Borrelli, Moura and Horowitz Earn NEXTCAR Phase II Award to Optimize Vehicle Performance and Efficiency

March 17, 2021

Borrelli Horowitz MouraCongratulations to ITS Affiliates and Mechanical Engineering professors Francesco Borrelli and Roberto Horowitz and Civil and Environmental Engineering professor Scott Moura on earning a US Department of Energy Advanced Research Projects Agency - Energy (ARPA-E) award.

UC Berkeley received $3.5 million as part of an $18 million award to fund four projects that will help passenger vehicles operate more efficiently. The project will also support a post-doc and multiple PhDs between Borrelli’s, Moura’s and Horowitz’s labs.

In the first NEXTCAR phase, the University of California Berkeley team developed an innovative vehicle dynamics and powertrain (VD&PT) control architecture based on a predictive and data-driven approach. They optimized the performance of a plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV) in real-world conditions, improving efficiency up to 30% in urban driving and 14% on the highway.

With this funding, UC Berkeley will adapt and expand its eco-route, eco-drive, and eco-charge controls to leverage connectivity and SAE (Society of Automotive Engineers) Level 4 (L4) automation to generate additional fuel efficiency benefits in electrified vehicles including EVs and PHEVs. UC Berkeley’s NEXTCAR project resulted in a spin-off company, WideSense Inc., which will commercialize the technologies developed in both phases of the project.

This funding is part of Phase II of the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy’s (ARPA-E) Next-Generation Energy Technologies for Connected and Automated On-Road Vehicles (NEXTCAR) program. Launched in 2016, ARPA-E’s NEXTCAR program focuses on reducing vehicle energy consumption by developing Connected and Automated Vehicle (CAV) technologies that optimize vehicle dynamic controls and powertrain operation, allowing a vehicle to automatically process and react to its surrounding environment, traffic conditions and nearby vehicles.

Current CAV technologies predominantly focus on the improvement of vehicle safety and adding driving convenience, while NEXTCAR is among the first of research efforts in this space to specifically focus on developing CAV technologies to reduce vehicle energy use.

Phase I of NEXTCAR focused on the development of CAV technologies for use in all vehicle classes, including cars, trucks, and buses, with the goal of enabling a 20% reduction in energy consumption. The teams moving on to Phase II of NEXTCAR are building on these goals with a specific focus on light-duty passenger vehicles, a 30% reduction in energy consumption, and taking vehicles to Level 4 of automation, where a vehicle is able to perform all driving operations on its own with optional human override.

Light-duty vehicles, like those targeted through NEXTCAR Phase II, are responsible for almost 60% of overall energy consumption in all vehicles across the transportation sector. CAV technologies can increase vehicle efficiency, which in turn can reduce emissions across the transportation sector.

The four teams selected to receive $18 million in funding through Phase II of NEXTCAR are UC Berkeley, Michigan Technical University, The Ohio State University, and Southwest Research Institute.