjeang and Majid Bahrami will share part of the ~$5M from NSERC and CFI.
MASc student Daniel Zwart explains how they will collaborate with Ballard Power Systems to create a fuel cell diagnostics system. "This APC funding is for extending the life of the membrane assemblies of the Ballard Fuel cell, and learning about how the membrane / electrode assembly behaves," says Zwart. He's making integrated diagnostic systems that signal when the system is malfunctioning. The NSERC funding will allow his supervisor Erik Kjeang to hire additional researchers.
Kjeang, an assistant professor with MSE, says: "I'm very optimistic and excited about the huge opportunity for us to work with Ballard to do the R&D necessary to reduce the cost and increase the lifetime of these heavy-duty fuel cells." The technology can potentially enable wide-spread commercialization of fuel cell buses, resulting in social, economic and environmental benefits to Canada.
In a second initiative, Majid Bahrami, associate professor in MSE is working on an integrated thermal energy management system for hybrid electric vehicles. This next-generation system will improve the efficiency of lithium/ion battery systems in electric vehicles. One idea is to take low-grade heat generated by the batteries and use it to power an air-conditioner to cool the passenger compartment as well as the batteries themselves. Bahrami says, "A major problem with these electric vehicles is that as soon as you use the battery to drive a compressor in the air-conditioning unit, you reduce the range of the vehicle by 40%." So by exploiting wasted heat from the batteries to power the air-conditioner, Bahrami's technology avoids this problem. "That's why both NSERC and APC has funded this project," says Bahrami. The project involves a collaboration with Future Vehicle Technologies. The Canada Foundation for Innovation and NSERC are contributing close to $800,000.