Demand for electric vehicles is growing dramatically—one study estimates EVs had 4% of the overall car market in 2020 and 14% last year, and that share could be as high as 60% by 2030. That has big implications for drivers and the environment, as well as for companies involved in production of vehicles powered by internal combustion engines, which EVs are nudging off the sales lots.
One such company is Stant Corp., based in the Indiana community of Connersville. The company is a leader in a range of automotive components and technologies, including thermal and fuel valves. “As the world is changing with internal combustion engines, we are looking for where our expertise would fit in,” says J Groom, engineering director for thermal products.
One such area involves coolant control valve technology, Groom says. “We’re a valve design company, so that is right up our alley,” he observes. What’s different from some of the company’s current thermal products is that EV coolant control valve technology has an electronic component.
Fortunately for Stant, a hotbed of electronics expertise is about 125 miles to the west, at Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology. Groom’s team reached out to Rose-Hulman Ventures for assistance in developing a printed circuit board to be used in EV coolant control valves.
The Rose-Hulman Ventures team dove into the project earlier this year. “We’ve gone through a couple of development cycles on a printed circuit board to be used for the product line, a coolant control valve for EVs,” he says.
The first step, he says, was working with the operating system through which the circuit board will ultimately operate the control motor, turning it on and off and controlling rotation speed. The work progressed through breadboard design and into development of the first printed circuit board. “It was sent out, received and assembled, and they chose a couple of different chips,” Groom says. “Interns developed code for the firmware, dictated by what we need for the function of the actuator.”
As the Rose-Hulman Ventures team has worked on the electronic controls, Stant has been working internally on the mechanical side, such as the actuator and tooling related to gears and housing. All these complementary components, he says, “will get married into our prototype assembly.”
Other outside suppliers were considered for the electronics development, but Groom says Rose-Hulman Ventures earned the work and has performed admirably. “We put Rose-Hulman Ventures up against other contract suppliers, and the price was competitive. I felt the quality of the result and interactions were better.”
Groom has been pleased with the back-and-forth he has had with the Rose-Hulman Ventures team. “I think we are getting a lot more feedback throughout the process than I am familiar with,” he says. “I have not worked with other electronic design contactors, but there are other suppliers I have worked with in the past, and I don’t get the same feedback and same level of detail that I have seen come from Rose-Hulman Ventures.”
Groom, who is both a Rose-Hulman graduate and the parent of a current student, is impressed with how student interns are able to solve problems alongside their professional engineering project managers by bringing a different perspective and avoiding common assumptions. For example, he says, as the team was working through some issues with sensor triggers, “the interns sat back and said, ‘why don’t we approach it differently?’ The interns picked it up and played with different voltages. They don’t always come to the table with a set of preexisting assumptions.”
He also is impressed with the breadth of expertise that clients can tap into. “What I like about Rose-Hulman Ventures is that it’s not pigeonholed. It’s not just electronics, but a little bit of everything,” Groom says. “It’s a one-stop design shop, if you will. It’s nice that it’s all under one roof.”