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Industry Teams With Virginia Tech Engineering Students
May 1, 2008

Mechanical engineering students in Virginia Tech’s College of Engineering and RIDE Inc., a Virginia-based corporation concentrating on the development of hybrid vehicles, are working together to develop vehicle components.

Al Kornhauser, an associate professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering specializing in internal combustion engines, fuel cells, and other energy-conversion systems, leads the Virginia Tech research team that is working with RIDE. Mechanical engineering students under Prof. Kornhauser’s guidance will design, build, and test a hydraulic pump/motor for use in a hydraulic hybrid vehicle.

“Hybrid vehicles use two or more distinct power sources, as opposed to conventional automobiles that rely on internal combustion engines alone,” said Prof. Kornhauser. “An electric hybrid vehicle has a motor/generator that can either supply power to the wheels or store energy in a battery. In a hydraulic hybrid, a hydraulic pump/motor can either supply power to the wheels or store energy in a hydraulic accumulator, which contains high-pressure hydraulic fluid and compressed gas.

“Current hydraulic hybrid vehicle designs use hydraulic pump/motor technology that has been developed for general industrial applications. These pump/motors are not ideal for vehicle applications. An alternate pump-motor concept has been devised, with a geometry similar to that of the World War I – era ‘Gnome’ aircraft engine. The students will build a pump/motor based on this concept to serve as a prototype and demonstrator.”

RIDE already has a patent pending on the Rotational-Inertial-Dampening-Engine (RIDE), a hybrid engine that stores energy in a flywheel rather than a battery or hydraulic accumulator. According to Phillip Vera, president of RIDE, it achieves double the fuel economy and sharply reduces emissions compared to a similar-sized conventional engine. The patent-pending engine also provides hybrid capabilities without the necessity for separate components to perform the energy storage and retrieval functions.

Both the RIDE engine and the pump/motor technology were invented by Gary Greenwell. Mr. Greenwell attended Virginia Tech and has 30 years of experience in the automotive industry, including stints with automotive giants Mercedes Benz and Nissan. He has teamed with Mr. Vera, who has a master’s degree from George Mason University and is also president of EDGE Office Solutions, to develop the technology. ##

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