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3 students make low carbon car in senior project

Three senior electrical engineering majors spend nine hours every Tuesday in Jobst Hall, testing batteries, motors and other parts for their Micro Electric Urban Vehicle.
Kyle Dieter, Nate Mills and Spencer Leeds have begun a multi-year project to build a low vehicle that will have low carbon emissions and eventually be road-ready.
“All of last semester was spent doing calculations,” Leeds said. “We made a giant Excel spreadsheet filled with tons of data. We were doing calculations to figure out what parts would best match our application.”
Dieter said the calculations were necessary to proceed with the part of the project the team has moved on to this semester.
“The biggest thing was that we got all of our specifications figured out,” he said. “We determined how much energy was needed to move how much mass we had, that sort of thing.”
Now that the students have started to build the vehicle, they said the process has become more exciting.
“Now we’re finally getting to test drive it,” Leeds said. “It’s awesome that we finally have something to show for all that work we put into it.”
Though the students have done most of the technical work themselves, their advisers – Brian Huggins, the chairman of the Electrical Engineering Department, Steven Gutschlag, an electrical engineering professor, and Chris Mattus, the lab director for the ECE Department – have done a lot of work in getting the project off the ground.
“Mattus did a lot of the heavier work in constructing the frame,” Mills said. “And the entire project was Huggins’ idea – he wanted to start a series of alternative energy projects. It’s all about environmentally friendly things with no carbon emissions.”
Another upside to the project?
“You won’t have to worry about gas prices,” Mills said.
The vehicle is intended to hold one or two people for short commutes and will run on lithium ion batteries, which are rechargeable and lose charge slowly.
The ones being used for testing the vehicle are sealed lead acid batteries, or regular batteries, and are not as environmentally friendly.
It is powered by a separately excited DC motor, which Mills said is integral to the dynamic of the project.
“The motor specifically helps with regenerative breaking, which was really important to us,” he said.
Mills said the car will have solar panels that stay home and collect energy when you drive during the day and will charge the car when you plug it back in at night.
Although the students had their choice of projects at the start of the semester, they said they chose this particular one because it would produce actual results.
“We picked it because it is more hands-on” Dieter said. “When we are done we will have actually made something rather than just a computer program – you can’t drive a computer program.”
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