NFPA Research Supplement Update: Individual Electro-Hydraulic Drives for Off-Road Vehicles

Eric Lanke headshot 2017


By Eric Lanke
NFPA President/CEO

I recently attended the June 2019 Summit of the Center for Compact and Efficient Fluid Power (CCEFP) at Purdue University. This was the second of two meetings in our last 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 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 Andrea Vacca of Purdue University, who presented on his project, “Individual Electro-Hydraulic Drives for Off-Road Vehicles,” at the CCEFP Summit. The goal here is to develop and demonstrate an electro-hydraulic technology that, with respect to current state-of-the-art solutions for off-road vehicles, can lower power consumption of the fluid power system by up to 70 percent. Working with funding provided by the U.S. Department of Energy, Vacca and his team, which includes industry partners Bosch Rexroth and CNH, are focusing on the use of electro-hydraulic actuators (EHAs) for two functions on a production skid steer – the boom and the bucket.

To date they have analyzed the losses associated with the boom function, and have proposed an appropriately-sized EHA solution based on those findings. That solution has been simulated, which has demonstrated their ability to store power when the boom lowers and thus save energy. Their next step will be optimization of the system and making sure that the components they select will operate according to the specifics needed by the system. Future work will focus on system configuration on the machine itself, where they suspect they will need a compact unit for both the gear pump and the electric motor.

A copy of Vacca’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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