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When in Columbus: Italian visiting scholars at CAR

The Center for Automotive Research (CAR) has long welcomed researchers from many different countries and backgrounds who are interested in mobility, environmental, energy and connectivity research. This past summer, several visiting scholars from Italy arrived at CAR to improve energy efficiency, powertrain optimization and vehicle performance.

Italian FlagThe Italian visiting scholars left messages on the Italian flag reflecting on their time at CAR.

Visiting scholars have been drawn to working at CAR due to its international reputation as well as through the connections current CAR researchers have with their associates abroad. Professor Giorgio Rizzoni, director at CAR, has held visiting teaching positions at many Italian polytechnic universities, and his colleagues and friends at these international schools serve as advisors to graduate students. This connection helps students find research positions at CAR as visiting scholars.

Former visiting scholars to CAR also provide connections for international graduate students. Marcello Canova, associate professor in the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering and associate director for graduate and continuing education at CAR, and Matilde D’Arpino, research associate working with the Buckeye Bullet, started as visiting scholars from Italy, and they enjoyed working at CAR so much that they never left!

Some of the Italian visiting scholars from this past summer include Massimiliano Luzi, who is studying electrical engineering at Sapienza Università di Roma; Stefano Leonori, who is studying renewable energy sources and smart grids also at Sapienza Università di Roma; Fabrizio Donatantonio, who studied mechanical engineering at Università degli Studi di Salerno; Guido Guercioni, who is studying mechanical and automotive systems engineering at Politecnico di Torino; and Matteo Galli, who is studying automation engineering at Politecnico di Milano.

Matteo Galli captured the spirit of adventure exhibited by the visiting scholars, saying:

“I was excited by the opportunity of spending one year in the USA together with such a valuable master’s thesis working group. I left home, my dear Europe and my dear Lake of Como driven by the following quote: ‘Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. (…)’ (H. Jackson Brown, Jr.).”

Contributions to CAR

These visiting scholars have a variety of research interests, including efficient energy storage systems, energy transfer through microgrids, vehicle performance analysis and hybrid powertrains in Hybrid Electric Vehicles (HEVs).

Massimiliano Luzi building a component of his Hardware-in-the-Loop battery system test.Massimiliano Luzi building a component of his Hardware-in-the-Loop battery system test.Massimiliano Luzi’s research focuses on the implementation of computational intelligence algorithms applied to the fields of sustainable mobility and energy efficiency, especially those algorithms related to electrochemical energy storage systems. At CAR, Luzi worked on two projects. “The first one has been the development of a methodology for performing the calibration of the fuel economy of an HEV,” explained Luzi. “This calibration affects the target operating point (speed and torque) and the 'Start & Stop' policy of the internal combustion engine (i.e., the engine turns off when the vehicle comes to a complete stop, then restarts once the vehicle needs to move again).” Calibrating the fuel economy helps increase fuel efficiency in the HEVs without reducing vehicle performance. “The second project was the development of a Hardware in the Loop (HIL) testing equipment for performing real-time tests of battery management systems,” Luzi said. This testing equipment makes optimizing battery management systems faster and more effective for a variety of environments so CAR can develop the best prototype for automotive and microgrid applications.

Stefano Leonori has been studying and designing grid-connected microgrid energy management systems in order to efficiently and intelligently connect renewable energy sources to the main power grid. The energy management systems determine when the microgrid should separate from the main grid and operate on its own, like when there is a power outage. “My topic at CAR consisted in the study and management of the energy demand of plug-in electric vehicle fast charge stations when connected to a specific grid-connected microgrid,” stated Leonori. These publicly available fast charge stations provide energy with the aid of solar panels located on CAR’s roof. Using this energy efficiently helps charge more electric vehicles and reduces CAR’s dependence on nonrenewable energy sources.



Guido Guercioni stands outside CAR with two visiting Teslas. Guido Guercioni stands outside CAR with two visiting Teslas. Guido Guercioni’s interest in HEVs brought him to CAR so he could explore the integration of automated manual transmissions and dual-clutch transmissions in HEVs. “In particular,” said Guercioni, “two main aspects related to automotive powertrains were explored during the course of my period as a visiting scholar at CAR: vehicle dynamic performance and energy management of HEVs.” Guercioni developed and tested gearshift control logic using models to assess vehicle dynamics when shifting gears. These models will hopefully be useful for the EcoCAR team as they refine current control strategies for the final year of the EcoCAR 3 competition. Guercioni also optimized energy management of HEVs using optimal control theory. He incorporated dynamic programming solutions to quickly determine the full potential of the dual-clutch transmission system, and then he worked to find the next best control strategies that could be implemented in real time so HEVs can quickly determine system settings for optimal energy use.

Fabrizio Donatantonio enjoys learning about energy, optimization and control, transportation systems and mechanical and thermal analysis, so he decided to come to CAR for a final experience abroad before finishing his Ph.D. “At CAR, I've been working on optimal control of hybrid powertrains,” Donatantonio said. “In particular, I've been working on the ARPA-e NEXTCAR project.” The ARPA-e NEXTCAR project is a program established by the United States Department of Energy to explore new ways to improve energy consumption in vehicles using advancements in connectivity and automation. The Ohio State University is participating in this program by developing efficient powertrains and utilizing vehicle-to-vehicle and vehicle-to-infrastructure communication technologies to create the most energy-efficient routes. Donatantonio joined this project in March 2017 at its beginning, so he helped start the hybrid powertrain optimization process.

Matteo Galli overlooking a waterfall in Yosemite National Park.Matteo Galli overlooking a waterfall in Yosemite National Park.

Matteo Galli’s master’s thesis working group encouraged his studying abroad for a year, and he chose CAR for its international prestige and the ability to apply engineering principles to the automotive field. “I’ve spent my year at CAR working on several aspects of the Venturi Buckeye Bullet 3 (VBB3),” explained Galli. These aspects included implementing a new acquisition system for the dyno (dynamometer) of the VBB3, integrating electronic components with the vehicle itself and updating the guided user interface (GUI) for analyzing the data that was recorded. “The VBB3 has a remarkable impact on CAR because the design of such a complex and unique electric vehicle needs the integration of the top-quality products available on the market,” Galli said. Galli especially enjoyed how the VBB3 allows students to work together on an important project in order to learn how to be the next generation of engineers.

Work Hard, Play Hard

Not only did the Italian visiting scholars contribute to research at CAR, they also had lots of fun in Columbus. Between all the bars, sporting events and tacos, the guys tried to explore Columbus as much as possible. Most of all, they loved hanging out with each other and the other researchers at CAR.

Massimiliano Luzi (left), Fabrizio Donatantonio (front) and Stefano Leonori (back) in Chicago. Massimiliano Luzi (left), Fabrizio Donatantonio (front) and Stefano Leonori (back) in Chicago. “I used to go out during the weekends with the friends I made at CAR. We always found something to do: watch sport events or movies, do Escape Rooms, go out to restaurants, etc.,” said Guercioni. “My favorite part of working at CAR was having the opportunity of collaborating with several brilliant engineers.”






Leonori recalled organizing an indoor soccer match for everyone at CAR - playfully called "socCAR" -- and he especially enjoyed the group coffee breaks with second floor colleagues. Galli also enjoyed being active with people from CAR, organizing beach volleyball games and biking between German Village and Upper Arlington.

Massimiliano Luzi showing his musical side while performing with his guitar. Massimiliano Luzi showing his musical side while performing with his guitar. “One of my favorite fun activities was playing guitar with Professor Rizzoni,” Luzi shared. “I am very happy to be one of the reasons of his last purchase, an amazing Paul Reed Smith Custom 22 (and a Fender Blues Junior too).”









“The best part of working at CAR is the working environment: I've always enjoyed to work in a multicultural environment,” explained Donatantonio.

“My favorite part of working at CAR has been when we had to spend days and nights together near the desert of Bonneville, between Nevada and Utah, to let the Buckeye Bullet run and to face several engineering issues,” Galli said. “It has been a unique and wild experience that will be in my heart and that taught me so much about several engineering aspects.”

Matteo Galli playing with his homemade drone on the Bonneville Salt Flats.Matteo Galli playing with his homemade drone on the Bonneville Salt Flats.

“I am very happy to think that the group of ‘The Italians’ brought a wind of happiness and craziness at the second floor, allowing us to work hard and to be happy at the same time,” said Luzi. 

By Cassie Theobald, writing intern, CAR

Tags: Students