Design and development of energy efficient vehicles is of paramount importance to the automobile industry. Energy efficiency can be enhanced through recovery of the kinetic energy lost in the form of waste heat during braking. The kinetic energy could be converted into a reusable energy source and aid in acceleration, hence the braking system would contribute to improving the overall efficiency of a vehicle. Hydraulic-Pneumatic Regenerative Braking (HPRB) systems are a hybrid drive system that works in tandem with a vehicle’s engine and drivetrain to improve efficiency and fuel-economy. A HPRB system functions by recovering the energy typically lost to heat during vehicle braking, and storing this energy as a reusable source that can propel a vehicle from a stop. The major advantages of a HPRB system are that a vehicle would not require its engine to run during braking to stop, nor would the engine be required to accelerate the vehicle initially from a stop. The benefit realized by this system is an increase in fuel-efficiency, reduced vehicle emissions, and overall financial savings. An HPRB system aids in slowing a vehicle by creating a drag on the driveline as it recovers and stores energy during braking. Therefore, HPRB system operation reduces wear by minimizing the amount of work performed by the brake pads and rotors.

An experimental investigation of Hydraulic-Pneumatic Regenerative Braking (HPRB) system was conducted to measure the system’s overall efficiency and available power output. The HPRB in this study is a 1/10th lab-scale model of a light-duty four wheel vehicle. The design/size was based on a 3500 lbs light-duty four wheel vehicle with an estimated passenger weight of 500 lbs. It was assumed that the vehicle can accelerate from 0–15 mph in 2 seconds. The aim of this work is to examine the effect of heat losses due to irreversibility on energy recovery. The experimental facility consisted of a hydraulic pump, two hydraulic-pneumatic accumulators, solenoid and relief valves, and data acquisition system. The HPRB system did not include any driveline components necessary to attach this system onto a vehicle’s chassis rather an electric motor was used to drive the pump and simulate the power input to the system from a spinning drive shaft.

Pressure transducers, Hall effects sensor, and thermocouples were installed at suction and discharge sections of the hydraulic and pneumatic components to measure hydrodynamic and thermos-physical properties. The measured data were used to determine the system’s energy recovery and power delivery efficiency. Results showed that the HPRB system is capable of recovering 47% of the energy input to the system during charging, and 64% efficient in power output during discharging with an input and output of 0.33 and 0.21 horsepower respectively. Inefficiencies during operation were attributed to heat generation from the gear pump but especially due to the piston accumulator, where heat loss attributed to a 12% reduction in energy potential alone.

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