Johnson Controls, Engineering, UW-Milwaukee team up to improve vehicle fuel efficiency

May 26, 2016
Johnson Controls Fellows Kevin Frankforter (left) and Jacob Dubie are pictured in the Johnson Controls Energy Storage Research Lab at the Wisconsin Energy Institute on the UW–Madison campus. (Photo by Matthew Wisniewski)

Johnson Controls Fellows Kevin Frankforter (left) and Jacob Dubie are pictured in the Johnson Controls Energy Storage Research Lab at the Wisconsin Energy Institute on the UW–Madison campus. (Photo by Matthew Wisniewski)

Johnson Controls is partnering with the College of Engineering and the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee on two multi-year research projects aimed at enhancing the vehicle fuel efficiency.

“We are bringing together students and the world’s best energy storage and powertrain engineers to tackle challenges in advancing vehicle technology,” said MaryAnn Wright, group vice president industry relations at Johnson Controls Power Solutions, which is the world’s largest manufacturer of auto batteries. “The results will help future vehicle technology to deliver optimum performance and environmental efficiency.”

Thomas Jahns, Grainger Professor of Power Electronics and Electrical Machines at UW–Madison, and Deyang Qu, Johnson Controls endowed professor at UW-Milwaukee, will supervise the projects. The work will be funded through a $500,000 fellowship gift to UW–Madison and will be conducted at the Johnson Controls Energy Systems Laboratory at UW–Madison’s Wisconsin Energy Institute and at the advanced battery laboratories at UW–Milwaukee.

The first project will focus on identifying the aging mechanisms of absorbent glass mat (AGM) batteries and supporting systems in start-stop applications and vehicle optimization strategies.

Start-stop technology automatically shuts off the engine when the car is idling and restarts when the driver’s foot leaves the brake pedal. This can provide up to 5 percent more fuel efficiency and reduced carbon dioxide emissions. When the engine is off, the vehicle’s electrical system draws energy from the AGM battery to power all electrical loads in the vehicle. The AGM battery must be able to restart the engine many times during a typical day of driving.

“Our goal is to pursue important battery research objectives that hold great promise to deliver vital improvements in future Johnson Controls battery products while simultaneously educating bright graduate students who are preparing themselves for rewarding careers in the battery industry,” Jahns said.

The second project will explore ways to leverage other energy storage devices to provide peak power acceptance and cycling capability. This technology exploration will inspire technology breakthroughs in energy storage efficiency. The project will be supervised by Jahns and UW–Madison Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering Marc Anderson.

UW–Madison graduate students Jacob Dubie and Kevin Frankforter, the first recipients of Johnson Controls Distinguished Graduate Fellowships, will carry out the projects.

These projects are two of several technology collaborations between Johnson Controls and UW–Madison focused on optimizing battery system performance and interactions with a vehicle’s powertrain and electrical architecture and on developing future stationary energy application