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Powertrain Control Research Lab celebrates 20+ years of vehicle research

PCRL single-cylinder transient test cell.
PCRL single-cylinder transient test cell.

Decorative initial cap In 2010, the UW-Madison Powertrain Control Research Laboratory, or PCRL, celebrates 21 years of powertrain systems research. Amid its many technological innovations, PCRL has remained a lab dedicated to cultivating high-caliber students.

Various hybrid designs have been explored and built in UW-Madison mechanical engineering labs since the 1970s, but the PCRL founding in 1989 by Professor John Moskwa signaled a major new interdisciplinary approach to hybrid vehicle design and testing.

John Moskwa

In 2009, Moskwa and his students patented a new engine heat transfer simulator. Previously, engine and powertrain tests on single-cylinder engines ran at a constant (steady state) speed and temperature; however, cars on the street don’t operate this way. The new system builds upon two previous inventions in PCRL and the lab’s ongoing work with transient single-cylinder engine test systems, which include several patents for a test system utilizing Hardware-in-the-Loop (HIL).

HIL is a synthesis of hardware, real-time dynamic computer models and control software that replicates an entire vehicle. Japan-based Horiba currently is working with the PCRL team to commercialize the technology.

To demonstrate how fast the system operates, Moskwa can set varying engine speeds to musical notes, allowing a transient test system to “play” pieces such as “On Wisconsin” and one of Bach’s violin partitas.

The influence of students is evident throughout PCRL. “I lead the big picture and help students along the way in terms of ideas, direction and technology, but the nitty-gritty work and research are done by students,” Moskwa says.

The nitty-gritty work includes the design of the lab itself. Moskwa’s students planned a new facility in the basement of the Mechanical Engineering Building that opened in 2006. The layout is separated into three individual test rooms, plus an electronics build-room and a power-supply room. A separate laboratory houses computer stations for simulation work.

In the future, Moskwa would like to see the PCRL team apply its expertise more broadly, such as for developing large wind turbine test facilities or power strategies.




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Date last modified: Monday, 20-December-2010
Date created: 20-December-2010