College of Engineering News • Iowa State University

Dong researches ways to expand electric car market

Jing DongJing Dong, a new assistant professor in the civil, construction, and environmental engineering department, believes transportation engineering is a multidisciplinary field necessary to solving fundamental challenges.

“Transportation research deals with everyday problems—moving people or freight from one place to another—yet it involves some of the most complex systems,” says Dong. “As a transportation researcher, I can always find challenging problems to solve that have the potential to make positive economic, societal, and environmental impacts.”

Her current challenge: finding better ways to get more plug-in electric vehicles (PEVs) on the road. To accomplish this, she will be analyzing how advancements to infrastructure can promote the PEV market and increase electric miles traveled.

Infrastructure for PEVs includes an ample supply of available charging stations, something Dong says is an important enabler, or driver for the success, of PEVs and similar advanced vehicle technologies.

“As it has the potential to reduce range anxiety for all-electric vehicle drivers and increase fuel savings of plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs), an adequate charging infrastructure is considered a viable technological option for reducing the market barriers to PEVs,” she adds.

Dong brings previous research experience from working at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, a US Department of Energy research facility, to her new position at Iowa State.

“At ORNL, I helped develop a model depicting market acceptance of advanced automotive technologies, which then projected U.S. consumer demand for novel vehicle technologies, such as PHEVs, battery electric vehicles, and fuel cell vehicles,” says Dong. She also modeled preferences for passengers traveling long distances, comparing car, train, bus, and air modes.

Additionally, Dong has a broad educational background, having received her PhD in civil and environmental engineering from Northwestern University in 2008, as well as a MS in systems engineering and a BS in automation from Tsinghua University (China) in 2003 and 2001, respectively.

She says varied educational experiences like her own are becoming increasingly necessary for today’s transportation engineering students entering the job market.

“Many new transportation jobs require an interdisciplinary perspective,” she explains. “Knowledge of electrical engineering helps with understanding intelligent transportation systems; mechanical engineering gives insight into advanced vehicle technologies; logistics builds awareness for freight transportation management; economics, statistics, and many other disciplines play a role as well. Involving graduate students in cross-disciplinary projects and offering interdepartmental classes will help better prepare the students for the work force.”

With regards to her teaching, Dong says students can expect her classes to include active learning techniques and fresh, relevant course material that discusses current domestic and international projects, emerging technologies, and updates on new regulations. She is currently implementing those approaches in CE 355: Principles of Transportation Engineering.