What is STEPS?

It is a two-year Erasmus Mundus Master's Course in Sustainable Transportation and Electrical Power Systems (EMMC STEPS) given by four partner universities in the field, divided into two mobility tracks:

  • Sustainable transportation
  • Electrical Power Systems

Challenges and opportunities

The Energy Sector

Mastering energy has been the main driver of modern growth and development. World economic development is probably more dependent than ever on energy and face major energy challenges very closely interrelated: improve energy efficiency, cut down fossil energy consumption to reduce energy dependence and CO2 emissions, and developing alternative renewable energy sources.

The EU has adopted the ‘20-20-20' Climate and Energy strategy, setting three main goals for 2020: reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 20%; improving energy efficiency by 20%; and generating 20% of energy consumption from renewable energy, and a clear commitment to a 100% renewable energy future by 2050. This strategy has made the European region the leader recipient of clean energy finance, attracting a total of €65,000 million (from a total of €164,000 million) in 2010. This is far from the USA, with a total of €45,000 million invested.

Renewable Energies and Power Systems

The energy sector is confronted by major technological and management challenges, one the reasons being the emergence of renewable energy sources. The development of renewable energies in Europe, with a share that is expected to rise from 18% to 46%, is still constrained by production, storing, transmission and distribution challenges, and needs new technology breakthroughs. Integration of renewable energy systems in the existing power systems is leading the electrical energy sector in the following areas:

  1. Generating. Efficiency and reliability are the key points receiving attention: Wind turbines, which are particularly interesting when they are installed offshore, which eliminate the need of mechanical gears by means of Multi-pole Permanent Magnet Machines (PMM) and full converter topologies, increase voltage at the machine terminals for reduction in losses during energy transmission, Maximum Power Point Tracking (MPPT) by means of improved control algorithms, reduction in the shutdowns by improving the reliability and diagnostics techniques.
  2. Transmission. High Voltage Direct Link (HVDC) and Flexible AC Transmission Systems (FACTS) for improving the transmission energy efficiency of offshore energy generation, small isolated remote loads, power supply to islands, infeed to city centers and remote small-scale generation. A major challenge here is the development of medium-voltage inverters. Key technologies include the development of multilevel and multiterminal topologies, new power devices which can support higher voltages and operate at higher switching frequencies with reduced losses and Electro Magnetic Interference (EMI).
  3. Distribution. Introduction of Renewable Energy Systems (RES) require new optimization methods for energy dispatch which take into consideration interconnection standards and operational constraints. The Smart Grids (SGs) paradigm is adequate for the integration of RES. This requires an electricity network that can intelligently integrate the actions of all users connected, including those generating and consumers, in order to efficiently deliver sustainable, economic and secure electricity supply. These results can be achieved by the integration of many different technologies including intelligent control and supervision systems and Information and Communication Technology (ICT) necessary for making the energy demand and production more predictable and controllable.

Challenges in Sustainable Transportation

The reduction of CO2 emissions and energy dependence of developed economies also calls for a significant action in reducing fossil fuel consumption in the transportation sector. The generalization of fully electric and hybrid electric vehicles will also require substantial investments in research and development in the following areas:

  1. Energy storing. Augmented power density in the energy storage systems, including the development of batteries and fuel cells. In addition, use of ultracapacitors and flywheels has been proposed to increase the dynamic response of the main storage system. The integration of all these elements will require the use of efficient power converters as well as of adequate energy control strategies.
  2. Energy conversion. Traction force is generated throughout several power conversion stages, from the main energy source (fossil fuel, fuel cells), to the auxiliary storing system (batteries, ultracapacitors, flywheels) and finally to the traction machine (engine/electric motor). More efficient power electronics by means of new passive and switching elements reduced EMI, temperature effects and room constraints have to be understood and optimized.
  3. Traction machines. For full electric and hybrid vehicles, electrical machines design and control strategies for maximum torque per ampere production, increased reliability and robustness when a fault occurs are needed. Hybrid vehicles also required adequate integration and power split of the electric machine and the Internal Combustion Engine (ICE) are of enormous importance.
  4. Grid integration. Significant improvements and changes in the power grid management, such as smart grids, design of rapid charging stations and possible use of onboard vehicle energy storage systems as a backup of exceeding energy produced by renewable energies are receiving great research efforts.

Course structure

Students will carry out the courses in at least 3 different countries, with 2 alternative mobility tracks: Coimbra-Nottingham-Oviedo or Rome-Nottingham-Oviedo. Students will also have the opportunity of an internship in an associated university or company in Europe, America or Asia. The course will be taught in English but students will have the opportunity to work in at least other 3 EU official languages.

Students will attend a 2-week introductory course at the University of Oviedo, to meet other colleagues, University coordinators, etc. Semester 1 will be a Levelling Course to compensate knowledge for a different educational background. Students wishing to focus on ST strand will rather spend this first period in Rome, while the focusing on EPS will rather attend lectures in Coimbra. Semester 2 will be devoted to the study of advanced subjects on ST and EPS in Nottingham. During Semester 3 students will complete their specialization in either of the proposed strands in Oviedo. Finally, in semester 4 students will carry out an internship in one of the associated Universities or world leading company, and a guided research aimed at the preparation of the Master thesis.

First semester

Introductory course during the 1st semester. The Master will kick-off with an introductory two-week course to be delivered at the University of Oviedo. It will be a 3 ECTS course introduction to Renewable Power Systems, Electrical Traction, and Energy Efficiency. Students will be provided with all the information about the content and organization of the course. The introductory course will also be attended by the Coordinators from the other partner Universities, members of the IAB and some of the leading associated companies, such as Ford, ABB, and Gamesa Electric. Members of the IAB (see IAB composition in A.3.1) will be giving specialized seminars. Top technical and management staff of the associated companies will give seminars about the state of the art of the involved technologies in Electrical Power Systems, Electric and Hybrid Electric vehicles and Energy Efficiency. Besides, the Students Mentoring Programme (SMP) (see A.2.1 and A.3.4) will be presented and organized in collaboration with professors of the universities involved in the program. The introductory course will be also useful for student networking.

The rest of the EMMC STEPS 1st-semester courses will be offered in the University of Rome and Instituto Superior de Engenheria de Coimbra (ISEC). Conceived as a leveling course, students will receive the theoretical specialized training in Sustainable Transportation and Power Systems, offering the possibility of balancing their previous academic and professional background and acquire the appropriate and relevant knowledge to undertake the further specialization. These universities will be delivering the basic subjects needed to consolidate previous knowledge concerning the key technologies involved in the Erasmus Mundus Master Program. The EMMC STEPS Academic Committee (see A.3.1) will recommend the appropriate destination for accepted students, either Coimbra or Rome, depending on their academic background and their career interest. Modules offered in each of the Universities and their corresponding ECTS will be:

University of Rome:
  • Mechanical Background: 6 ECTS
  • Electrical Machines: 6 ECTS
  • Control of Electromechanical Systems: 3 ECTS
  • Power Systems Basics: 6 ECTS
  • Power Electronics Devices and Circuits: 6 ECTS
  • Dynamic Analysis of AC Machines: 3 ECTS
  • Dynamic Control of AC Machines: 3 ECTS
  • Digital Control and Microcontrollers: 6 ECTS<
  • AC Drives: 6 ECTS
  • Power Electronics Converters: 6 ECTS
  • Electrical Machines: 6 ECTS
  • Control of Electromechanical Systems: 3 ECTS
  • Power Systems: 6 ECTS
  • Power Plants: 6 ECTS
  • Distribution Systems: 6 ECTS
  • Digital Control: 3 ECTS
  • Microcontrollers: 3 ECTS
  • DSP and Communications: 3 ECTS

Out of the full offer, students will choose subjects up to 27 ECTS. Students attending to Rome will particularly focus on subjects related to Sustainable Transportation, thus expending more efforts on the dynamic control of AC machines, particularly PMM, extensively used in traction applications; power electronics and AC drives needed for the power conversion and digital systems commonly used for the implementation of control algorithms. Additionally, mechanical background needed for the understanding of basic mechanics later used during the 3rd semester for the hybrid vehicle design. The students attending courses in Coimbra will be focusing on Electrical Power Systems. Subjects are focused in the needed background on generation and distribution but also with subjects leading to the integration of power electronics in power systems, including digital implementation and communications competencies later needed for the development of FACTS, HVDC, microgrids and smart grids technologies. It is also worth noting, that both Universities will be offering complementary courses to ensure a full range of curriculum combinations. The distribution of students between Coimbra and Rome helps to increase the academic offer (up to 87 ECTS between both Universities), and therefore reduce the number of students in each subject to achieve a more personalized and higher quality education in an area of high technological content.

Second semester

In 2nd semester students will move to Nottingham in order to learn the needed power electronics basics applied to one of the proposed strands. Students can freely choose among ten different topics, however, two different specialization lines are proposed, allowing focusing the learning process either on Sustainable Transportation or Electrical Power Systems. In the Sustainable Transportation strand they will be a focus on the energy storing, conversion and drives technologies, whereas, in the Power Systems strand, electrical power conversion technologies, from generation to distribution processes will be the key aspects. It is worth noting the emphasis on practical content in those subjects extended with a project.

Focus on Sustainable Transportation:

  • Power Systems for Aerospace, Marine and Automotive Application: 7,5 ECTS
  • Advanced Power Conversion: 5 ECTS
  • Advanced AC Drives + Project: 7,5 ECTS
  • Advanced AC Machines: 5 ECTS
  • Technologies for the Hydrogen Economy: 2,5 ECTS

Focus on Electrical Power Systems :

  • FACTS and Distributed Generation (Renewable Generation Technologies): 5 ECTS
  • Renewable Generation Technologies and Control: 5 ECTS
  • Power Quality and EMC + Project: 7,5 ECTS
  • Technologies for Wind Generation + Project: 7,5 ECTS
  • Combined Heat and Power: 5 ECTS

Third semester

In 3rd semester students will move to Asturias and will attend the term at the Polytechnic School of Engineering of the University of Oviedo. The two offered strands will allow the students to focus on electrical/hybrid vehicles design or in power systems and renewable project management. Again, students can freely choose among all the offered subjects. It is worth noting that courses may be combined to strengthen the engineering or the management dimension. However, it would be highly recommended that they keep the consistency of their curriculum, pursuing the specialization in either of the proposed technology areas. For Sustainable Transportation, modules are designed to cover all electrical and mechanical issues in the design of hybrid/electric vehicles but also the integration of these new actors in the electrical network. For Power Systems strand, additionally, to the required technological knowledge, the modules include topics related to the management of electrical power systems, including the development of renewable energy projects. It is worth noting the subject for cooperation and electrical development which keeps an eye on the deployment of electrical energy in third world countries. The offered courses will also have a large number of practical contents, including an end of semester laboratory.

Focus on Sustainable Transportation :

  • Design of hybrid (HEV) and electric vehicles (EV): 9 ECTS
  • Energy storing and recovering in power systems and hybrid/electric vehicles: 6 ECTS
  • EMC: 4,5 ECTS
  • Power Systems for electrical transportation: 4,5 ECTS
  • Applied simulation to electrical transportation: 3 ECTS
  • Electrical Transportation Laboratory: 3 ECTS

Focus on Electrical Power Systems:

  • Smart grids and Microgrids: 6 ECTS
  • Applied simulation to power systems: 3 ECTS
  • Power Systems Laboratory: 3 ECTS
  • Electrical Markets: 4 ECTS
  • Project Management: 6 ECTS
  • Economical and Financial Analysis: 6 ECTS
  • Electrical Energy and Cooperation for Development: 2 ECTS

Fourth semester

In 4th semester students will move to any of the 4 Universities or of the 16 companies associated members to carry out the internship and prepare the Master thesis. Students will have the opportunity of a professional internship in a leading company in the automobile or power generation industry plus a guided research aimed at the preparation of the Master thesis. Internships will be devoted to the development of the Master Thesis in an associated partner university or company of the EMMC STEPS programme. Internships will be co-tutored by a Master's professor and an external person belonging to the associated partner. All the students will have the possibility of having the internship period, with a maximum of two students staying at each associated partner. The selection of associated Universities and companies has been made on the basis of their high specialization on the Master topics.

The Master's Thesis will be a written report of the student's personal work and is aimed at developing independent and scientific thoughts and applications. Master Thesis will be connected to the activities to be developed during the internship and one chapter of the Master Thesis will describe the Internship activities and the outcomes that may be relevant to the Thesis. Thesis topics will be offered by the Master Academic Committee at the beginning of the 3rd semester. Students will have up to 15th October to make their choices, with the assistance of the Mentoring Professor. The Master Academic Committee will confirm the Master thesis assignments by 15th November.

The thesis will be supervised by a Ph.D. Professor belonging to any of the partner Universities and may also be co-directed by a professor or tutor from the associated organization where the student is carrying out the internship).

Master Thesis Module :

  • Internships: 12 ECTS
  • Master Thesis: 18 ECTS
Program taught in:

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Last updated February 14, 2019
This course is Campus based
Start Date
Oct. 2019
2 years
2,000 EUR
per semester, EU students. €4,000 per semester non-EU students.
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