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The future of green car technologies at LCV2016

BMW i8 at LCV2016

BMW i8 at LCV2016

Green Car Guide’s comprehensive report on Cenex LCV2016 covers a range of the highlights from the content-packed event including the green car technologies that we can expect in the future and the range of support that the UK government is providing for the sector.

The Cenex Low Carbon Vehicle (LCV2016) event showcases the best of current low carbon automotive technology and offers a glimpse at what we will be driving in the next ten years. The event includes vehicle ride and drives, an exhibition and a conference, and the 2016 event was the biggest yet with over 3,000 attendees and multiple activities taking place at the same time. Here are our highlights:

  1. Your next car: Petrol, diesel, plug-in hybrid or electric?

Volkswagen Passat GTE at LCV2016

Thanks to Volkswagen’s Dieselgate, the public profile of regulated emissions has shot up in the last 12 months. We aren’t going to see an immediate u-turn from manufacturers and UK legislators, such as a rapid move away from diesel engines, but NOx and PM emissions are now being considered more fully than before. British car buyers are now purchasing slightly fewer diesel cars, and manufacturers are accelerating development of electric models. There is also renewed emphasis on advanced petrol engines, and the rapidly growing plug-in hybrid market is dominated by petrol-electric drivetrains (such as the new Volkswagen Passat GTE) rather than diesel.

  1. Jaguar Land Rover: a new petrol engine, more lightweighting… and Formula E

Jaguar Land Rover at LCV2016

Last year Jaguar Land Rover presented prototype electric Land Rovers which are now widely reported to be heading for production as early as next year wrapped in a Jaguar body. This year JLR’s electric theme was in the form of a Formula E racing car, as Jaguar has announced that it’s going to enter the electric racing series, with the aim of it acting as a test bed for its road going electric car technologies. The entry of car manufacturers such as Jaguar and Audi into Formula E should make the racing championship, which is already a visionary idea, even more interesting.

Aside from Formula E, this year the big news was a new Ingenium 2-litre turbocharged petrol engine which will enter production in 2017. It will be around 15% more efficient than the current Ford-derived unit, providing class-leading efficiency whilst also being capable of producing 25% more power. Of particular note is the adoption of an electro-hydraulic valvetrain which is similar in concept to FIAT’s MultiAir system. The system allows the variable valve lift system to work independently of engine speed which means a more responsive engine, particularly at low revs, in combination with enhanced efficiency. We can’t wait to try it.

In addition weight saving remains a key part of Jaguar DNA, as it benefits efficiency and handling. Usually it’s Jaguar’s extensive use of aluminium that best demonstrates commitment to the cause but on this occasion it is the rather less glamorous exhaust system which shows how every gramme is being chased. By redesigning the system to be better isolated from mechanical stress, the thickness of the metal has been reduced, delivering an impressive 40% reduction in weight.

Finally the TRANSCEND gearbox project demonstrates what the next generation of gearboxes will be capable of. A clean-sheet approach has delivered a dual clutch eight-speed transmission with an ultra-wide ratio spread, which allows a single ‘box to cope with everything from rigorous off-road use – that traditionally required low ratio selection – through to motorway use. The whole system is 20 kg lighter than a standard 8-speed auto and has been designed to work seamlessly with an integrated electric motor to deliver hybrid capability.

  1. Torotrak V-Charge variable drive supercharger

Torotrak at LCV2016

Last year we highlighted the development of 48v hybrid systems which are now heading for production. The systems allow mild hybrid running and support electric superchargers. However although they are cheaper than full hybrid systems, initially 48v will be introduced on larger, more expensive models, and this leaves a big opportunity for something targeted at everything else.

Torotrak’s answer is ingenious, as you would expect from the company behind Flybrid KERS systems and Infinitely Variable Transmissions (IVTs). V-Charge is a variable drive supercharger which means that it is a mechanically-driven alternative to the electric superchargers enabled by 48v. It uses a compact toroidal gear system to allow up to 100% of boost to be delivered at just 1000rpm. What this means in practice is a radically downsized engine can be installed whilst still providing acceleration at low revs. To prove the point, Ford’s excellent 1-litre EcoBoost engine fitted with V-Charge achieves the same torque output as the 1.5-litre EcoBoost but is capable of 16% better fuel efficiency on the official test cycle. We hope that V-Charge finds its way into production soon as a relatively affordable and compact solution that enables improved efficiency and driveability, and it gets a big thumbs up from us!

  1. Ricardo ADEPT diesel micro-hybrid and RAS-R: augmented engine noise

Ricardo at LCV2016

The three-year ADEPT (advanced diesel-electric powertrain) project, led by Ricardo in a research partnership, set the target of developing and validating a range of advanced mild hybrid technologies with 48V ‘intelligent electrification’ utilising an advanced lead carbon battery. These have been applied to a Ford Focus project demonstrator. Final testing confirmed the ADEPT key achievement of a 10-12 per cent reduction in fuel consumption – equivalent to sub-80g/km of CO2 emissions.

An updated estimated cost of production implementation has come out at only €60 per g/km CO2 reduction, which is very competitive with other fuel economy solutions such as full hybrids. The full results of the project were presented at LCV2016, where the ADEPT vehicle was available for the first time for public ride and drives.

Ricardo has also been busy with a range of other projects, including the lightweighting of vehicle components, and augmented engine noise.

If you have even a passing interest in Formula 1 you will know that turbocharged engines are quieter. Followers of Formula E will have noticed that electric drive produces even less noise. In motorsport engine noise (or the lack of it) can be a major topic of conversation but it is an increasingly important subject in road cars too.

The move to smaller turbocharged engines along with tightening noise regulations means that car manufacturers are increasingly struggling to get the bits of engine noise they want to the driver whilst keeping the less palatable noise out. Some have resorted to augmented engine noise using synthesised sound but the reception from journalists and buyers alike has been lukewarm.

Ricardo’s response is RAS-R (Realistic Augmented Sound by Ricardo). We have to admit that at Green Car Guide we needed some convincing, but having experienced the system first-hand we think Ricardo might be on to something. The key difference is that whilst the sound does travel through a computer and is piped via speakers into the cabin, it originates in the engine. A pressure sensor within the intake manifold is repurposed to act as a microphone so the origin of the signal is genuine engine noise. There is still some electronic trickery to enhance the noise, and some settings were less successful than others, but the system is capable of producing an authentic tone at higher revs (when you want the extra volume and tone) without intervening unnecessarily when you don’t.

And what of pure electric cars? The aim is to provide an original sound rather than copy an existing engine, which we also think is the right way to go.

  1. Electric buses and trucks

Tevva at LCV2016

The development of batteries has been astonishing in recent years which means that electric buses are now a reality. This will come as no surprise if you live in London, or a handful of other enlightened cities, but for most people electric buses remain a pipe dream. Magtec has been at the forefront of UK development since 1992 and has enough experience in the field to advise clients on when electric drive will (most cases) and won’t work. To meet the needs of those who have particularly demanding drive cycles it is now possible to order a range-extender option which can run on hydrogen or CNG to guarantee vehicle availability.

Unsurprisingly Magtec’s expertise also applies to trucks with up to 18 tonne vehicles being catered for. The technology is very well suited to delivery vehicles with 7.5 tonne vehicles having a maximum range of 260 miles and 18 tonne variants managing around 120 miles. Full recharges can be achieved in four hours and Magtec claims a payback period of under 5 years.

Tevva Motors is a new entrant into the market with a retrofit package for 7.5 tonne trucks launched in February 2016. The system consists of a 66 kWh battery pack with a 1.6-litre diesel engine that operates as a range-extender. This means that the truck is always propelled by a 120 kW electric motor with electricity coming from the batteries for around 100 miles and then produced by the diesel engine thereafter. The size of the diesel tank is customisable to operators’ requirements. Tevva believes that the range-extender option will provide customers with the confidence to convert to its electric truck, but in use the vast majority of miles will be driven in pure electric mode.

Delegates at LCV2016 were transported in some of the latest examples of low emission bus technology, which are now being adopted in large numbers by UK operators, thanks to an initiative by the Low Carbon Vehicle Partnership (LowCVP).

Eight vehicles, examples of the latest low emission bus technology – including parallel diesel hybrids, flywheel hybrid, biomethane and full electric buses – were in operation, transporting delegates from the parking area to the main event. The LowCVP also had a Low Emission Bus Showcase with leading representatives from the LowCVP’s bus community including Volvo Bus, ADL and Optare.

  1. Government support for the UK low carbon vehicle industry

UK Pavilion at LCV2016

Nick Hurd, Minister of State for Climate Change and Industry, opened LCV2016, demonstrating government support for the UK low carbon vehicle industry. This theme continued in the exhibition area, where the Advanced Propulsion Centre (APC) was involved in pulling together government organisations involved in supporting the low carbon vehicle community in the UK Pavilion, as well as showcasing the abilities of the UK’s leading academic communities.

The APC was involved in numerous activities across the event, including opening the event, hosting an array of technologies in the UK Pavilion – including a digital experience to allow attendees to see under the bonnet of a vehicle in a whole new way.

On the first day of the event, the APC hosted a half-day event in the Workshop Dome, discussing its recent capability study and the opportunities from this for the UK automotive industry.

  1. Niche Vehicle Network

NVN at LCV2016

The Niche Vehicle Network (NVN) was busy at LCV2016 – there was a reveal of a new vehicle from Delta Motorsport, the appearance of the Riversimple Rasa hydrogen car, news about the winners of a recent funding competition, and an announcement about new funding.

Delta Motorsport

NVN member Delta Motorsport revealed a novel range-extender technology developed by Delta and its partners, with support from Innovate UK. The brand new micro-turbine technology is aimed at helping electric cars match petrol or diesel-powered equivalents. The new system, dubbed MiTRE, was developed with support from an Innovate UK collaborative R&D programme and is specifically designed for use as a range extender for electric vehicles. Delta has produced two complete MiTRE prototype systems with 17kW power output and has fitted one into its in-house EV, the E-4 Coupe for further development.

Riversimple Rasa

The Riversimple Rasa, a two-seat hydrogen fuel cell car capable of 250mpge made an appearance via the Welsh Government at LCV2016.

The ecological car firm Riversimple Movement employs 23 people at an R&D centre in Llandrindod Wells, mid-Wales and is currently crowd funding for its Rasa (Latin for clean slate) to match a €2m EU grant. The vehicle is capable of travelling 300 miles on a single tank of hydrogen, with 20 prototypes taking to the UK roads on a 12 month public trial in 2017 before the full production vehicle arrives late in 2018. The Rasa is capable of 0-60mph in 10 seconds with a top speed of 60mph, and refuels in only three minutes.

Niche Vehicle R&D Programme

The Niche Vehicle Network also announced the opening of its latest funding competition for feasibility studies under its research and development programme.

The costs and risks associated with undertaking highly innovative R&D often inhibit smaller automotive manufacturers from developing new products and manufacturing processes. The Niche Vehicle R&D Programme is designed to overcome these obstacles and help these companies invest more intensively in emerging technologies and the development of new products with the aim of ensuring their continuing growth and success in an increasingly demanding market place.

Sponsored by the Office for Low Emission Vehicles (OLEV) and Innovate UK, the Feasibility Competition is providing SMEs and micro-companies active in the low carbon vehicle technology sector with grant funding of up £8,000 to undertake desk-top research activities aimed at catalysing innovative vehicle technologies applicable to non-human powered road-going and off-highway vehicles within the following categories:

  • Lightweight vehicle and powertrain structures
  • Electric machines and power electronics
  • Energy storage and energy management
  • Disruptive low emission vehicle technologies
  • Reduced emissions from internal combustion engines
  • Aerodynamics development
  • Digital innovation in low volume manufacturing

The call for applications for grant-funded feasibility studies opened on 15th September and closes on 31st October 2016. Applications are invited from innovative UK micro-companies and SMEs, including vehicle manufacturers, technology companies and specialist suppliers.

To receive a competition application pack, email your request to nvn@cenex.co.uk

2015-16 Niche Vehicle Network R&D Competition winners

The winners securing a share of a recent £2.45 million investment for low carbon development and demonstration projects in the niche vehicle sector were announced at LCV2016.

Over 50 businesses were successful in receiving grant funding from the Niche Vehicle Network-run competitions, supported by Innovate UK, the Office for Low Emission Vehicles (OLEV) and the Advanced Propulsion Centre (APC).

Winning projects include:

  • The development of a prototype hydrogen fuel-cell range-extended electric double-decker bus
  • The investigation of the technical and commercial feasibility of a rapid and cost effective composite processing technology for niche vehicle applications
  • The development of novel carbon/flax hybrid composite components to reduce the weight, cost, NVH and environmental impact of vehicle body structures
  • The creation of a proof of concept fuel efficient solution for small low cost leisure vehicles
  • The development and testing of a novel structured baffle exhaust system for niche military vehicles
  • A proof of concept modular hybrid electric drivetrain specifically for adoption within the niche vehicle sector
  • The demonstration of a prototype turbo-expansion Air Charge Cooling system
  • The design, manufacture and demonstration of an affordable composite chassis
  • The creation of a “smart” low carbon powertrain and connected vehicle technology
  • The development of hybrid material assemblies for lightweight chassis
  • The manufacture of a hybrid driveline system for vehicles with manual gearboxes
  1. Tesla

Tesla at LCV2016

Tesla has come from nowhere and in just ten years it has given us the amazing, pure electric Model S. However, that’s not the end of the story, as the brand new all-electric Tesla Model X SUV is now here, and it was on show at LCV, complete with its dramatic rear doors. But there’s more. The Tesla Model 3 was recently revealed, a more affordbale BMW 3 Series rival, and it enjoyed around 400,000 pre-orders in just a matter of a few weeks after the order books opened. Tesla has since revealed that buses and trucks are in its masterplan.

  1. BMW

BMW at LCV2016

The BMW i8 and i3 were available at LCV for ride and drives but in our view on of the most significant cars was the BMW 330e. The BMW 3 Series is one of the best all-round cars on sale in the UK, as it offers performance, efficiency, comfort and practicality. The range of 3 Series models has now been widened with a plug-in hybrid version, the BMW 330e. This offers around 20 miles of electric driving range in real-life, and low Benefit-in-Kind tax rates for company car drivers. Unlike many other plug-in petrol-electric hybrids, it offers decent economy on motorway runs. And it’s still a driver’s car.

  1. Electric Nation

Electric Nation at LCV2016

With manufacturers such as BMW and Tesla having their latest plug-in vehicles on show at LCV2016 it confirmed that more electric vehicles will be coming to market, with longer driving ranges, and larger battery capacities. When streets around the UK have at least 4 out of 10 properties with electric vehicles, then it has been forecasted that 30% of local electricity networks are likely to need reinforcement. This could cost £2.2 billion by 2050. However a new project, Electric Nation, was launched at LCV2016 to trial a solution to this challenge using smart charging. If you’re about to buy or lease a new electric vehicle, either a pure EV or a plug-in hybrid, and you live in the South West, South Wales, or the Midlands, then you’re invited to take part in the project. You’ll have a free smart charger fitted, and by having your charging data monitored, you’ll be helping to future-proof our local electricity networks for other EV drivers. Watch out for Robert Llewellyn’s Fully Charged video about the project, coming soon, but in the meantime visit www.electricnation.org.uk

Highlights from the LCV2016 conference

Government support for the low carbon vehicle sector post-Brexit vote

The opening keynote sessions at the 9th Cenex Low Carbon Vehicle conference last week focused on the role of government grants in helping to propel innovation from the laboratory to the road. Speakers also highlighted the importance of broader collaboration, not only in research and development but also in areas such as transport logistics, to help achieve UK and European decarbonisation targets.

Nick Hurd, minister for climate change and industry at the newly formed Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), focused on the still unclear consequences of Brexit for the automotive sector, telling delegates that the government intends to balance the demands of leaving the EU with support for both industry and carbon reduction. “We are absolutely determined to further the success of the automotive industry in the UK; we are absolutely determined to make a success of Brexit, especially for the automotive sector; and we are absolutely determined to keep the country on track to fulfil and deliver on the deep, deep carbon targets we have set”, Hurd said.

Hurd arrived at BEIS from the Department for International Development in the Whitehall shake-up that followed the Brexit vote. Just two months into his role, Hurd confessed that he had not driven an electric car before taking the wheel of a British-built Nissan Leaf that morning.

Hurd confirmed £42m of public money for the fifth round of funding competitions overseen by the UK Advanced Propulsion Centre (APC). The cash matches investments pledged by private sector competition winners including McLaren and Jaguar Land Rover.

APC chief executive Ian Constance said that his organisation’s funding competitions had helped many innovators cross the “valley of death” between basic research and commercialisation. He cited the example of the Dearman engine, which runs on liquefied air, noting that APC has supported this innovation through every stage of its development.

Constance also highlighted progress over the past 12 months in establishing the APC’s Spoke network, a group of topic-focused centres of excellence. Since last year’s conference, an ICE systems efficiency spoke has been established at the University of Bath; an ICE thermal efficiency spoke has opened at the University of Brighton; and an electric machines spoke has begun at Newcastle University.

Simon Edmonds, director for manufacturing and materials at Innovate UK, told delegates that his organisation plans to announce a new funding mechanism later this year, to supplement the current programme of grants allocated through competitions.

Dr Stefan Neugebauer, director of global research cooperation at BMW and chairman of the European Road Transport Research Advisory Council (ERTRAC), argued that a broad, systemic approach will be necessary it Europe is to achieve its aim of reducing carbon emissions by 70% by 2050, in the face of projected 50% increase in transport volumes.

Neugebauer cited the gains that stand to be made through improved logistics, noting that improving the efficiency of trucks is harder than addressing the fact that one-third of trucks on our roads are travelling empty. Similarly, improved traffic management can reduce the waste incurred by traffic jams. “When a vehicle is sitting in traffic, its efficiency is gone”, he said.

Neugebauer also noted the importance of achieving reductions in reality, rather than in fleet averages determined through tests that fail to reflect real-world usage.

Together, digitalisation of vehicles, traffic management and vehicle-sharing will deliver big transformations in efficiency, Neugebauer predicted, but he underlined the need for joined-up approaches. “Over the past 100 years the auto industry was able to bring innovation to market by our own power,” he noted. “For decarbonisation, we cannot do this by our own power. Stakeholders have to work together.”

UK must ramp up its adoption of cutting-edge digital techniques

The headline message from the second series of keynote presentations at LCV2016 was that the UK must ramp up its adoption of cutting-edge digital techniques and should look “outside its own bubble” for skills in artificial intelligence and machine learning.

“Ones and zeroes will take over our lives”, predicted Dr Graham Hoare, Ford’s director of global vehicle evaluation and verification and also chair of the Automotive Council Technology Group (ACTG). “Technology will bring massive change not just in what we drive but in how we develop it. Development cycles are about to get much, much shorter.”

Hoare projected that digital complexity of vehicles would treble from around 100 million lines of software in today’s vehicles to at least 300 million lines for a fully autonomous vehicle. The internal complexity of such software is also likely to spiral at an exponential rate, to become 1,000 times more complex than today by 2025, delegates were told.

To both cope with and to better exploit this burgeoning digital challenge, Hoare said the automotive sector must forge stronger links with sectors that are adept at grappling with the challenges, such as the games and fintech sectors where the UK is already a recognised leader.

He also noted the UK’s strength in motorsport and said stronger ties between the mainstream automotive sector and racing would be beneficial: “Motorsport goes from the research phase through to a perpetual reinvention phase. They reinvent very quickly, but industrialisation for those companies is not a strategic objective. So how do we bring those together?” he asked.

Professor Neville Jackson, deputy chair of the ACTG and chief technology & innovation officer at Ricardo, added that improved links with fintech and biotech companies would help accelerate the automotive sector’s adoption of breakthrough techniques such as machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI). “We need to look outside our own bubble,” he said. “We need to find a way to deliver the knowledge within a company in more productive ways than keeping it locked up in the brains of senior engineers.”

Neville highlighted the current mismatch between the need to design safe, reliable vehicles and the pace of change in consumer technology: “Our seven year cycle is not really sustainable in the digital era,” he said. “By the time it comes to market, our technology is out of date.” But he noted the difficulty of moving more quickly in a sector where “even a simple driver assistance system can need a million miles of testing to validate”.

The solution will be to move both design and validation into the digital realm, Neville predicted. “We need to homologate in a digital environment and move to real world testing to validate the process not the product”, he summarised.

Neville added that a $1,000 processor is likely to have the same processing power as a human brain by 2025, and that this level of capability must be used to transform industrial processes. “We need to develop a virtual environment not just for testing but for optimising the entire manufacturing process,” he said.

Neville compared AI today to the early days of internet technology, and said that the impact on society could be equally profound and rapid, with as many as 25% of jobs impacted by AI in just the next five years.

“Very few roadmaps 20 years ago mentioned the internet,” he noted. “In my view, AI and machine learning with be just as big. It will affect us all.”

Watch the video about Bentley’s STRIVE digital design project, led by the Northern Automotive Alliance

LowCVP Low Carbon Champions Awards 2016

lowcvp-awards-2016-toyota

The LowCVP Low Carbon Champions Awards 2016 took place on the first evening of the LCV event, with Toyota winning the Low Carbon Car/Van Manufacturer of the Year Award.

The judges said this about Toyota: “We appreciate the commitment that Toyota has recently made – as well as its commitment over many years – to bring forward low and ultra-low carbon vehicles across its full model range. Toyota’s hybrid vehicles are now being sold in volume across the world.”

Toyota has been a global leader in low emission vehicles, selling over nine million petrol hybrids. The judges added that the company has built on this reputation with the introduction of the zero emission hydrogen fuel cell car, the Mirai.

H2 Aberdeen – which has developed a strategy for the introduction of cleaner, hydrogen-powered transport to the Scottish city – and Argent Energy – which has developed a drop-in diesel replacement for cars, buses and trucks – were jointly presented with the highest accolade: the ‘Grand Prix’, or winner of winners Award.

Other awards included:

Low Carbon Heavy Duty Vehicle Manufacturer of the Year

Winner: Scania Great Britain Ltd

Low Carbon Vehicle Operator of the Year

Winner: First Bus

Highly Commended: Alphabet

Low Carbon Fuel Initiative of the Year

Winner: Argent Energy

2016 Award for Low Carbon Innovation by an SME

Winner: Tevva Motors

Highly Commended: Riversimple

Low Carbon Road Transport Initiative of the Year

Winner: H2 Aberdeen

Highly Commended: Gnewt Cargo Ltd,

2016 Outstanding Low Carbon Publication or Report

Joint Winners: Element Energy (Transport Infrastructure Roadmap), Cambridge Econometrics

Highly Commended: EA Technology

Read more about the LowCVP Awards

By Paul Clarke, Andrew Leadbetter and Lem Bingley

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