Purdue University Graduate School

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Design and Control of a Multi-Pressure Rail System for Agricultural Vehicles

posted on 2024-04-18, 22:38 authored by Xiaofan GuoXiaofan Guo

Hydraulic actuation technology is one of the most common ways of transferring power in agricultural and construction machinery. As the system efficiency and fuel consumption of these machines gains more attention due to climate change, a new generation of high-efficient hydraulic architecture is in need. This dissertation presents a study for reducing energy loss in the hydraulic control system of agricultural tractors and their implements. The solution is referred to as a multi-pressure rail (MPR) system and provides power to the hydraulic functions following a pressure control logic, as opposed to the traditional flow control logic typical of hydraulic systems used in off-road vehicles.

The proposed hydraulic architecture and controller allows for elimination of redundant flow control valves in the state-of-the-art system, which cause excessive throttling losses leading to poor overall energy efficiency. Related work on MPR technology targets construction vehicles, where the MPR solution can allow energy recovery during overrunning loads and better engine management. This study alternatively addresses the case of agricultural applications where functions mostly operate under resistive load conditions with slow dynamics, which offers an opportunity to target throttle losses. The hydraulic architecture design starts with the choice of number of rails, then supply system and pressure selection and control valve set. Next, the controller is proposed. The controller contains two layers. The lower layer directly controls the command tracking, rotational speed, or pressure, for each subsystem. The higher layer, namely the supervisory controller, optimizes the rail pressure levels in real time to guarantee minimum overall throttling loss.

To prove the effectiveness of the hydraulic system architecture and controller design, a standalone test rig was conceived and used to validate a numerical simulation model of the MPR system and its control strategy. Particular focus is given to the dynamic behavior of the system during the switches of a function between different pressure rails, which needs to ensure reduced oscillations of the flow provided to each hydraulic function. Then, to demonstrate the ability on power saving in real working conditions, reference machines were chosen: a 435 hp hydraulic tractor powering a 16-row planter, for which operating features during typical drive cycles were available to the authors. Simulation models of the two reference machines were built and validated with in field experiments. A full MPR system model on the reference machines was constructed using the validated models. This full model was used to predict the reference tractor and planter hydraulic system performance and power consumption during typical drive cycles. The results show up to 52.4% total power reduction at the pump shaft, corresponding to 113.8% system efficiency gain.

The dissertation also laid out the planned activities to complete the study. The system controller will be generalized that could suit more equipment in addition to the reference machine in this study. In the meantime, the reference tractor and planter will be modified into the proposed MPR system for field testing. That includes new sensors, controllers, valves, etc. The field test is the final experimental validation for the proposed MPR system on the front of effectiveness and power saving in real working condition.


Degree Type

  • Doctor of Philosophy


  • Mechanical Engineering

Campus location

  • West Lafayette

Advisor/Supervisor/Committee Chair

Dr. Andrea Vacca

Advisor/Supervisor/Committee co-chair

Dr. Jose M. Garcia Bravo

Additional Committee Member 2

Dr. Karthik Ramani

Additional Committee Member 3

Dr. Lizhi Shang

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