Andrew A. Frank

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Andrew A. Frank, 2012.

Andrew Alfonso Frank is an emeritus American professor of Mechanical and Aeronautical Engineering at University of California, Davis (UC Davis). He is recognized as the father of modern plug-in hybrids,[1][2] and coined the now-common term Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicle (PHEV).[3] He has a B.S.M.E degree (1955) from the University of California, Berkeley, a M.S.M.E (1958), from the University of California, Berkeley, an M.S.E.E (1965) from the University of Southern California, and holds a Ph.D. in E.E (1968) from the University of Southern California.[4] Frank worked at North American Aviation then North American/Rockwell Aviation from 1955 to 1968 on programs such as the X15 Research Aircraft, Helicopter stability and control systems, the Apollo Project to the moon, and the Minuteman intercontinental ballistic missile programs. He received patents and provided many innovations and solutions that allowed the programs to be more successful and effective. His patents continue to be in use today.

PHEV research & development[edit]

Frank and his students in Team FATE[5] have been experimenting with various advanced vehicle technologies since 1971. He constructed his first Hybrid Electric Vehicle at the Electrical Eng Dept. of the University of Wisconsin–Madison with his students in 1971 with the only hybrid electric entry into the URBAN CAR Competition of 1972. He then was able to secure a US DOT contract to design and construct with Ford Motor Company help, the first Flywheel drive cars with a mechanical Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT) for better fuel economy and higher performance.

Frank is recognized as the father of the modern PHEV.

Research into flywheel drive was continued to 1985 when Frank transferred to the Mechanical Engineering dept. of the University of California-Davis. He began at UCDavis by entering the SAE Supermileage Contest run by the US-AAA and SAE with his students and began to create a new concept of teaching mechanical engineering where he took the student machine shop from a dying skill to a fully staffed and capable machine shop with automated machines and research and teaching to support it. The teaching model has been essentially copied all over the country and is currently standard in many mechanical engineering curriculum. Part of the reason is that the student contests entered by UCDavis were very successful and the students manage first place in Super Mileage all over the country and Canada, providing wide visibility to UCDavis. In 1991 he and his teams of students set world records of 3313 mpg on gasoline and 2200 mpg on M85 in two separate cars. Since second place was so far below, it was attributed to error for many years. The Gasoline record was finally broken by 50 mpg 10 years later and the world record M85 still stands today. In 1992, the USDOE created an Advanced Vehicle Technology Competition called HEV Challenge to compete with the Partnership for a New Generation of Vehicles (US-PNGV) program to design modern cars that could triple fuel economy to 80 mpg. In 1992 and 1993 he and his students demonstrated a Plug in hybrid vehicle that achieved 72 mpg nearly achieving the 80 mpg target by the PNGV program. In 1996 his team of students converted a Ford Taurus to a PHEV in the USDOE AVTC FutureCar Challenge to 15 Universities across the country and Canada. The UCDavis vehicle achieved 68 mpg as demonstrated on a trip from Detroit to Washington DC. He and his team then created PHEV automatic transmission models with more efficient mechanical Continuously Variable Transmissions CVTs' and also full size PHEV SUV's that could double fuel economy. The last AVTC project was in 2005 with the AVTC competition Challenge X: Crossover to Sustainable Mobility, in which UC-Davis converted a Chevrolet Equinox to a 4-wheel drive system with double the fuel economy and equal or better performance with no loss if interior space and 40 miles of All Electric Range in a PHEV configuration. In the late nineties General Motors contracted Frank to convert an EV 1 electric car to plug-in hybrid.[2]

In 2006 Romm & Frank described the gasoline-electric hybrid vehicles that were starting to be manufactured. These hybrid vehicles achieved greater fuel economy than traditional vehicles powered only with a gasoline engine. They also mentioned that the next generation of plug-in hybrid vehicles would soon enable the vehicle's battery to be recharged from an electrical source. This would allow the vehicle fleet to be powered from a wider range of fuel sources. This could reduce a country's dependence upon imported petroleum fuels and enable cleaner power sources such as wind or solar to help fuel our vehicles in the future. Thus, widespread use of plug-in hybrid vehicles could enable a future in which short distance vehicle travel would be powered by electricity and long distance travel would use biofuels to reduce the carbon dioxide (greenhouse gas) pollution emitted from our vehicles.[6]

In 2007 Frank described historical development of the plug-in hybrid vehicles (PHEVs) that were starting to appear in the marketplace. Starting as a professor at University of Wisconsin in the 1970s and continuing to date as a professor at University of California Davis, he described his work on engineering of the modern PHEV. Frank's choice for the best PHEV design is a "parallel hybrid configuration" comprising an electric motor, internal combustion engine, continuously variable transmission and a high capacity battery. This would enable 10's of miles of all-electric vehicle operation, so many people would not need to burn any liquid fuel in their engine during a typical day of driving. Widespread adoption of these PHEVs powered primarily by electricity generated locally from clean, renewable wind or solar energy would reduce our transportation costs and carbon dioxide pollution while increasing energy independence, energy security and sustainability in the future. Additional benefits of PHEVs include load leveling of our electrical grid (vehicle-to-grid) and our electrical use at home (vehicle-to-house).[7]

Frank's projects for US DOE and US DOT while directing students have created vehicles that have set world records in fuel economy with the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE). He has been a member of SAE since 1965. Frank has been a consultant for the automotive industry and has had issued many patents that have been assigned to his consultancies. Frank is a member of the CalCars initiative.

PHEV commercialization[edit]

His pioneering invention portfolio in plug-in hybrid vehicle technology and transmission systems developed at UC Davis have been licensed to Efficient Drivetrains Inc (EDI) of Palo Alto in Silicon Valley.[8] Frank is currently CTO of Efficient Drivetrains Inc (EDI).[citation needed]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Mark Clayton (2008-07-19). "Can Plug-In Hybrids Ride to America's Rescue?". ABC News. Retrieved 2009-04-18.
  2. ^ a b Sherry Boschert (2006). Plug-in Hybrids: The Cars that will Recharge America. New Society Publishers, Gabriola Island, Canada. pp. 68–78. ISBN 978-0-86571-571-4. . See Chapter 4.
  3. ^ John J. Fialka (2006-01-25). "Coalition Turns On to 'Plug-In Hybrids': Utilities, Localities, DaimlerChrysler Give Traction to Professor's Drive For High Mileage". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 2011-06-21.
  4. ^ "UC Davis Faculty: Andrew A. Frank, Ph.D." University of California, Davis. Archived from the original on 9 April 2009. Retrieved 2009-04-18.
  5. ^ "PHEV engineering by Andy Frank and Team FATE - AAFrank channel at YouTube". Retrieved 19 December 2013.
  6. ^ Romm, Joseph and Andrew A. Frank (2006) Hybrid Vehicles Gain Traction. Scientific American 294 (4), 72 - 79 [1]
  7. ^ Frank, Andrew A. (2007) Plug-in Hybrid Vehicles for a Sustainable Future. American Scientist 95 (2), 158 - 165 [2]
  8. ^ "UC Davis News & Information :: Plug-in Hybrid Technologies Licensed". 2007-10-14. Archived from the original on 2012-12-12. Retrieved 2012-08-06.

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