The Development and Evaluation of a Shallow Ground Loop Design for Ground Source Heat Pumps (GSHPs); The Role of Socio-Cultural Influences on Electric Vehicle Adoption in the Modern American Market

Koopman, Kara, School of Engineering and Applied Science, University of Virginia
Chelliah, Harsha, EN-Mech/Aero Engr Dept, University of Virginia
Seabrook, Bryn, University of Virginia

Climate change is often considered the defining crisis of the 21st century. The world is running out of time to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and constrain global warming enough to avoid truly catastrophic damage. This portfolio examines challenges to the adoption of two emerging sustainable technologies – ground source heat pumps and electric vehicles – which have the potential to greatly reduce emissions. Ground source heat pumps (GSHPs) are more efficient than traditional systems and can significantly reduce carbon dioxide emissions; however, a major barrier to their adoption is the large time and financial investment of installing the ground loop, a complex system of pipes buried deep underground. The technical report focuses on reducing this barrier to adoption, by envisioning, modeling, and testing a shallow ground loop design that significantly reduces excavation requirements and therefore both installation time and cost. The STS research topic investigates the adoption of a different sustainable technology: the electric vehicle (EV). Specifically, the STS research paper considers the role that American socio-cultural influences have played on EV adoption and how American consumer demand has shaped the development of EV technology.

The technical deliverable of this portfolio focuses on the design and evaluation of a shallow ground loop which has the potential to reduce the overall cost of GSHP systems, which have traditionally relied on costly ground loops to achieve the heat transfer to meet the heating and cooling loads of the buildings they service. By considering the impacts of ground characteristic on heat transfer, loop parameters such as pipe geometry and fluid flow rate, as well as legal standards and codes, the team developed four potential ground loop designs which were then modeled using Ansys, a flow simulation software. Using the Ansys models, the team identified the horizontal slinky ground loop as the optimum design to maximize heat transfer and minimize excavation volume. Due to UVA facility restrictions, the team was unable to install a full-scale ground loop and GSHP system at the reCOVER house, but instead pivoted to pursue a small-scale ground loop set-up. The results of the scaled design are then used to validate the results of the Ansys model and evaluate the effectiveness of the shallow ground loop design. The result of this analysis provides insight into the feasibility of shallow ground loops in GSHP systems and will inform future work to develop lower-cost shallow ground loops.

Electric vehicles (EVs) are increasingly considered the future of transportation as their zero tailpipe emissions and greater engine efficiency could play an important role in reducing emissions. As U.S. legislators and car manufactures become more invested in this future of transportation, it raises the important question: How have the socio-cultural values of American consumers influenced the adoption and shaped the development of electric vehicles (EVs)? This paper aims to determine how the identity of American consumers influences EV adoption, which in turn also drives the development of EV technology. Published papers on self-image congruence, EV adoption, and American values will provide insight into the social and symbolic nature of cars, current EV adoption trends, and what makes a technology “American”. EV technology will be contextualized within the current American consumer landscape to highlight core socio-cultural values that may be driving EV adoption. Additionally, the theory of the Social Construction of Technology (SCOT) will be applied to reveal the role of consumers and their demand as agents of technological change. By identifying key socio-cultural influences on EV adoption and technological adaptations of EVs to meet American consumer preferences, this research will enable policy makers to understand the rise of EVs in the American market and make informed legislative decisions on sustainable transport options.

Solving the climate crisis, as with many wicked problems, requires an interdisciplinary approach that addresses the problem from different perspectives. In addition, a wide range of technical solutions must be both developed and adopted given the scale of the crisis. This portfolio addresses the adoption of two sustainable technologies, from two different perspectives: the technical and the social. The technical portion of this thesis focuses on an engineering solution to reduce a key barrier to adoption for GSHP technology. The STS portion provides insights on the ways in which socio-cultural values can influence the adoption of electric vehicles. Although the two portions consider different technologies, this thesis emphasizes the importance of considering the role both social and technical factors play in technological adoption, something that will be crucial for the widespread proliferation of sustainable technologies.

BS (Bachelor of Science)
Social Construction of Technology, Ground Source Heat Pumps, Electric Vehicles, Sustainable Technologies

School of Engineering and Applied Science
Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering
Technical Advisor: Harsha Chelliah
STS Advisor: Bryn Seabrook
Technical Team Members: Alex Davis, Lucas Daugherty, Isaac Mulford

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