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Investigation of Feasibility of Integrating Alternative Energy Sources in a Roadside Assistance Vehicle


Shane Overington, Sumedha Rajakaruna, Senior Member, IEEE, Syed Islam, Senior Member, IEEE and Tilak Chandratilleke
Curtin University of Technology Perth, Western Australia
AbstractAn energy audit was conducted on a RAC test vehicle to provide a reference for the amount of energy used by the typical RAC vehicle. It was paramount to the investigation that the vehicle be integrated with renewable energy technology that would not require a complete redesign of the current propulsion system. Technologies were selected based on their ability to be adopted by the existing power train in such a way that the only changes interpreted by the systems control would be an additional supplement of energy generation. There were two renewable energy sources discussed solar photovoltaic (PV) generation and thermoelectric generation. The thermoelectric generation however, was deemed too inefficient to consider for application thus simulation concerns the PV generation only. Simulations were conducted in ADVISOR to determine the benefit of the additional power source on the system. The final results determined from the experimental studies to the energy efficiency improvement of a RAC roadside assistance vehicle are to be taken as a feasibility study to influence further research into the work completed. Index TermsADVISOR software, hybrid electric vehicle, solar photovoltaic generation and thermoelectric generation.

I. INTRODUCTION USTAINABILITY is fast becoming the basis of all engineering decisions with the increasing demand to improve current technologies for environmental benefit. In many technological advances for sustainability, existing designs are being modified through the scoping study of better energy management and utilization. Accordingly, the Royal Automobile Club (RAC) of Western Australia has approached Curtin University with the aim of conducting a feasibility study on improving the environmental impact of their typical roadside assistance vehicle. The RAC test vehicle is a Ford BA Falcon 2004 model utility (Fig. 1), with necessary modifications for use as a roadside assistance vehicle. It was paramount to the investigation that the vehicle be integrated with renewable energy technology that would not require a complete redesign of the existing petrol and natural gas based propulsion system. Prior to considering any modifications, it was essential to assess the energy consumption patterns of the test vehicle.

This energy audit developed a base for the comparison of energy efficiency with the application of renewable energy sources to the vehicle, in turn quantifying the feasibility of employing the new methods of power generation. The next task was to investigate the application of two main renewable energy sources to the vehicle; these included the use of solar PV generation and thermoelectric generation. The main focus of this application involved the selection of the most cost effective and energy efficient solar PV modules currently available, and the testing of a specific type of thermocouple known as the Peltier device for performance characteristics and integration with solar PV panels. It should be noted that the tests conducted on the Peltier device deemed the technology impractical for the application in which it is used. The success of the application of renewable energy technologies concerned is thus limited to the PV power generation. Once the extent of the power available from the renewable technology was calculated, the software package ADVISOR was used to calculate an estimate of the fuel savings that the new method for power generation would have. The feasibility to pursue these methods for improving the energy efficiency of the vehicle is largely dependent on the degree of fuel consumption savings as calculated by the ADVISOR software simulation. II. LITERATURE REVIEW A. Hybrid Electric Vehicle Technology Initially the focus of the project identified the need for the RAC test vehicles improvements to resemble the technology employed in todays Hybrid Electric Vehicles (HEV). This idealism provided the scope for the additions or changes to the vehicle that were theoretically possible. The scope however was limited by the amount of change that could be implemented on the RAC test vehicle. It was decided at the beginning that the vehicle was to be improved and not redesigned, thus the range of applications in relation to renewable technologies to be placed on the vehicle was significantly reduced. A list of some of the technologies researched and deemed unsuitable for the RAC test vehicle include; regenerative breaking, an all electric power source e.g. a large battery bank and fuel cells. [1-4]. Solar powered vehicles have been an ongoing topic of

2 research for a few decades. Firstly, [5] and [6] detail two different scenarios that utilize solar power as a primary source of power generation for the propulsion system of vehicles. These two articles place emphasis on the combination of the solar powered system with a reliable and consistent power supply such as a battery bank or conventional drive engine. This combination of the two power sources helps to regulate the power flow to the load. Another instance where solar power has been successfully used as the main power source for a vehicle is described in [7], where a light weight, aerodynamic, efficient (for solar power) and safe vehicle is discussed for a solar powered race. The three articles mentioned identify solar power as a prime contender for an add-on to a vehicles power source. [8] outlines a combined solar PV and thermal energy system for grid connection and stand-alone power supply. The paper suggests that the two technologies complement one another in their operation. Thermocouples are layered on the back of the PV cells such that heat is dissipated and the energy is used to generate power through a turbine/generator system. Ideally this method of power generation aims to improve the efficiency of the PV cells power generating capabilities. [9] and [10] present similar research and support for the combination of PV and thermal energy systems in stand-alone power supply, except that [9] details the control of the combined system and [10] utilizes the thermal energy from the sunlight to heat water. Although the use of the two technologies described by these articles is not directly related to HEVs it is evident that the systems have the potential to be integrated into a vehicle in a similar manner as discussed above. B. Solar PV Technology Ultimately the aim for the solar PV panels applied to the RAC test vehicle was to utilize an efficient power generating PV module, for the maximum energy conversion of the system. It is also a concern that the most cost effective module be considered as a means to provide an alternative selection criterion. There are three main methods to utilize the solar PV panels as a power generation technology for vehicle propulsion systems. Firstly [11] discusses a solar PV station that stores the suns energy in a large battery bank for the charging of an all electric vehicle via a charging dock, like a service station supplies gasoline. Secondly [7] presents an application of the solar PV panels to the vehicle to act as the primary energy propulsion source, storing energy in a battery bank to utilize as it is needed. And thirdly the integration of the solar PV panels as a secondary energy propulsion source whereby a fossil fueled engine is coupled with the solar PV system and the two technologies act as a hybrid system as seen in [6]. [6] identifies the parallel and series connected hybrid systems that incorporate the solar PV panels as a power supply for a motor to drive the vehicle as a substitute for the engine power. With the underlying idea of power generation using solar PV panels being the same as in [6] the connection of the modules to the RAC test vehicles current system was

Fig. 1. The RAC test vehicle with the measurements for the area available to position solar PV panels.

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Fig. 2. (a) The Peltier from a birds-eye view, (b) The Peltier device showing the thickness.

proposed in a slightly different manner. Since the RAC test vehicle was to remain unchanged and the additions to the vehicle were to be exclusive to the existing power generating system (i.e. engine and alternator), it was decided that the PV panels would be connected directly to the battery to maintain the batteries state of charge (SOC). This application meant that no loads would be taken up by the solar PV system that didnt already draw power from the battery. Also if the solar PV panels are matched to the battery voltage of 12 V then there is no need to purchase a DC-DC converter or MPPT for the system, i.e. reducing the capitol cost of the system. Performance of the solar PV system would be reduced but mostly during lower irradiance levels for which there is only a small amount of energy available to begin with [12]. Another consideration in the connection of the system is to allow for shadowing effects as discussed in [13] where the modules are connected in parallel with bypass diodes across single cells and a low cost MPPT is connected to groups of cells to ensure that they operate at their respective maximum power point for differing irradiance levels experienced due to partial shading of the modules. It was however determined that the cost of these additional MPPT converters and structuring of the diodes in the PV modules was beyond the scope of this project seeing as there was limited funding to pursue such research. C. Thermoelectric Technology Thermoelectric generators in the past have been used as reliable, low maintenance, stand-alone power supply units [14]. The process of converting thermal energy into electrical energy is known as the Thompson effect (or Seebeck effect), for which it is known as the basic principle of thermoelectric generators. The basic operating principles of the thermoelectric device involve creating a temperature difference (T) between the two sides of the ceramic plate.

3 The two sides of a thermoelectric device refer to the flat faces as seen in Fig. 2 by the white ceramic plate. This principle requires that the thermoelectric device has a hot side temperature (Th) and a cold side temperature (Tc) [15]. The temperature difference (T) is obviously given by; (1)

The thermoelectric device as a type of generator ranges in physical size from as small as your finger to as large as a full scale diesel generator and can produce power in the range of microwatts to kilowatts. Generally thermoelectric power conversion is very inefficient achieving no more than 3% efficiency, however continued research has devised efficiencies up to 15% for high temperature systems (T= 600+) [16]. Originally thermoelectric generators were designed to run on natural gas providing a constant power supply that could be utilized as a primary generator to stabilize a secondary generator such as solar or wind power which do not have the luxury of constant supply due to the ever changing weather conditions [17]. [18] presents another thermoelectric and PV hybrid system for stand-alone power generation, and it was determined that the combination was the cheapest on a per kilowatt basis as compared to individual set-ups of thermoelectric and PV and a fossil fueled/PV hybrid system, supporting the decision to combine them in the analysis conducted in this paper. [19] identifies the use of thermoelectric generators in combination with water filled tubing installed in road side pavement. As the pavement heats due to the suns energy the water filled tubing transfers the heat to the thermoelectric generator whereby the heat energy is converted to electrical energy and the pavement is thus cooled by up to 30C. In a similar manner the operation of the solar PV panels could be cooled as the thermal energy was converted to electrical energy. The technology discussed in [19] was unavailable at the time of this analysis without designing such a system in the laboratory, thus another thermoelectric module was considered instead. The device selected for investigation and application is typically known as the Peltier device. D. ADVISOR Software Package ADVISOR stands for ADvanced VehIcle SimulatOR, and as the name suggests is utilized to model and simulate the performance of vehicles under different conditions. It is a MATLAB/Simulink based program with a number of predefined functions and files to select from to help define a vehicle as well as allowing the user to input a custom designed vehicle. The typical vehicle type modeled in ADVISOR is the hybrid electric vehicle, where it is possible to see the improvement in fossil fuel consumption, and emissions reduction for implementing such renewable energy sources onto a vehicles topology [20]. Other uses for the software include system optimization for component selection such as the optimization of a battery and ultra-capacitor system as in

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Fig. 3. (a) The fuse connection device used for the internal fuse box measurements on the RAC test vehicle. (b) The current loop inserted into the engine bay fuse box for use by the current clamp. Table. I. Load profile of the assumed typical work day considered for the case study of the electrical loads on the RAC test vehicle.

[21] and similarly in [22], or the performance of a particular component of the HEV such as the super-capacitor as in [23]. III. METHODOLOGY A. Energy Audit on the RAC Test Vehicle The aim for the analysis conducted on the RAC test vehicle was primarily considered to determine an electrical energy profile of the vehicle. In turn this electrical energy profile could be used as a comparison against the energy generated from the renewable energy technologies chosen, solar PV and thermoelectric power generation. [24] was used to identify the electrical loads of the RAC test vehicle, which were then measured via one of three methods, current clamp, a fuse current loop and a data logger. For example Fig. 3 identifies the fuse current loops that were used, whereby a current clamp could be inserted into the loop while the respective load was operating. Once the electrical loads had been measured and tested for numerous conditions a typical work day was established such that the energy demand profiles throughout the year could be determined. This typical work day is shown in Table. I whereby four possible jobs are listed, with the respective electrical load, the number of jobs completed throughout the day, and the time to complete each job. For example the job entitled Retrieving car keys, requires the electrical load Lighting with three to be completed in the one day and each job taking two hours and 30 minutes to complete. The work day was estimated at 14 hours with approximately 1 hour for lunch. This is reflected in Table. I at 12 hours and 50 minutes

4 for the total number of hours completing jobs. This typical work day lead to an electrical energy profile discussed in section IV. B. Selection of Solar PV Panels The RAC test vehicle was measured for the available area to position solar PV panels in order to maximize the power generation from the devices. Fig. 1 displays the measurements taken for the available area on the RAC test vehicle to place solar PV panels on the bonnet, roof and canopy of the vehicles body. The main area of concern for placing solar panels on the vehicle was the canopy since it had the largest of the three areas measured at 2.73 m2. There are two measurements specified on the bonnet and roof of the vehicle to account for the flat and curved surfaces of these areas. The cabin roof and bonnet measured to 0.495 m2 and 1.2 m2 of flat surface area respectively and 0.748 m2 and 1.71 m2 for the curved area respectively. The reason for considering the curved and flat surface areas of the cabin roof and bonnet was in the selection of the type of panels for these areas since both flat and flexible panels are available in the market. The analysis completed on the available solar PV panels in Australias current market (2009) was based on the lowest solar irradiance statistically achievable in Perth WA. This irradiance was found at 2.0 kWh/m2/day for June [25]. The average monthly solar irradiance was also taken from [25] to determine the yearly energy generation of the solar PV panels. [12] identified the method for calculating the energy available from the solar PV panels throughout the year and thereby the yearly energy generation. The calculations conducted were applied to numerous solar PV panels to identify the most energy efficient and the most cost effective. For the intended purpose of the feasibility of the use of thermoelectric devices coupled to the solar PV panels the operating temperature of the panels was investigated. This involved the measurement of the front and backside surface temperatures of large and small sized solar PV panels to determine the highest possible operating temperature of the solar PV panels. The idea was to attach the thermoelectric devices to the back of the solar PV panels so that its operating temperature would provide the hot side temperature of the thermoelectric device and the ambient air temperature would determine the cold side temperature. C. Thermoelectric Generator Analysis The Peltier device although it was designed to utilize the Peltier effect (i.e. converting electrical energy into thermal energy) it can be utilized as a form of thermoelectric generator. The analysis conducted on these devices determined that under laboratory conditions it is possible to generate a significant amount of power. Fig. 2 identifies the typical Peltier device at approximately 3 x 3 x 0.2 cm in size, which is the same size as the selected Peltier device with the characteristic shown in Fig. 4. The tests conducted under laboratory conditions enable the power generating characteristics for the devices to be obtained. For accuracy of the data collected to define the power vs. voltage (P-V) and current vs. voltage (I-V) curves of the Peltier device numerous tests were completed that accounted for varying conditions. These varying conditions included: temperature across the

Fig. 4. The Peltier device power generating characteristic for two temperature differences across the device, achieved using a 28.7 W Peltier device.

device (T), different mediums for heat transfer such as heat sink compound or metallic surfaces, different sized Peltiers, three methods of voltage and current measurement and two temperature measurement devices. Once the data was obtained from the various methods utilized a comparison was completed that resulted in correlation of the data and the final P-V characteristic was determined for a specific size of Peltier device.

D. ADVISOR Software Analysis One method in particular that is used for the calculation of the fuel consumption in [6] was similarly adapted for the fuel consumption and emissions reduction simulation on the RAC test vehicle. Here a constant value of power that corresponds to the energy produced by the solar PV panels is subtracted from the demand of the power bus. In comparison the simulation conducted for the RAC test vehicle was modified by a calculated increase in the efficiency of the system at two separate locations that corresponded to the proportional amount of energy produced by the solar PV panels. To determine that the simulation results obtained were accurate enough for this feasibility study two separate simulations were evaluated. The first simulation identified that the RAC test vehicle as it was defined in ADVISOR, performed similarly to the real world vehicle, ensuring that the test variables of the drive cycle matched those of the stretch of road where the vehicle road test was conducted. This involved: matching the average speed of the vehicle, the roads elevation variations and the simulation time with the road tests time. Once the simulation was completed it was seen that the fuel consumption of the modeled vehicle was greater by 20% of the fuel consumption measured from the RAC test vehicle during the real world road test. This is representative of a worst case scenario, whereby the renewable energy generated will have less contribution percentage wise. In practice the expected percentage of renewable energy power generated as opposed to fossil-energy consumed should be higher, thus any fuel consumption improvement determined from this study is more realistic at a higher fuel consumption rate under simulation. IV. DISCUSSION A. Electrical Energy Profile of RAC Test Vehicle From the methodology discussed in section III the electrical energy profile of the RAC test vehicle was determined. Fig. 5 identifies a possible electrical energy distribution given that

5 the 14 hour work day could be completed in the morning or in the evening. This step estimated a larger range of time to determine an average electrical energy profile of the vehicle over a given day for the winter and summer periods as shown. In a similar manner the electrical energy profiles of autumn and spring were obtained and the energy required for a full year was calculated at 2148.33 kWh/year. This electrical energy requirement of the RAC test vehicle was the comparison used to determine the benefit possible from the renewable energy sources applied to the vehicle. B. Solar PV Power Generation The analysis conducted on the available solar PV panels in the market lead to the selection of the most energy efficient solar PV panel and the most cost effective solar PV panel. The Lorentz LA90-12S was found to be the most energy efficient module producing 240 Wh/day, whereas the Suntech STP085S-12Bb was the most cost effective at the time, producing 170 Wh/day, under the same insolation. Both solar PV panels selected were 12 volts rated such that they could be connected to the battery without the need to adapt a converter. With the available area on the RAC test vehicle determined the number of panels and type were selected as follows; five Lorentz LA90-12S solar PV panels in parallel on the cabin roof and canopy, one Sunslick 27W flexible solar PV panel on the bonnet, and thin film solar cell technology on the side windows of the vehicle [26]. The total yearly energy generation by the PV array was thus determined. This total energy equated to just over 410 kWh/year of energy generation at an estimated capitol cost of $8572.60. This energy produced by the PV per year is capable of covering 20% of the electrical energy required for the RAC test vehicles energy profile discussed earlier. Fig. 6 displays the operating temperature of a large solar PV panel throughout a typical August day. From Fig. 6 the average backside temperature of the PV panel for this four hour period was taken as 44C, and the average ambient temperature was 24C. identifying that it is possible to achieve a 20C temperature difference (T). C. Thermoelectric Power Generation From Fig. 4 it can be seen that for a 0.0009 m2 area a power of approximately 0.35 W was achieved at a temperature difference of 26.5C. If the Peltier device was capable of generating this much power on a larger scale it would be possible to generate nearly 400 W/m2 at the temperature difference of just 26.5C. 1) Theoretical Combination of the Peltier Device with Solar PV Panels Firstly the theoretical power generation of the combined Peltier and solar PV panels was calculated before an experimental result was obtained. Knowing that the solar PV panels had a possible temperature difference (T) of 20C the known P-V characteristic of the Peltier device was compared assuming the same ratio of power to temperature difference determined. Scaling the power generated at a T of 26.5C at 395.56 W/m2 to match the T equal to 20C, the new achievable power became 298.53 W/m2 which is still a significant amount. Applying this to the Lorentz LA90-12S

Fig. 5. The summer and winter electrical energy profiles of the RAC vehicle, as calculated with the measurements taken from the RAC test vehicle and in accordance with the case study identified.

Fig. 6. The temperature of a large solar PV panel throughout a typical August day.

Fig. 7. The power generation of a small solar PV panel with and without the Peltier device.

solar panel with a back side area of 2.354 m2, which allows for the placement of 2615 Peltier devices on the five panels selected the total theoretical power available from the thermal generation is calculated to be 702.59 W on the RAC test vehicle. On a yearly basis this equates to 1026.48 kWh/yr, which is nearly 2.5 times more energy produced than the solar PV panels. This calculation assumes an average insolation of 800 W/m2 for the duration of the day displayed in Fig. 6. 2) Experimental Combination of the Peltier Device with Solar PV Panels Finally the practical application of the combined Peltier devices and solar PV panels was determined. Effectively the test was trying to pump the waste heat from the solar PV panel through the Peltier device, achieving cooling of the solar cells while generating some power. The Peltier device was tested

6 for large and small solar panels and both tests resulted in little power generation from the Peltier device, having a peak power generation of 600 microwatts. From the small solar panel test it was also determined that the Peltier had little effect on the operating performance of the solar PV panel. Fig. 7 displays the benefit of attaching the Peltier device to the backside of a solar panel of similar size. The overall improvement in the performance of the solar PV panel was calculated from Fig. 7 at less than 1.65%. It is due to this lack of power generation in the experimental stage that the thermoelectric generator was excluded from the simulation conducted in ADVISOR. D. ADVISOR Simulation Results The ADVISOR software package was used to determine the fuel consumption improvement and emissions reduction for the application of the solar PV panels to the RAC test vehicle. It was determined that the fuel consumption of the RAC test vehicle would be reduced by 0.35% during the worst month of solar PV power generation and 1.4% reduction during the best month of PV power generation. The emissions reduction for this application of solar PV panels to the vehicle resulted in 724.92 kg of carbon emissions over a 5 year period (one vehicles life), equivalent to taking the RAC test vehicle off the road for just under a month in its 5 year life time [27]. Fig. 8 identifies the contribution of energy from the solar PV generation such that it is substituted for the electrical energy generated by the alternator on the RAC test vehicle. The section labeled Other Energy Consumed represents all wasted and consumed energy input into the RAC vehicles system. This representation of the energy will differ depending on the loads considered for the vehicles operation, however this pie graph represents an example for the comparison of the energy consumed and more importantly energy produced by the renewable energy technologies employed, solar PV panels. V. CONCLUSION In this paper an experimental approach to the energy efficiency improvement of a vehicle is presented. Research and similar methods of evaluation and testing previously determined are taken into account to distinguish between the alternative approaches to works completed in this paper. Finally while the magnitude of the achievements in this paper are relatively low the research completed has provided a reference for further investigation into hybrid combined renewable energy power sources for vehicles, in which the aim is to optimize their performance. The optimization of combining solar PV panels with thermoelectric generators was unsuccessful in this instance though this was only one form of the thermoelectric generator. Future works will include the investigation into various other forms of thermoelectric devices, for cooling the solar cells and power generation from waste heat. VI. ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS Authors wish to acknowledge the financial support provided by RAC and Curtin University of Technology through an Internal Research Grant. Research contributions made by
[6]

Simon Danby of RAC, Peter Kyselica and Benjamin Ratcliffe of Curtin University are also sincerely appreciated.

Fig. 8. The comparable solar PV energy generation to total energy consumed by the RAC road side assistance vehicle.

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