Innovation on the Move; Kent State Today: April 5, 2019

Work on Zero Emission Vehicle Propelled Student Into Research Role

As Kent State University senior Angela Deibel guides the ZEV (Zero Emission Vehicle) from the Aeronautics and Technology Building to front campus on a recent sunny day, she glances at a row of small lights that flash overhead.

“Those lights let us know that the battery has charged,” she explains to a passenger. “One day of sunlight (24 hours) equals eight miles.”

The ZEV is a repurposed golf cart with an electric engine powered by three sources: a fuel cell, solar panel and batteries. The fuel cell efficiently converts fuel, such as hydrogen into electricity with no greenhouse gas emissions. The solar panel on the roof charges the batteries all the time. When the cart is resting or the batteries are fully charged, the electricity generated by the solar panel can be used to electrolyze water into hydrogen and store the solar energy for later use.

“Renewable energy is the future,” says Ms. Deibel, who recently did an internship at a solar panel company. “I’m putting all bets on fuel cells.”

In summer 2016, Ms. Deibel interned with Yanhai Du, Ph.D.—associate professor in the College of Aeronautics and Engineering and team leader and principal investigator of Kent State’s Fuel Cell Program—in the Summer Undergraduate Research Experience (SURE).

At the time, she was a marketing major with a minor in sustainability who knew little about fuel cells or solar panels. She joined a team of students with backgrounds in electrical engineering, chemical engineering, construction management and digital sciences. They all received hands-on experience with fuel cells to develop the first version of the ZEV.

“I saw that I could count on her,” says Dr. Du, who made Ms. Deibel the team leader. “I knew that if I guided and supported her, she would be successful.”

Ms. Deibel says Dr. Du gave her the opportunity to make mistakes as she explored her deepening dedication to sustainability and engineering, while sustaining her passion for marketing—and she is grateful for her mentor’s support. Since immersing herself in renewable energy, she has declared a double major in mechanical engineering technology and marketing, and she expects to graduate in spring 2020.

“The biggest thing is to get students into research,” she says. “Getting into it early on propelled me.”

The ZEV project is an excellent showcase that enables students to realize their dreams at Kent State.

“With our newly installed 3D laser metal printer, I expect there will be more that students can get involved in, turning their ideas and designs into products,” Dr. Du added.

The ZEV, with its state-of-the-art sound system that allows music to be streamed around campus, is available for alumni tours and for use by student organizations. And driving the ZEV around campus is a perfect way to educate people about renewable energy.

“I want to be a voice in the renewable energy community,” says Ms. Deibel, reluctant to give up her marketing edge. “I don’t want to just be an engineer—though I love it—but I want to tell [the public] about renewable energy.” 

Learn more about the ZEV at To rent the ZEV, contact Dr. Du at

For more information about Kent State's College of Aeronautics and Engineering, visit

The ZEV project is one example of the kinds of innovative collaborations taking place across Kent State campuses. Recognizing the value of such partnerships, the university has recently launched the Design Innovation (DI) Initiative to promote interdisciplinary collaboration and elevate design thinking principles.

Coming soon: an exciting announcement about the future home of the DI Hub, which will connect makerspaces and design, technology and resource laboratories across all Kent State locations. 

For more stories showcasing interdisciplinary projects, see the Fall/Winter 2018-19 of Kent State Magazine at



POSTED: Thursday, April 4, 2019 08:00 PM
Updated: Friday, December 9, 2022 07:15 AM