The road ahead for technologies: The brightest spark

The pressure is on in the on-going drive towards CO₂ and other emissions reduction, with China and the United States among other major countries now beginning to ratify the Paris Agreement. The transport sector has a major role to play in the battle against emissions. Numerous innovative projects are underway to create technology that can make a real difference, but which of these technologies will lead the way in the battle against climate change?

The UK the Auto Council has identified key technology trends which will lead to our low carbon future, with significant developments required in Internal Combustion Engines (ICE), Electric Motors, Batteries and Power Electronics, but which will prove to be the key – or will it be a new wave of digital engineering and test capabilities that enable us to bring all of these technologies together that will spark the next quantum leap in performance?

The technology

The UK has a wealth of expertise, which spans across all of these technology areas: In the realm of battery technology innovations, the UK has deep rooted history with the first lithium Ion cell being invented at Oxford University. Nissan have recently affirmed their faith in the UK’s impressive battery development capabilities, by further investing in their Sunderland Battery Plant and securing funding through the Advanced Propulsion Centre to help extend our capability to lead in this area. The future of battery technology is bright, with world class facilities for future battery technology testing and development at our institutions like the Electrical Energy Storage Spoke based at WMG, the University of Warwick.

Battery technology is not the only technology that has deep rooted history in the UK. Michael Faraday invented the first electric motor at the Royal Institution in London. Here, the UK’s power in the electric machines was born and was set to inspire a future of experts in electric machines. Newcastle University lead the way in a community of experts in the Electric Machines Spoke, which contains organisations who are producing innovative electric machine technologies for leading companies across the globe.

Power Electronics are a key enabler for the drive towards electrification. The UK has world class research capabilities dedicated to developing this further. Nottingham University lead the APC’s Power Electronics Spoke and the EPSRC Challenge Network spanning the innovation landscape from fundamental research to production. In this community, innovative work is being done to further the efficiency of our Power Electronics technology reducing size while improving performance. Developments such as the semi-conductor catapult mean the UK will have the infrastructure to develop world leading solutions and bring them to production readiness.

All signs seem to point towards the rise of electrification, however will this spell the end of the internal combustion engine? The UK is renowned for its excellence in I.C.E. development, and produces more engines each year than complete cars. As the push for low carbon transport increases the I.C.E. technologies must continually improve their thermal and system efficiency. Hybrid powertrains will see the requirements of the ICE change significantly, moving from the ‘prime mover’ to a support technology this system level integration is something that the UK and its Engineering Service Providers are once again leading the way in delivering.

The last decade has seen the digital world develop to the point of being almost unrecognisable. Leaps and bounds in technology has meant that a new world of opportunities have opened in the digital realm. The Digital Engineering and Test Centre are working with experts from the digital and gaming sectors to deliver tools and techniques which will enable efficient design, validation and manufacture of all of these technologies. Digital Engineering and Test uses techniques such as mathematical modelling, simulation and virtualisation to reduce the cost of new product introduction and accelerate the product development cycle. Advanced computing techniques allow engineers to design and test complex parts and systems in a virtual environment. This reduces the need for expensive prototypes that take a long time to produce. The effect is that better products are brought to market more quickly and at a lower cost.

So which of these technology developments will prove to be the fast track to low carbon propulsion?  

At LCV 2016, world class experts on each of these technology areas will explain why their technology field will be the driving force to innovation and how the UK can best take advantage of this to ensure we lead the way. The leads of the APC’s Spokes communities come together as part of a lively debate, which will take place in the Workshop Dome during the APC’s half day session on the 14 September.

Each will challenge the preconceptions of the other technologies and look for opportunities to drive the whole agenda forward before opening the floor to questions regarding the future direction of their technology over the next 20 years. Join the APC in their Workshop Dome Session at LCV 2016 to decide for yourself.