NFPA Research Supplement Update: Efficient, Compact, and Smooth Variable Propulsion Motor

Eric Lanke headshot 2017


By Eric Lanke
NFPA President/CEO

I recently attended the October 2018 Summit of the Center for Compact and Efficient Fluid Power (CCEFP) at the University of Minnesota. This is one of the meetings this fiscal year where the fluid power research projects supported by our new NFPA Research Supplement Program were presented.

In our efforts to increase the number of university students educated in fluid power, the NFPA Education and Technology Foundation has provided ten $10,000 research supplements to ten academic faculty members working on fluid power research at six universities. This helps to engage current and build the careers of future university faculty who are and will be in a position to teach fluid power to undergraduate engineers on their campuses. The research supplements provide travel support so that each faculty member and one of their graduate students can attend to present their research at designated industry conferences and research summits like the one hosted by the CCEFP.

One such faculty member is Professor James Van de Ven of the University of Minnesota, whose graduate student, Grey Boyce-Erickson, presented on their project, “Efficient, Compact, and Smooth Variable Propulsion Motor,” at the CCEFP Summit. The goal here is to develop a variable displacement linkage motor (VDLM) for propulsion of off-highway vehicle with an efficiency higher than 90% above 15% displacement. Working with funding provided by the U.S. Department of Energy, Boyce-Erickson and his team, which includes researchers and students at the Milwaukee School of Engineering and industry partners Eaton and Bobcat, have been able to model the unique motor design and its various components and use it to explore several key questions:

  • Is fixed valve timing sufficient, or is variable valve timing necessary?
  • Which is preferred, cam or hydraulic driven valve actuation?
  • Which is preferred, spool or poppet valve?

They are also working on the motor’s cam design, which will be used to move the linkage as desired. A copy of Boyce-Erickson’s presentation slides can be accessed here.

Collectively, the research projects supported by NFPA Research Supplements represent more than $4.9 million in funding from a variety of organizations, including the U.S. Department of Energy, the National Science Foundation, and the Center for Compact and Efficient Fluid Power (CCEFP). They are an excellent sample of the growing body of fluid power research being funded by the federal government and other research organizations.

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