UCF College of Engineering and Computer Science assistant professors, Kenle ChenZhaomiao (Walter) Guo and Luigi Perotti, have been named 2023 National Science Foundation (NSF) Faculty Early Career Development Program (CAREER) award winners. The combined award total is an estimated $1.5 million.

Recipients of this prestigious, early-faculty award exhibit the potential to serve as academic role models in research and education, and lead advances in the mission of their department or organization.

Each UCF awardee is using their expertise to study the core part of a key system — whether it’s Perotti understanding heart mechanics in relation to health and disease, Guo’s research on harnessing solar power through electric vehicles or Chen, who is redefining high-speed connectivity used in communication antennas.

Harnessing the Sun’s Energy Through Electric Vehicles

Zhaomiao (Walter) Guo

Department of Civil, Environmental and Construction Engineering

Project Title: A Decentralized Optimization Framework for Next-Gen Transportation and Power Systems with Large-scale Transportation Electrification

Award: $525,781

Using the increasing number of electric vehicles (EVs) on the roads as an advantage, civil, environmental and construction engineering Assistant Professor Walter Guo’s project will couple two important infrastructure systems — transportation and power — to contribute to a more sustainable future.

Guo is currently building a network model that will examine EVs to capture and store solar energy, which can then be transferred into a power system as the EV replenishes its own battery supply — creating a bidirectional flow of power.

Guo, who is also a part of UCF’s Resilient, Intelligent and Sustainable Energy Systems faculty cluster initiative and center, says his ultimate research goal is to introduce more clean energy into the power and transportation systems in a cost-effective way.

While Guo’s model will rely on his computational and engineering expertise, the outcome is largely dependent on the adoption of the system by transportation departments, utility companies and industry partners, including individuals who own EVs.

“EV and solar technologies are going to have a large market penetration in the next 10 or 20 years,” Guo says. “And when we’re able to get these two technologies to work together, it will completely change both systems.” Guo is looking forward to broadly collaborate with the stakeholders, including Florida Department of Transportation, utility companies and the City of Orlando to enable this paradigm shift.

Guo’s study will also incorporate key concepts in game theory to explore how the average EV owner may adopt the model if given rewards, such as monetary incentives.

“It’s a cyclical process,” he says. “By providing incentives to the EV owners, we essentially reduce the ownership costs for them. So eventually, it will promote the adoption of EVs that in turn, will enable the integration of solar or renewable energy in power systems.”

To quantify the value of providing a certain amount of energy back into the power system, Guo will consider various factors like time, vehicle use and cases where the demand for power is high, such as during a power outage due to a natural disaster.

“When the EVs provide support during an outage, they can potentially help recover the power system’s critical loads, allowing the power system startup to be easier,” Guo says.

Since the time he was working as a transportation engineer in 2012 to his postdoctoral assignment in 2018 where he investigated the power transmission and distribution networks for EVs, Guo’s career path has led him straight to this project.

Over the past five years, Guo’s team of collaborators, which includes students, have played a major role in developing the preliminary results needed to receive the NSF CAREER grant.

“The idea of our contribution is to seamlessly integrate the transportation system with the energy system,” he says. “I hope to carry forward this research direction to a broader context that fundamentally improves sustainability and resilience.”