Project: Zero Emission Vehicle; Kent State Magazine: Fall/Winter 2018-2019
As Kent State 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 or natural gas, 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 Dr. Yanhai Du, PhD—associate professor in the College of Aeronautics and Engineering and team leader and principal investigator of Kent State University’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 who were majoring in electrical engineering, chemical engineering 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 changed her major to mechanical engineering and made marketing a minor.
“The biggest thing is to get students into research,” she says. “Getting into it early on propelled me.”
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.”
To rent the ZEV, contact Dr. Du at firstname.lastname@example.org.
By: Kent State Magazine