Kayla Keriazes '21: Analyzing viability of electric buses in the cold climate of Ithaca, NY

Keriazes with electric bus

After first arriving at Cornell as a freshman, Kayla Keriazes ’21 wasn’t sure whether she wanted to major in mechanical or electrical engineering. But after being mesmerized by the mechanically based teams at Project Team Fest, she decided to major in mechanical engineering and never looked back. 

Kayla KeriazesAfter completing her bachelors in 2020, Keriazes is now pursuing her M.Eng. degree in the Sibley School of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering to gain more experience in the field before entering the workforce.  The M.Eng. program has given Keriazes the opportunity to conduct research with Max Zhang, professor in the Sibley School and take high-level courses that provide the experience and knowledge employers are looking for in recent graduates.

Keriazes is working with Zhang and the Energy and the Environment Research Laboratory to analyze the performance of electric buses in the cold climate and rugged terrain of Ithaca, NY. The Tompkins Consolidated Area Transit, Inc. (TCAT) has recently acquired electric buses, manufactured by Proterra, will be circulating around Cornell University and the surrounding areas.

Keriazes will be collecting data such as vehicle speed, miles traveled per charge, and energy used per route for various environmental constraints such as air temperature and the grade of the terrain. With this data, the team hopes to determine if these conditions have a significant impact on the performance of electric buses - which are manufactured and primarily used in areas with warmer climates and more mild terrain. The team also plans to use this data for route optimization in the future. 

It became clear to Zhang from their very first discussion of the project that Kayla’s passion on electrified transportation is contagious. “Kayla’s determination to make a difference in the EV world and solid background in automotive engineering have made her a perfect student to take on the project,” says Zhang. “She drives the project, no pun intended!” 

Community partnership is also key to the project. “We are very fortunate to collaborate with great community partners at TCAT who are equally passionate about sustainability,” say Zhang.

One of the most valuable aspects of her M.Eng. experience has been conducting research in her field of interest combined with the opportunity to gain experience in industry. This summer, Keriazes will be interning at Proterra – where she will gain a more in-depth experience having already started studying the electric buses.

Keriazes has greatly enjoyed working with Zhang, especially his ability to balance a “hands-off” approach to mentorship while also providing useful guidance when needed.

“With his style of mentorship, I feel like I have a level of independence and the opportunity to figure things out for myself,” says Keriazes. “But, at the same time, if I am ever stuck on something, Professor Zhang always makes time to meet with me and help me through the problem.”

As an undergraduate, Keriazes was very involved with the Cornell FSAE Racing project team – gaining real-world experience through collaboration and problem-solving. 

“Not only did I gain an abundance of technical skills and knowledge, but I also learned what it means to be a good teammate and a good leader,” says Keriazes. “The teamwork aspect was my favorite part of this experience and I have made life-long friends on the team.”

After graduation, Keriazes would like to work for an automotive company that is either already developing or transitioning to electric vehicles.

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