In the United States, the transportation sector accounts for 28% of energy consumption, 70% of petroleum use and 29% of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. It is argued that as much as an 80% reduction in worldwide emissions may be needed to stabilize the atmospheric concentration of GHG over the next three decades — at the same time that our nation’s infrastructure is aging, and in need of trillions of dollars in repairs and reconstruction.
Today, we have the perfect opportunity to build a sustainable transportation system, based on innovations in low-carbon fuels and vehicles, coupled with novel policies to transform consumer and industry behavior to fewer carbon-intensive decisions and actions. This is the impetus for the National Science Foundation’s (NSF’s) Engineering Research Center (ERC) for Advancing Sustainability through Powered Infrastructure for Roadway Electrification — ASPIRE for short.
ASPIRE aims to create innovative wireless and plug-in charging and infrastructure technology that brings power to where vehicles drive and park — eliminating range and charging as barriers for electrifying all vehicle classes, from passenger cars to heavy-duty trucks. Electric vehicle (EV) users no longer will have to worry about when, where or how to charge, and EVs will become less expensive to buy and operate than their fossil-fuel counterparts.
Purdue will collaborate with Utah State and other universities, along with companies and community organizations, in this new ERC. ASPIRE is responsible for developing a broad set of solutions for zero-emissions transportation systems that improve air quality, enhance economic prosperity, and impact thousands of students and businesses through workforce development and R&D opportunities.
The heart of ASPIRE is a focus on students and community. The new center will champion inclusive pathways into and throughout its programs, and develop a truly diverse engineering workforce specially trained to support cross-industry transformations. ASPIRE programs will feature broad public dissemination of technology advances; methods and tools; and a vast library of vetted precollege, undergraduate, graduate, professional and community educational content.
As co-principal investigator, I will direct and oversee the operational management of Purdue’s multidisciplinary team from the Schools of Civil Engineering, Electrical and Computer Engineering, and Engineering Education, plus Political Science in the College of Liberal Arts. My particular research concentrates on developing empirical models and practical tools for transportation decision-making, as well as on advancing the understanding of the triple bottom line (economic, environmental and societal performance) for sustainable transportation systems.
Many Purdue faculty members will contribute to ASPIRE. Donna Riley, Kamyar Haghighi Head of the School of Engineering Education, will direct ASPIRE education curriculum and workforce development components. Rosie Clawson, Professor of Political Science, will oversee the diversity and inclusion elements for the entire ASPIRE enterprise. Steve Pekarek, the Dr. Edmund O. Schweitzer III Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering, will lead the ERC’s power research thrust. Dionysios Aliprantis, Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering, will investigate electromechanical energy conversion, as well as electric machinery design, modeling and simulation. Darcy Bullock, the Lyles Family Professor of Civil Engineering, will focus on EV charging utilization and real-time traffic and connectivity, while John Haddock, Professor of Civil Engineering, will work on integrating charging technology into pavements.
Our challenge is to move past century-old mindsets and rethink how we transform two of the nation’s biggest industries — transportation and electric utilities — for positive societal impact.
The desired outcomes? Transportation as a zero-emissions sector and a decarbonized electricity grid. Electric vehicles as a mixed automated, personal, shared and mass transit ecosystem. Enhanced air quality, well-being and economic development. The benefits of this electrified transportation sector will be shared across a diverse demographic of income levels, ethnic groups, and urban and rural locales, both in the United States and globally.
Konstantina (Nadia) Gkritza
Professor of Civil Engineering and Agricultural and Biological Engineering
Purdue Campus Director for ASPIRE
College of Engineering, Purdue University