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Small-Scale Physical Modeling and Testing of a Vehicle Trailer With Onboard Power Supply

[+] Author Affiliations
Jesse Eisenmann, Joshua Horsley, Diane L. Peters

Kettering University, Flint, MI

Paper No. DETC2016-59256, pp. V02AT03A006; 9 pages
  • ASME 2016 International Design Engineering Technical Conferences and Computers and Information in Engineering Conference
  • Volume 2A: 42nd Design Automation Conference
  • Charlotte, North Carolina, USA, August 21–24, 2016
  • Conference Sponsors: Design Engineering Division, Computers and Information in Engineering Division
  • ISBN: 978-0-7918-5010-7
  • Copyright © 2016 by ASME


In typical towing situations, all of the power needed to move the towing vehicle and the towed vehicle (trailer) is supplied by the towing vehicle. This dictates that a person who wishes to tow a trailer must have a vehicle capable of providing enough power to move both the vehicle and the trailer; if they only occasionally tow a trailer, then they either need to rent an appropriately sized vehicle or buy a larger vehicle than is dictated by their everyday needs, which has both financial and environmental consequences. However, if the trailer can provide sufficient power itself to move, then the demands on the towing vehicle are reduced. Such a trailer would be guided by the towing vehicle, but the vehicle would provide very little power to the trailer, and therefore a small car could be used for the towing task, removing the requirement to buy or rent a larger vehicle for occasional towing. This concept has been previously explored theoretically, and was found to be feasible based on dynamic models of the trailer, with the trailer powered by a DC motor; in this paper, it is investigated experimentally, on a small scale. The experiment was conducted on a 1:18 scale remote controlled (RC) car and similarly scaled powered trailer that was constructed for it. The project included the design of an appropriate trailer, integration of a load cell into the trailer hitch, and the design of an appropriate controller. The controller was implemented using National Instruments’ LabVIEW software, running on the NI myRIO controller. The LabVIEW program also saved data from the force sensor and two accelerometers, as well as the controller output to the system, for later analysis. The car was driven around with the assistance of the trailer while data was collected by the affixed sensors. The tests were conducted with different drivers, with the car driven on varying paths that included both straight driving and turns, all on a standard hard indoor floor surface. The goal of this project was to prove out the concept on a small scale, after its feasibility had been shown through modeling and theoretical calculations. The results showed that the concept is feasible and will work in practice on this small scale, although some challenges were seen. Some of these challenges were caused by the limitations of the test setup, such as limited battery capacity and limited space to mount sensors. The success of this test setup, despite these limitations, suggests that a larger-scale model should be constructed and tested, and that in practice the concept will be feasible.

Copyright © 2016 by ASME
Topics: Modeling , Testing , Vehicles



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