Course Meeting Times

Lectures: 2 sessions / week, 1.5 hours / session

Course Description

This course provides an introduction to the transportation industry's major technical challenges and considerations. For upper level undergraduates interested in learning about the transportation field in a broad but quantitative manner. Topics include road vehicle engineering, internal combustion engines, batteries and motors, electric and hybrid powertrains, urban and high speed rail transportation, water vessels, aircraft types and aerodynamics, radar, navigation, GPS, GIS. Students will complete a project on a subject of their choosing.

Learning Objectives

  1. Use first principles to evaluate the technical tradeoffs and limitations of various transportation options.
  2. Explain the system-level challenges surrounding certain transportation methods and how these might be overcome in the future.
  3. Model road-vehicle and aircraft dynamics and explain the related primary challenges.
  4. Predict how technologies such as GPS, GIS, etc will continue shaping the future of transportation.
  5. Explain the major components of the commercial transport industry and critique the economic, logistical, and energy tradeoffs involved.

Measurable Outcomes

  1. Explain the primary considerations in propulsion system design and model basic scenarios using first principles [homework].
  2. Estimate the energy requirements and greenhouse gas emissions of internal combustion engine, hybrid-electric, and full electric automobiles (and rail?). [homework, quiz].
  3. Assess and critique the efficiencies of global transportation systems [homework, project].
  4. Explain the characteristics and tradeoffs of hybrid powertrain architectures – series, parallel, and series-parallel [homework].
  5. Critique several real world designs of automotive and aircraft systems [homework, quiz].

Course Materials

This course has no textbook. Readings are derived from websites.

Problem Sets

Problem sets will be available in the 'assignments' section of the website. Because of holidays, tests, etc., some problem sets may be provided and will be due on days other than Mondays for some weeks. For the same reason, they may not be assigned for a particular week. Late problem sets will not be accepted.

Honesty on Problem Sets

You are welcome, and encouraged, to work on the assignment problems with fellow students. A good way to learn the material is in small study groups. Such groups work best if members have attempted the problems individually before meeting as a group. Of course, the assignment solution that you turn in should reflect your own understanding, and not that of your fellow students. In other words, do not copy directly from other students. If it is obvious that such direct copying has occurred, we will disallow that homework.


There will be two in-class exams. They are scheduled before Lec #15 and Lec #25 sessions. The exams will be closed book. One sheet of handwritten notes will be allowed during the first exam and two sheets will be allowed during the second exam.

In-class Presentations

There will be two types of presentations - short in-class presentations (< 3min, one PowerPoint slide) of an interesting practical application of the topic covered in the previous lecture and a final presentation (20min slides, 10min Q&A) predicting future developments of each major type of transportation covered (road, water, rail, air).


Homework and class work breakdown: 45%
In-lecture quizzes - 5%
Psets - 30%
In-class presentations - 5%
Class participation - 5%
Two exams 40% (both)
Final presentation 15%



1 Introduction - Energy in Transportation  
2 Energy & Thermodynamics PS 1 due
3 Internal Combustion Engines I  
4 Internal Combustion Engines II  
5 Road Vehicle Engineering & Components I (Vehicle Dynamics, Powertrain & Components)  
6 Road Vehicle Engineering & Components II PS 2 due
7 Electric & Hybrid Vehicles I (Consumer Electric Vehicles)  
8 Electric & Hybrid Vehicles II  
9 Rail Transport: Fossil Fuel, Electric, Urban & High-Speed (Fossil Fuel Rail)  
10 Rail Transport: Fossil Fuel, Electric, Urban & High-Speed (Electric Rail)  
11 Rail Transport: Fossil Fuel, Electric, Urban & High-Speed (Urban & High Speed Rail) PS 3 due
12 Water Transport: History, Vessels, Port Operations (Water Transport History)  
13 Water Transport: History, Vessels, Port Operations (Water Transport: Vessels)  
14 Water Transport: History, Vessels, Port Operations (Port Operations)  
15 Review  
16 Exam 1  
17 Aircraft Types  
18 Fixed-Wing Aircraft Aerodynamics I  
19 Fixed-Wing Aircraft Aerodynamics II PS 4 due
20 Aircraft Engines  
21 Helicopters  
22 Radar  
23 Exam 2  
24 Navigation Module (Navigation)  
25 Navigation Module (Global Positioning System GPS)  
26 Navigation Module (Global Information System GIS)  
27 Navigation Module (Modern Mapping Techniques)