SOUTHFIELD (WWJ) — A new partnership between Johnson Controls Inc. and Lawrence Technological University is starting with an advanced dynamometer to test advanced vehicle powertrain and energy storage concepts, and could lead to a whole lot more.
MaryAnn Wright, vice president of engineering and product development for Johnson Controls’ power solutions business, said the partnership will be modeled on one JCI already has with the University of Wisconsin’s Milwaukee and Madison campuses.
According to the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, JCI’s work with UW focuses primarily on the battery itself and developing new battery chemistry technologies. The new partnership will involve LTU research on energy storage systems with the vehicle environment as well as modeling, simulation and vehicle testing.
“When I came to Johnson Controls we evaluated our external partnerships and relationships, and Lawrence Tech became a pretty natural extension of some of the things we’re doing with the University of Wisconsin,” said Wright, who joined Lawrence Tech’s board last year.
At Wisconsin, JCI has placed materials laboratories and pilot manufacturing plants on the campus in Milwaukee, and has placed systems labs in Madison.
“We wanted to get infrastructure in university labs, where we really believe the big breakthroughs will happen,” Wright said. “And we’re also trying to get kids excited about the STEM disciplines, and vet future talent for us as they go through their studies, by employing them in our campus labs.”
JCI also endowed a professorship for energy storage research at UW. The university appointed Johnson Controls’ Ph.D.s with adjunct professorships at UW, allowing them to teach as well as conduct research at the school. Also, Johnson Controls funded UW to conduct research on topics important to JCI with a JCI researchers tied to the projects.
“The relationship between Johnson Controls and the University of Wisconsin is a model for how we feel a partnership with a university should work,” Wright said. “Anyone can write a check, anybody can help develop a curriculum. But these are other things that partnerships between industry and universities can really help drive — talent pipeline development and breakthrough technologies.”
The strength of LTU, Wright said, is “a world class engineering program sitting in southeast Michigan, arguably the motor capital of the world.” That’s why the chassis dyno was the starting point. Johnson Controls is funding a major upgrade of Lawrence Tech’s four-wheel dynamometer, already a unique piece of equipment for a university.
When installed a dozen years ago, the LTU dyno allowed testing on all four wheels of a vehicle independently — allowing the dyno to model wheel lock or wheel slip, for example.
Today’s hybrid and electric powertrains, however, use regenerative braking to send power back to the vehicle’s high-voltage battery system. So the dyno’s rollers need to be powered, to actively resist the drive wheels, simulating braking and downhill runs.
So, JCI is financing the addition of a 75-hp electric motor to each of the four corners of the dynamometer, along with advanced electronics and software.
“Upgrading the dyno allows us to experiment and understand different size motors, DC to DC technologies, various power architectures, and what the effects of all this is going to be on energy storage systems,” Wright said.
Beyond the dyno, Wright said, Johnson Controls “will make our technical resources available to Lawrence Tech to continue to build our partnership.”
All of the things JCI has done in Wisconsin, Wright said, could be part of the partnership, “or we could think of new things. We’re interested in curriculum development with them for sure, and having an active role in their new embedded software programs, details still to come.”
Johnson Controls is the leading global supplier of lead-acid batteries and advanced lead-acid batteries for start-stop vehicles. It was also the first auto supplier to manufacture lithium-ion batteries for hybrid-electric
JCI also supplies lithium-ion batteries to Mercedes-Benz and BMW out of a plant in Holland.
Johnson Controls is based in Glendale, Wis., a suburb of Milwaukee, and has numerous automotive and energy storage engineering technical centers and production plants in Michigan.